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Tech special: Four amazing audio systems

These sleek, affordable and easy-to-use audio systems with impressive surround sound can turn your living room into a multiplex. Be warned — you may never want to leave home

We all love our movies, and the experience of watching one on a large screen with excellent surround sound is unparalleled. The only downside to it these days is the exorbitant amount of money you have to shell out for it — tickets, tubs of popcorn, food et al.  But what if you could bring that larger-than-life experience home? We look at some sleek, affordable audio systems small enough to fit into our nano homes, require minimal wiring, and those that fit well beneath most television sets available these days.

It only takes the right sound system to convert your living room into an enviable space and watch all the television you’ve ever wantedIt only takes the right sound system to convert your living room into an enviable space and watch all the television you’ve ever wanted

BOSE CINEMATE 130 (Price: Rs 1,31,513)
If you want great sound, look no further. The Cinemate 130 fills your room with sound as if you are sitting in a cinema hall. Its soundbar is a small control console and the wireless woofer is called the Accoustimass.  The soundbar is designed to sit flat atop your cabinet or be wall-mounted. All you need to do is connect a power cable and further connect it using an included optic fibre cable to your TV. Connect all your devices to the control console, the console to the TV, and you are all set to go. After it is connected, the system runs a proprietary sound test called Adapt-IQ that will fine-tune the system to individual settings. Do not worry about moving the furniture about – the system recalibrates itself.

The soundbar features six built-in speakers and two Phase Guide radiators. The radiators enhance surround sound and the speakers align the vocals, music and background score towards the listener. The Bass Module pumps out low bass tones making sure you hear every wave that hits the rocks to every time your favourite onscreen vampire is on the prowl.

The Control console also acts as a wire-clearing device. It has four HDMI inputs that can be connected to your DVD/Blu-Ray player, your Apple TV and your satellite set-top box. You also have an analog input and a 3.5-mm jack to connect your phone. What it does not do, however, is connect wirelessly to the Internet or to your phone without an additional accessory. The Cinemate 130 is also available in a starting model at Rs 50,513 that comes without a control console and a wired Accoustimass Module.

SONOS PLAYBAR (Price: Rs 99,990; available on Amazon)
Sonos has been the leader when it comes to wireless speakers, and with its Playbar, the phrase ‘no strings attached’ gets a new meaning. The soundbar is just 9 cm high, and you can connect it to your TV and wirelessly to the Internet. The speaker also streams directly from the internet or wirelessly from your phone to the TV.

Compared to Bose’s Cinemate 130, the Playbar has just one input that connects to your television. Your other sources will still connect to your TV and your TV could send the sound to the Playbar. The Playbar shines when it comes to a single remote control, as it comes with an Infrared Blaster that can send remote commands to all your devices. You can also download the Sonos app for your phone, which can then be the single remote control for all your entertainment devices. The Playbar features nine Class-D amplifiers inside the sounder that power six mid-range drivers and three tweeters, divided equally for each channel, left, right and centre.

The Playbar is a good device to start with, but keep in mind that you will need a separate sub woofer in time (and yes, it will cost you more). The only downside to this gadget is that Sonos does not sell their devices in India, so most of these are imported and warranty might be an issue.

LG NB5540 (Price: Rs 38,990)
The LG NB5540 is the cheapest among the four, and puts out a great performance. Its gun metal-coloured plastic body with arch-shaped ends is a good example of the understated, but attractive design — a far cry from Bose and Sonos. The NB5540 comes with a sub-woofer that you may find bulky, but it is wireless and can be hidden.

An optical input hooks it up to your TV, and like the others, this has a 3.5-mm jack, too. NB5540 is a 4.1 channel system with four front speakers split into front and surround channels. The speakers deliver 4x40 watts and the sub-woofer 160 watts. The surround sound quality, however, is good.

PHILIPS FIDELIO HTL9100 (Price: Rs 49,990)
The HTL9100’s soundbar has break-away speakers, which can be placed around the room. This feature is a mixed bag, but if you like playing around with where you place your speakers, this is a good gadget. The speakers connect to the main soundbar through Bluetooth with a battery life of up to 10 hours.

The soundbar features two 1-inch tweeters and 2.5-inch mid- range drivers, while the satellite speakers just have one 2.5-inch driver each. A 3.5-mm jack connects to your phone, and you can also connect your phone wirelessly to the speaker and stream music over Bluetooth. The HTL9100 does not connect to the Internet, though.

The ‘Night Mode’ setting ensures good sound yet keeps the volume in check. A subwoofer connects automatically and wirelessly to the main unit and can be placed anywhere (it needs a power source).

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