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Harman-Kardon BDS 800 review

A decent medium-sized room system, offering style and some sonic heft, but lacking excitement Tested at £1300

Our Verdict

If you want something compact and effective, the BDS 800 is a very stylish bet

For

  • Stylish, compact, solid build
  • decent spec
  • sounds clean, clear and crisp
  • impressive scale

Against

  • No 3D
  • no HDMI inputs
  • lacks a little control and clarity when pushed

If you’re after an all-in-one system complete with Blu-ray that looks and sounds the part – and don’t mind paying for it – then Harman Kardon hopes the BDS 800 is what you’ll have in mind.

We’re happy to tick the box marked stylish; the four nicely turned-out satellites, compact subwoofer and sleek, minimally designed Blu-ray receiver unit make for a smart package fit for any 21st-century pad.

Neat and well put-together
The satellites integrate a neat cable-management system, allowing you to tuck them out of sight behind a retractable panel on the rear of the speaker.

All components are reassuringly solid. As for connectivity, you’ll find HDMI outputs but no HDMI ins, so you’ll have to settle for coaxial or optical if you want to connect another device.

There are stereo analogue inputs and outputs, plus a USB input on the front for playing files from a memory stick. An ethernet port ensures you can connect to your network and access BD-Live content.

The busy remote takes some getting used to, but it does function as a learning remote, capable of controlling your entire system given the right programming prods.

There’s no auto-set-up but using a test tone and an SPL meter, the speakers don’t take much tweaking.

We take a look at the unreal action on the Blu-ray of Tron and follow it up with the more natural colour palette offered by Up In The Air. We like what we see.

There’s a hint of instability with the fastest motion but otherwise pictures are clean, colourful and deliver a nice balance between dark blacks and bright whites.

Close-up shots reveal plenty of detail and natural skin tones are given plenty of texture.

Style and substance, nearly
There’s decoding support for Dolby Digital and DTS, in standard definition and HD forms, and the end result is an even-handed, impressively large sound. Effects are steered around speedily and cohesively.

It’s crisp, clear and detailed, and the sub is solid and well integrated. The centre channel can sound a little thick at times – we’d rather that than thin and bright – and it strains a little when really pushed, but our overall feeling is positive.

Music lacks a little punch and excitement, but that’s a fairly standard trade-off for the convenience of an all-in-one system.

Yes, you can get better performance from a separates system, but this is aimed at a different punter; one who values style and compact dimensions as readily as performance.

We think plenty of those will be plenty happy with this BDS 800 system.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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