Bigger box and an even bigger sound but still no HDMI
What is the Cambridge Audio TV5?The soundbar market is fast reaching saturation, with just about everyone jumping on the bandwagon. So to keep things fresh, the manufacturers have moved on to different variations on the theme. From sound bases and sound plates to sound plinths and speaker bases, the idea is simple - rather than putting the soundbar in front of the TV, why not put it underneath? That way you don't block the screen, it can take up less space and you can use a larger enclosure which should help with sound quality.
Cambridge Audio have already had success in this area with their Minx TV sound plinth and their TV2 speaker base. Now they've launched the bigger TV5, a speaker base designed to be used with larger screen sizes. The TV5 has two forward-firing speakers and two downward-firing subwoofers, along with 100W of amplification. There's also support for aptX Bluetooth, digital signal processing and the ability to learn remote commands but at a price of £299 (January 2015) can the TV5 compete in a crowded market place?
DesignThe TV5 keeps things simple in terms of design, although by their very nature speaker bases don't offer much room for anything too esoteric. The design needs to have forward-firing speakers, an enclosure large enough to put a TV on and some subwoofers built in. So it is with the TV5, which boasts a matte black enclosure that measures 725 x 100 x 340mm (WxHxD); although we wish it was a bit deeper. The build quality is suitably solid and its composite wood cabinet minimises vibration and distortion. At the front there is a removable grille, behind which you'll find two forward-firing 57mm (2.25") Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers.
Also at the front, between the two forward-firing speakers is a display that takes you through the process of learning IR commands from your TV's remote control. However in terms of an actual display during use, all you'll find is an indicator LED. The TV5 boasts 100W of built-in amplification and includes two 6.5” downward-firing subwoofers to provide deeper bass. The use of two subwoofers means twice the surface area of bass driver and thus double the efficiency in bass response. In addition there are two bass ports at the rear, where you'll also find all the connections.
The TV5 keeps it simple in terms of design but packs plenty of speakers and amplification inside.
Connections and ControlIn terms of connections, the TV5 has an optical digital (TosLink) input, a 3.5mm input jack and analogue stereo inputs using RCA connectors. We'd like to see more inputs, whilst the lack of any HDMI inputs and outputs is real shame and something of a glaring omission for a speaker base in this price bracket. However the inclusion of aptX Bluetooth is better news, allowing for a wireless connection with higher resolution quality. The TV5 also supports one button Bluetooth pairing, with up to eight audio devices.
The TV5 comes with a simple remote control that is nicely designed and comfortable to hold and use. It includes buttons for selecting Aux, Optical and Bluetooth inputs, as well as a button for pairing the TV5 to your device. There's also an on/off button, a mute button, volume up and down and buttons for selecting the DSP modes. The TV5 also has the ability to learn the basic IR commands from your TV's remote control, thus allowing to handle everything with a single controller.
Cambridge Audio TV5 Video Review
Cambridge Audio TV5 Sound QualityWhen it comes to speaker bases (or whatever you want to call them), the important aspect is sound quality. As we've already mentioned there isn't much scope for design flair, just as long as it doesn't take up too much room and can support your TV. So assuming it has has all connections you need, what you really want to know is how does the TV5 sound? The short answer is very good and despite any other gripes we might have, Cambridge Audio have certainly delivered the goods where it matters.
The TV5 produces a very pleasing and open sound, whilst the width of the enclosure means that there is a great sense of stereo separation. The speakers mean that the TV5 has a detailed sound with a well defined sense of clarity. This means that dialogue is clear, which is obviously important, but it also handles music and effects well, making it good for both TV and movies. The built-in subwoofers mean the TV5 has plenty of bass presence, which also works well with movies, and there's plenty of amplification.
As a result, the TV5 is capable of going loud without distorting and can thus fill even a large-sized room with sound. The aptX Bluetooth connection worked extremely well, making it genuinely capable as a music player, and as such it's a great all-rounder. The DSP modes on the TV5 were effective, with the Film option boosting the bass and the TV/Voice options emphasising dialogue. Although we generally found that the Music option resulted in the best performance, essentially leaving the audio unprocessed.
The TV5 delivers where it matters, with an open and appealing sound, plenty of detail and good bass.
- Great sound
- Support for aptX Bluetooth
- Easy to setup
- Well made
- No HDMI connections
- Could be deeper
Cambridge Audio TV5 Speaker Base Review
Is it worth buying?The Cambridge Audio TV5 certainly delivers in terms of its performance, with an excellent 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. The speaker base can handle both TV and movies well, reproducing music and dialogue with great effect. The DSP modes are effective but, as is usually the case, they don't really add anything to the audio performance and we preferred 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 HDMI support is a shame and obviously precludes support for an audio return channel (ARC). Whilst its inclusion isn't vital, it does put the TV5 at a disadvantage to some of the competition and knocks its score down slightly. However, assuming that 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 competitive price.
What are the alternatives?In terms of alternatives there are literally dozens of sound bases, sound plates, sound stands and sound plinths to choose from. However of the ones that we've reviewed, the obvious choice is Samsung's HW-H600 Sound Stand that offers a similar level of performance, HDMI connections and can be picked up for less than £200. Alternatively Yamaha's new SRT-1000 and LG's LAP340 are both certainly worth a look, although they'll cost a bit more and also lack HDMI connections. Of course, depending on the size of your TV, you could also look at Cambridge Audio's cheaper TV2, which shares many of the same attributes as its bigger brother.
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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