The Philips Cineos HTS8100 SoundBar isn’t just a speaker system capable of delivering front surround sound, but a whole home theatre system. All you need to do is add a display.
The main body of the HTS8100 has eight loudspeakers at its extremities and a DVD player and display at its centre. The subwoofer contains most of the electronics.
The unit uses this array of loudspeakers to project surround sound around your room using a system called ‘Ambisound’.
The video part of the unit can upscale the video via its HDMI output all the way to 1080p. It also comes with a very neat-looking iPod dock that plugs into a dedicated port on the side. You can also play back photos, videos, and music files using the side mounted USB port.
So how did all this work? In a word, brilliantly in terms of usability and the features, and pretty well for the Ambisound surround capability.
The picture quality with DVDs was excellent using 1080p output via the HDMI connection, reminiscent of a $1000 DVD player.
The iPod dock worked very well, with good quality sound and a reasonably easy-to-use interface. The only limitation was that you can’t scroll ‘backwards’ from the top of a list of albums or whatever, so it can take quite a while to get through lists on the more capacious iPods.
The surround sound was rather artificial on my torture test, which involves a man talking as he walks around the room, with wobbles in tone and uneven transitions as the sides and rear of the room were traversed. But with surround movies, the unit came into its own, producing convincing immersion into the sound and occasionally surprising rear ‘channel’ performance. It also had a remarkable ability to project sound to the front left and right, far beyond the width of the SoundBar.
At higher volume levels it became a little harsh, so a bit more power would probably help the system.