Philips won a Product of the Year Award from us with its HTL9100. Here is its simpler, more affordable sibling.
And, despite our high expectations, the HTL5120 does not disappoint.
If you’re prepared to spend £250 on a soundbar, this is the jackpot.
It’s a significant improvement over the tinny, boxy sound you get from the average flat screen, effortlessly conveying a sense of scale, with a soundstage that is wide and spacious.
Load up a big, loud film and you’ll have no problem filling the room with sound.
We put on a Blu-ray of Rush, and there’s a good amount of detail, with plenty of texture afforded to the rumbling engines and shifting gears of F1 cars.
It’s not all about the noisy moments, of course, so we switch to TV for a bit of Countdown.
Speech is convincing and nicely enunciated, and there’s enough subtlety to pick out the sound of a pen scraping against a board.
We’re also impressed by the tonal balance. The top end is well defined, but never harsh or sharp. The built-in drivers put out surprisingly hefty bass.
It’s full-bodied and rich, but taut and restrained enough not to overwhelm.
We turn to music and put the volume up.
The Philips maintains its composure, never getting shouty or hardening up. It should be comfortable with anything you care to subject it to.
There’s a virtual surround option – this widens the soundstage a little, but trades a degree of subtlety. The sense of timing is good, and there’s a nice level of energy.
The HTL5120 is a simpler device than its big brother, the HTL9100, so its sides don’t jettison for surround-sound purposes.
There’s no external subwoofer – this is an all-in-one device, and a rather large one at that. At 15cm high, it’s big enough to obscure the bottom of some TVs, so it may have to be placed on a shelf under the screen, or wall-mounted.
Build quality is high – and this extends to the remote control, which is refreshingly chunky compared with the pathetic little ‘card’ remotes we see so often.
It’s a proper, fat remote with big, clear buttons, including some for tone controls.
When it comes to connections, we’re very impressed. You get a handful of digital inputs, including one each of optical and coaxial, as well as two HDMI.
There’s a 3.5mm auxiliary in and a set of analogue audio inputs too. You also get one HDMI out. As if all that wasn’t generous enough, the HTL5120 also handles Bluetooth.
A proper display would have been nice, but now we’re nitpicking – the blinking LEDs are fine.
Philips, it seems, is on a roll – at least when it comes to soundbars. We had a few concerns about this being an oversimplified version of its pricier sibling, but those were unfounded.
The HTL5120 is a class-leader at this level. Whether you want a multi-input hub or a simple tool to boost the sound of your TV, this is an excellent soundbar.
We highly recommend it.