Never judge a book by its cover, so they say. Y'know what? ‘They' are talking rubbish. You can blend great looks with real ability if you're thorough about your engineering – take the Aston Martin DB9, or Concorde. B&W's XT Series surround sound package makes an equally fine illustration: it looks the business, and it sounds it, too.
The B&W package uses the brilliant XT4 floorstanders as its front speakers. Offering a thrilling blend of looks and sonic prowess, we hailed them as the best-sounding style loudspeakers around when we first saw them back in 2006, and they remain highly competent performers.
And the rest of this package i just as capable. The standmount XT2 rears are basically cut-down XT4s, minus the twin 13cm paper/Kevlar bass drivers found in the larger speakers. Dialogue, meanwhile, comes via the XTC centre, which uses identical drive units to the XT2s, all the better to aid sonic cohesion.
And then there's the bass. For a comprehensive vibro-massage with action movies, B&W rounds off this system with a 500w PV1 active subwoofer. Since that barmy wee beastie provides (to quote us) ‘breathtaking' weight, you can imagine our sense of anticipation.
And it's not misplaced. This is a fabulous home cinema system. It goes staggeringly loud without distress, yet is also beautifully full and cohesive. You simply won't get a bigger sound unless you're prepared to put up with much larger (and probably uglier) speakers.
If we have one criticism, it's that the B&Ws are almost too refined. The outright punch of larger speaker systems in this price class can be a little lacking here, especially in the midrange.
Yet we still love this package to bits. It isn't cheap, but it offers serious, full-sized sound with stunning, style-speaker looks. For some of you, that'll be irresistible.