Philips Soundbar HTS8140

A well-built, good-looking HTS system, with lots of attributes that impress... and a few that don't.

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Philips Soundbar HTS8140


Its been a while since we reviewed a Philips product. Of course, that doesn’t mean we've forgotten the company, considering its reputation as a brand. Indeed, I have here with me a cool-looking innovative home theater system. This single ‘Soundbar’ (model HTS8140) is a horizontal speaker system with an integrated DVD player, and that pretty much makes up the full HTS. Oh, there's a huge subwoofer too.

 Philips Soundbar HTS8140

Design and Build
The system comprises two units: a sturdy, heavy subwoofer and a broad horizontal unit that has the DVD drive in the centre and the speakers on the sides. The sub is a straight-edged rectangular unit, with the top surface sporting a glossy black finish. The sides have a soft cloth wraparound finish that stops short about two inches from the top panel. These top two inches have a brushed metal finish.

The unit looks very stylish; even the rear is covered in cloth, concealing the driver. The unit is backward firing, and the reflex port too is positioned on the back panel. The overall finish is superb, and once you look at the Soundbar, it only get better.

The speaker grilles are neat and seamlessly merged on to the unit on its sides, while the center has a glossy control panel. Once switched on, it acts as a touchscreen surface for various control buttons like volume, eject, source select etc. This full panel slides to the right when ‘eject’ is pressed, exposing the vertically mounted DVD drive.

The Soundbar exudes style, and the white touch-sensitive buttons on the smooth black surface only makes it look classier.

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Features and Specs
The driver on the sub is 6.25 inches in diameter, while the main unit has four drivers, each of 2.5 inch diameter. Besides DVDs there are a host of other features available to play, including an MP3 player jack on the left side and an iPod dock. The dock lets you browse and operate iPods straight through, but I wonder why it couldn't have been integrated directly in the unit. Why have so many wires jutting out of such a lovely product?

There are two optical audio-ins (digital) and three sets of stereo RCA jacks for analog audio-ins. For video output to your TV there's a component out as well as a single HDMI-out. A USB slot on the side is the finishing touch. The connectivity options are not as plentiful as in a traditional AV receiver, but it’s enough for a basic AV setup.

Speaking of video, this unit can upscale DVDs to 1080p, using a Faroudja chip to do so. A separate composite video out is also present on the dock, to connect to the TV for use with your iPod video. There are no real video inputs, which could be a limitation.

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Performance and Verdict
As is the ritual with any DVD player, we inserted two test DVDs: the DVE and HQV test DVDs. I was admittedly a bit suspicious about the performance of this stylish unit, maybe due to the adage of style and performance not getting along. I connected via HDMI to a nice Samsung Plasma (review coming up soon) and set the upscaling to be done by the Philips itself, thus being able to see the full processing capabilities of the Soundbar.

Speaking of visuals, I can conclude that the output is high on color accuracy. Best of all, the colors are accurate and neutral, leaving a lot to play on the TV. Color banding, a problem that arises due to bad DVD players, was not an issue here. Detail in rendering the upscaled video also was good, but far from spectacular. Discerning eyes will notice jaggies and aliasing.

Coming to sound, while watching I Am Legend, the low growls thumped out with vigor from the subwoofer, as did most loud sound effects. The sub handles tightly, and that's what creates a good movie watching experience. In the realm of stereo music the sound was not the best, with sharper mid-range and brightness in the highs that scuttled any comparison with real speakers.

Then again, these are not floorstanding speakers; the idea is to create surround sound from the front position. This it did very well, on the DVD Dolby 5.1 audio tracks. I also played a MPEG 4 file of Shrek 3 with a 5.1 AAC track, which played fine. The surround sound is quite cool – one can’t really tell the difference from a normal five-speaker set.

Conclusion
At Rs 56,000 the Soundbar HTS8140 is not exactly meant for the budget-conscious, but then it’s a high-end unit in terms of design. Movies and games are its specialty. It has a number of inputs for sound, and the overall frequency response is perfect for movies. Music lovers will not warm to it though. The design is extremely impressive, so anyone passionate about style should take a look.

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