Just like the HT-SL70, the SL50’s sound quality is a vast improvement on most plasma and LCD TVs, offering a loud sound with plenty of attack, but there are a couple of flaws that slightly marred our enjoyment. Channelling our Blu-ray deck through an ARC-compatible TV, we had no problems getting it to work and it does a solid job of bringing Rise of the Planet of the Apes to life.
Also, as mentioned, there’s a decent sense of dynamism behind the movie’s dramatic scenes – when Bright Eyes the chimp makes her escape from the lab, the sense of chaos is communicated with a suitably crisp, forceful sound. At a normal listening volume, windows smash and apes shriek without testing the limits of your aural tolerance, while speech reproduction is surprisingly good. Yes it lacks the authority and smoothness of a decent 2.1 system, but considering the diminutive size of the drivers and the lack of cabinet volume, its overall performance is relatively impressive.
However, push it too loud and some of the high-pitched effects begin to sound abrasive, and prolonged loud listening can be fatiguing. And although the subwoofer is essential, lending punch to the pounding fight scenes and a touch of depth to deep voices, it doesn’t integrate well enough with the soundbar and its bass notes are a single, amorphous rumble. More sensitivity and agility would have made all the difference – in many ways it’s all that one would expect for such a modestly priced system.
We also tried it out with TV material and the extra bass clout, combined with the soundbar’s pleasing dynamism, made shows like Earthflight and Sherlock even more engaging than usual, but roaring crowds during football matches and audience applause sounded rather thin and hissy.
If you’re looking for a way of improving your TV’s sound without cluttering up your living room with boxes, then the HT-SL50 is worth considering. It sounds thin at times and strains at high volumes, plus the subwoofer isn’t much of a team player, yet the overall dynamism and bass punch it affords makes these flaws easier to swallow – all the more impressive given the slimness of the soundbar. It’s also incredibly discreet, easy to install and setup and best of all, at £120 (approx) it won’t bother your bank balance much.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7