Sound Advice - Five audio solutions for Euro 2016
Immerse yourself in the action
There’s nothing like a big sporting event to get you thinking about upgrading your AV equipment.After all who doesn’t want to watch the European Championships on a screen so big and sound so immersive that you feel like you’re actually there. Well if it’s big TVs that you’re interested in we’ve got the guide coming for you and if you really want to get the maximum bang for your buck then check out our guide coming soon to budget projectors. But what about the sound?
If you go the projector route you’ll definitely have to invest in some sort of audio solution but even if you buy a big screen TV, chances are that the built-in speakers won’t be very good thanks to the slimline nature of modern screens. In this article we’ll provide you with five possible sound solutions, starting with a two-channel option and moving up to a full multi-channel system that can immerse you in all the football action.KEF V300 2-Channel Speaker System - £699
To kick things of we have a two-channel solution that has been designed specifically to compliment your new big flat screen TV without compromising on sound quality. The KEF V300 isn't as cheap as some of the other products in this article but it has an attractive design and excellent build quality. The tall and slim speakers are beautifully made and the black finish and fabric grilles will match most modern TVs. In terms of installation, the speakers are extremely flexible, with the option to mount either side of the screen using the provided desk stands or on the wall. There are also optional floor stands available if you prefer.
The activation module is equally as flexible and thanks to its diminutive size it can be positioned just about anywhere. You can place it in an equipment rack or on top of another device but it also offers the option to attach to the back of the screen using the VESA mounting points. If that wasn't enough you can even position the unit on the wall using an optional flush mount kit. The activation unit has the same build quality with an all black chassis and a brushed aluminium facia. There's a small LED on the front, an on/off switch, an output for an optional subwoofer and inputs for HDMI and optical digital audio.The slimline design of the V300 will compliment your TV and the sound quality is excellentSetting up the V300 is extremely easy, especially if your TV has an HDMI input with an Audio Return Channel (ARC), but if not then you can connect the digital optical output on your TV instead. There are secure spring loaded terminals at the rear of the activation unit and cabling is provided to connect the speakers. The terminals on the speakers face downward, allowing for flush wall mounting, and are secured using a provided allen key. Depending on how you have installed your speakers, there is an EQ switch for either a Wall or Stand configuration which adjusts for boundary gain.
The sound quality of the V300 is excellent and the small activation unit includes Class D amplification that delivers 50W to each speaker, which should be sufficient to reproduce all the action from this year's championships. Since the speakers are either side of the screen, the stereo separation is very good, which creates an open soundstage that will deliver the sounds of the crowd and the commentary effectively. The V300 is a bit lacking at the low-end but the addition of a subwoofer could easily address that and despite their narrow dimensions, the speakers deliver an impressive mid-range and higher frequency performance.Cambridge Audio TV5 Speaker Base - £249
If you don't want a two-channel system but would rather go for a single-box solution, you have two alternatives - a soundbar or a soundbase. The latter category has more names to describe it than there are manufacturers making them but the principal is the same - a single box that physically sits under your TV. Whether a soundbase is suitable for you will very much depend on your TV's stand. If you have a TV with a traditional stand then a soundbase could be for you but if your TV has feet or a stand that measures the entire length of the TV, then you will probably have to use a soundbar.
The Cambridge Audio TV5 is an excellent example of a soundbase or, as they like to call it, a speaker base. The TV5 certainly delivers in terms of its performance, with an impressive level of sound quality. The speaker base delivers a wide and open sound, with plenty of stereo separation and, as a result, it can fill the room. The built-in subwoofers also help, adding plenty of bass presence, whilst the TV5 has enough amplification to go loud without distorting. So you'll really be able to immerse yourself in the sounds of the crowd during the games, whilst the commentary will remain clearly focused on the screen.Depending on the type of stand your TV uses, a soundbase like the TV5 could improve the audio and offer a tidy solutionOf course you won't just be watching sport and the TV5 speaker base can handle both TV and movies just as well, reproducing music, effects and dialogue with impressive skill. The DSP modes are effective but, as is usually the case, they don't really add anything to the audio performance and we generally prefer not to use them. The TV5 also proved very adept when it came to music and the inclusion of aptX Bluetooth support takes full advantage of this capability.
However, the lack of an HDMI input or output is a shame and obviously precludes support for an audio return channel (ARC). Whilst HDMI isn't essential and you can always use the digital optical input instead, it does put the TV5 at a disadvantage to some of the competition. However assuming HDMI isn't a priority and that you intend to take full advantage of the Bluetooth support, then the TV5 is certainly worth considering, with a nice design, excellent build quality and a very competitive price.
Philips Fidelio B5 Soundbar - £649
As we mentioned in the previous section, not all screens suit a soundbase and the majority of modern TVs would look better with a soundbar. The poor audio quality of many of today's panels has led to an explosion in the soundbar market and, as with the soundbase, it offers a simple and effective way of improving the sound quality of your TV. Whilst the majority of the soundbars on the market are essentially a single unit with a wired or wireless subwoofer, the Philips Fidelio B5 offers an interesting alternative.
