What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Thu, 2 Feb 2012, 3:15pm

Harman-Kardon BDS 570

Tested at £750
80100
4

If you like the idea of a compact, convenient home cinema system, the BDS 570 could be perfect for you. It’s good, and very nearly great

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For

  • Good picture and sound
  • thoughtful design
  • easy to use and live with
  • compact

Against

  • Limited input options
  • no streaming features
  • same-priced separates are better overall

Harman Kardon’s BDS 570 is as distinctive as it is unusual. Just 40cm wide and 10cm high, it’s a shoebox-sized home cinema solution intended to bridge the gap between conventional ‘all-in-one’ systems (think Panasonic SC-BTT370) and larger, more capable but also more complex separates-based set-ups.

To that end, the BDS 570 includes a 3D-capable Blu-ray drive – which, naturally, can also be used to replay older disc formats, including DVD and CD – plus five channels of digital amplification rated at a reasonably accurate 65W each.

That’s a notable step up on the comparatively modest power output you’d expect to find in a so-called home cinema in a box, and more than enough to propel a suitable subwoofer/satellite speaker system (say, the Award-winning Q Acoustics Q7000 at £800) in fine style.

Connecting the BDS 570 is straightforward enough. It provides full-sized, gold-plated speaker output terminals and a single subwoofer output, and benefits from Harman Kardon’s EzSet microphone-based automatic calibration and equalisation system, which moderates speaker distances, crossover points and relative output levels to optimal effect.

Just enough sockets to succeed

Naturally, the BDS 570’s compact size means there’s less space on either its rear or front panels to accommodate other inputs and outputs and so, sensibly, Harman Kardon has concentrated on those sockets it feels you’ll use most.

Three HDMI inputs is a comparatively modest haul by modern standards, but it’ll probably suffice in context, especially when the corresponding output supports the Audio Return Channel, meaning it can accept sound from a suitable TV set.

There are far fewer analogue ins, though: just two, plus a component video input to support older games consoles. However, you do get two optical and one coaxial digital inputs.

That said – and again, in fairness to Harman Kardon – those analogue sockets are probably less relevant to the utility of a product such as the BDS 570 than the fact you can also link in an iPod or other portable device, using the USB socket on its fascia or, if you prefer, Harman Kardon’s optional Bridge III iPod dock (£90).

Impressive picture and sound
But what of its performance? Here, the BDS 570 demonstrates, once again, the deftness of its relative compromise.

Simply put, the Harman Kardon represents a significant sonic step up over even the best home cinema in a box system: it even has the gumption to motivate our full-sized Monitor Audio Platinum speakers and, in harness with a more price-appropriate 5.1 package, its generous scale and considerable agility can’t fail to impress.

Sounds are steered with commendable accuracy and the forceful dynamics of a Dolby TrueHD mix are relayed with few apparent difficulties even at substantial volumes. Picture quality is just as impressive, the BDS 570 exhibiting a solid grasp of motion, ample contrast and a generous (but not over-done) touch with colours.

Of course, as appealing as all that may be, the BDS 570 isn’t without its limitations. Sonically, you could muster a notably more muscular and spacious sound using a comparably priced receiver such as the Onkyo TX-NR609 (£500).

Team that with a suitable Blu-ray player – Panasonic’s £180 DMP-BDT210 springs to mind – and you’ll firmly eclipse the Harman Kardon’s abilities in every regard, and for less overall expenditure.

Lack of streaming support is an issue

However, that misses the point. The BDS 570 is smaller, neater and more convenient than any separates alternative: it’ll find its own buyer, and deservedly so.

Our only real complaint – and one significant enough to dock the Harman Kardon a star overall – is its dearth of support for online media streaming.

Both the home cinema in a box and full-sized separates components you could buy for £750 will give you access to online streaming services such as BBC iPlayer or, in some cases, Last.fm, Napster and Spotify.

The BDS 570, by contrast, has no truck with such modernity. That seems a curious omission, especially in context. Still, should the absence of such niceties not concern you, there’s much to admire here in other regards.

See all our home cinema in a box reviews

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