With hoardes of electronic companies producing great Blu-ray Players and Home Theater audio systems, Philips was always first in line, but invariably failed to keep up with the competition in terms of real value. But now, they’re back with a winner. The Philips HTS9140 Soundbar is essentially a 2.1 home theatre system with an integrated Blu Ray player but it also emulates 5.1 surround sound without actually having dedicated speakers surround speakers. They use psychoacoustics (how you perceive sound) to modify sound waves so that you feel like there are actually more speakers than there are.

Design and Features
The Philips HTS9140 Soundbar comes in a large box, which makes you wonder how big it really is. But once the packaging comes off, you’ll see that the contents are quite sleek. The player is long with a black and silver finish and the woofer is like any other; boxy and black. Open up the accessories box and you will almost certainly be surprised to find very few cables. A wall mount has also been provided, but you can also place the Soundbar on a flat surface, although it does seem a little wobbly this way.

There are quite a few inputs provided right from the standard component and composite video to HDMI and a 3.5 mm socket. What’s really great is the Ethernet and Wi-Fi port. You can stream movies, music and photos off the internet using a Wi-Fi USB adapter which they haven’t included. Philips recommends the WUB1110 Wi-Fi USB adapter. The Ethernet port can actually be used to browse files from your PC or laptop. Of course, Philips has also thrown in an FM radio with a wired antenna.

The Soundbar has a high-power USB port which you can even attach your external hard disk to. I tested it out and played a movie and music from an external drive, and it played back pretty smoothly. Another handy input is the one for an iPod Dock, as you can use the Soundbar to control and navigate through your iPod or iPhone. The only drawback (which is a big one) is the fact that you need a special iPod dock and cable to go along with it. Philips has recommended their own (no surprises here) DCK3060. I feel they should have just as well made allowances to connect an iPod or iPhone via USB, saving you the trouble of having to buy a separate device altogether.

The buttons on the top of the player are touch sensitive, but can take a few tries to get used to your touch. At the front, below the buttons is the LED interface, which is basic. The provided remote is a little large and looks like you can eat a meal off it, but the buttons are quite spaced out and will fit quite well in your hand due to its elliptical shape.

The problem with all these features is that Philips hasn’t bothered to provide any cables. All they’ve given is an HDMI cable, 2 power cables (one specifically for India) an FM antenna and a 3.5mm cable. This home theatre system is quite expensive and they’ve left out all the basic cables – Ethernet, USB, component and composite video, which don’t really cost much to include.

The audio quality is really good. I started out by testing its music playing capabilities, and was quite impressed. I tried a variety of genres that I like and from all of them, found that hard rock and heavy metal do not sound that good at high volumes. The sound starts getting a bit distorted and clarity is lost as well. But when played pop and world music, it sounded really great. I also found a stark difference in the sound quality between the MP3 link and the audio auxiliary input, while the aux input added clarity, it was a lot softer than through the 3.5mm socket.

Where this Soundbar really excels is when you are watching movies. I tested the ‘Last Samurai’ on Blu Ray, and couldn’t get myself to start working for over an hour. The experience was so good that I almost missed my deadline to put this article up. I even tried playing a variety of other files such as a 720p AVI file from a DVD, an MKV file (yes it actually worked!) from an external hard drive as well as normal DivX and XviD files from a flash drive, and they all worked perfectly. Another huge aspect that works in this Soundbar’s favour is that it is 3D ready, and although there are barely any 3D Blu Ray discs available, you know you can look forward to their arrival.

The bottom line is that this isn’t a cheap home theatre system as it costs a whopping Rs. 69,990. So if you have more than a little extra cash to splurge but don’t have enough space for or couldn’t be bothered to set up proper 5.1 system, you should totally go in for this Soundbar. It’s a lifestyle item with no fuss of extra wires and would be great for those who have already modeled their house in a particular way and don’t want more clutter.

I for one, would definitely pick it up if I had the money, as my room is way too cluttered and small for a proper surround sound system. Although the price may give your wallet the shivers, this is definitely the next best option if you want something with a Blu-ray player. It is brilliant for watching movies and above average for listening to music. The only aspect this player lacks in is the lack of accessories i.e. cables, which makes Philips look a little cheap.

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