It is a well established fact now that soundbars have become a worthy option as a solution for a home theatre system. Virtually every brand in the market have released their iteration of one. However, traditional soundbars basically come with a subwoofer and nothing else. This is where their main competition, 5.1 channel home theatre systems have an advantage over them as the latter comes with a dedicated music and video player, as opposed to simply speakers. On the other hand, the average cost of soundbars is around the Rs.30,000 mark, which gives a consumer a choice of choosing a 5.1 channel home theatre system, instead, as they too cost approximately the same. Philips have changed the game with the HTS5131/94 soundbar, to quite an extent by adding a Blu-ray player integrated in it. Read on to know if this can pose as a worthy challenger to the surround sound experience of a traditional 5.1 channel home theatre system.
The panel housing the Blu-ray player located in the centre
Design and Build Quality
Soundbars are generally expected to be of a smaller size, since they ought to be placed in front of a television. This is done in order to complement an HDTV. However, having an integrated Blu-ray player, the Philips HTS5131/94 is larger than most space conscious soundbars, measuring at 123 x 309 x 369 mm. Dressed in all black, this speaker system, even though large, can still complement one's home. One would, however, need to carefully select where they place it, though because if the TV is placed on its stand then the lower part of the television is blocked by the soundbar. If such is the case, then the television needs to be wall mounted to accommodate the soundbar. If not, then it can be placed in a position that is lower than the television.
The Blu-ray unit of the player is located at the centre of the speaker system. This panel features a slot loading mechanism at the side to load the Blu-rays. This panel at the front features a glossy surface, unlike the rest of the body, which has a slightly textured finish. Combining the two different textures, results in one attractive looking speaker system. Getting back to the front panel, the glossy finish adds a lot of class to the soundbar and in this area is the LCD display. There are touch sensitive buttons located just below the display. These buttons are for power, volume, source select, play/ pause and stop. A lot of residue from fingerprints can come on the panel, while pressing these buttons due to its high gloss finish, which will take away the rich look of the player.
The remote control is built well
Connectivity options are all featured at the back and these include inputs for AUX, coaxial, optical, Ethernet and an FM antenna. The output options for this soundbar, include composite and HDMI. Apart from these, there is also a port for an iPod dock. The soundbar comes with a subwoofer as well. This speaker is not very large and can be kept on the ground without taking up much space. The remote control that comes bundled with the television is oblong in shape and Philips have strayed away from the traditional rectangular shaped remotes. The remote feels comfortable to use over extended periods of time and the build quality is good as well.
The overall build quality of this speaker system is quite good and we did not find anything wrong with it. The only issue is one may need to be careful with the speaker cloth as it appears to be soft and can be torn easily if used roughly.
Soundbars are designed to be a replacement for 5.1 channel speaker systems, as the latter consumes a lot of space in one’s home. The HTS5131/94 is no different and it features Philips Virtual Surround Sound, which aims to emulate this surround sound experience. Apart from the Blu-ray capability, this speaker set also gives users the option to attach a USB drive to the system to view content, such as pictures, music and videos. The USB drive can read NTFS as well as FAT32 drives. We connected a number of external hard drives to it and it read the drives instantly.
There are a range of video formats supported here and these include, AVCHD, DivX Plus HD, MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4. As far as audio formats are concerned, the player supports AAC, MP3, WAV and WMA. It also supports a range of Dolby codecs, such as Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, DTS Digital Surround and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. This helps in enhancing the audio quality, while watching movies or listening to music generally. These are very common audio and video formats and files and files recorded by smartphones or cameras support these video formats. The interface of the soundbar is not that visually pleasing as it is a simple blue screen with the different widgets. However, this interface is common for most Philips players. Scrolling through the interface is simple and the windows open up in a partition format. This allows one to view content within a folder.
Connector for an iPod dock
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