In fact this soundbar offers an almost unique solution to a problem many will have - how to put speakers at the back of the room to create genuine surround effects. Thanks to the B5's clever design, you can either run it as a normal soundbar or detach the wireless modules at the sides and use them as rear speakers. There are no unsightly trailing cables and, when not using the surround mode, you can simply reattach the rears to the main bar, which will also recharge them.The Philips Fidelio B5's innovative design and great performance will allow you to get the best of both worlds this summerAs well as being clever, the system also benefits from being extremely well connected with options that include HDMI, optical digital, stereo and Bluetooth. As an added bonus the latter is aptX capable for the highest possible streaming quality. It’s also a very attractive package with a sensible low profile design that keeps it from getting in the way of the screen. Perhaps more importantly, the B5 also manages to sound really good with both music and movies.
The latter in particular benefits greatly from the genuine surround afforded by the innovative detachable speakers and that capability will also add a greater sense of realism when watching all the action from Euro 2016. The front soundstage and rear speakers will create a greater sense of immersion, whilst dialogue remains anchored to the screen. The B5 certainly isn't the cheapest option available but its clever design and excellent performance will allow you to get the best of both worlds this summer.LG LHB745 All-in-One System - £299
If the idea of genuine surround sound excites you, then perhaps you should consider a multi-channel all-in-one option instead. The LG LHB745 offers just that prospect and it's ridiculously good value for money when you consider the price includes a 3D Blu-ray player, 6-channels of digital amplification and a full 5.1-channel speaker setup. There's also built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and an FM tuner, along with plenty of apps and a very useful remote.
The setup is easy, with everything you need including speaker cable and colour coded spring clip speaker terminals. Once you've positioned the speakers and subwoofer, it's a simple task to set the distances and volumes of each speaker relative to the main listening position. In terms of the video performance the 3D Blu-ray player was excellent, delivering a flawless performance over HDMI regardless of whether you're watching a Blu-ray or a DVD.If you like the idea of multi-channel audio, the LG LHB745 includes a 5.1-channel speaker setup and a 3D Blu-ray player for just £299The audio performance was also very good with the system delivering a decent surround sound which was tonally matched thanks to the speakers using the same woofers. The centre speaker handled dialogue well, the surrounds are lively and the front floor standers delivered a wide front soundstage and also handled music nicely. So the LHB745 would be ideal for recreating the feeling of being in a stadium and you have the added benefit that you can also use it for watching movies with the built-in Blu-ray player.
The system will struggle when driven too loud, so it probably isn't ideal for very large rooms, but for anyone looking to take their first steps into proper multi-channel surround sound the LG LHB745 is ideal. It offers an effective way of adding multi-channel audio to a normal-sized living room with the minimum of mess or fuss and it does so at a bargain price. As a result the LG LHB745 is the perfect way to start enjoying a genuine surround sound experience this summer.Yamaha YSP-5600 Soundbar - £1,699
What if you like the idea of a full multi-channel experience but can't put speakers all over your lounge? Well Yamaha might have just the answer you in the shape of their YSP-5600. It isn't cheap but it's currently the only soundbar that can support the new immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos. The Yamaha isn't just expensive, it's big, but it needs to be to fit the 46 speakers inside the main unit. It uses sound beams that it bounces off the walls and ceiling in order to create an immersive audio experience. That might sound crazy but we can vouch for the fact that Yamaha's sound projection technology actually works.
We were initially sceptical that the YSP-5600 could produce an effective Dolby Atmos experience from a single point but we were surprised at how effective the soundbar was. Whilst a solution like this can never fully replace an actual immersive audio set-up, it's certainly a lot easier to install and far less intrusive in terms of speakers all over your lounge. However the majority of the content that you'll be listening to won't be in Dolby Atmos, so it's important that the Yamaha can also perform well in terms of more traditional soundbar duties.The Yamaha YSP-5600 is currently the only soundbar that supports the immersive audio formats like Dolby AtmosThankfully the YSP-5600 doesn't disappoint and the soundbar produces a lovely open sound field that fills the room. When it comes to movies there is a nice sense of envelopment but dialogue always remains clear, which will come in very useful when watching Euro 2016 this summer. The bass performance was also good, with the soundbar's woofers performing very effectively and the lower frequencies being well integrated when we included the optional subwoofer.
If you're a fan of Yamaha's DSP processing, there's a decent selection of options including some very cool sports stadium settings that could prove useful. The soundbar also performed well with music, which is handy since it supports Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system. In fact the YSP-5600 is feature-packed with just about everything you could want from a soundbar, making it a great choice for anyone who wants an immersive audio experience without immersing their lounge in speakers.
So there we have it, five audio solutions that can bring the sounds of this summer's Euro 2016 Championships to life in your lounge. Whatever your needs there's a solution for you, which only leaves one question - what will you be listening to when the tournament kicks off on the 10 of June?
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