If you have a bedroom or small TV room and you want to enjoy DVDs with better sound than most televisions can provide, then you might be interested in the HTS6515 by Philips. The system is built around a DVD player and 2.1 speakers and is aimed at people who want that little bit more out of their DVD collection.
If you sniff around, you can track this bad-boy down for around £300. We are keen to find out how it performs, because it's expensive enough to need to justify itself to the target audience, which is likely to be students and people who don't have a massive amount of living space.
The main DVD unit is very slender and can be mounted on the wall or just used flat or propped up on the included stand. This means, no matter what space you have, you should be able to find a home for this little machine. On the other hand, the subwoofer is quite large, so finding space for that might be a little harder.
The DVD player comes complete with a rotating cover that swings open to reveal a clip-in style mechanism, into which you put your DVD. It's got a whiff of Aladdin's cave about it and we think it's unnecessarily complex and likely to cause problems in the future.
Inputs and outputs are located both on the DVD unit and the subwoofer. The connections on the sub are for power, left and right speakers as well as the digital coaxial input, and pair of analogue RCA jacks. On the DVD player, there is an HDMI output and a SCART socket.
The remote control supplied is functional and looks similar to Philips TV controllers. It's smaller and light and features a four-way directional control for navigating menus. We don't have any complaints about either the controller or the menu systems it manipulates -- both are refreshingly simple.
Like most 2.1 systems, you can connect some external devices if you chose. This is handy for getting a little more oomph out of TV shows via Freeview or a games console. You only get one digital input, in the form of a coaxial RCA connector, but there are two additional analogue stereo inputs on the subwoofer. On the main DVD unit, you'll find an iPod connection. There is also a USB 2.0 connection for playing music, video and JPG files from a memory stick. Handy for people who like to take advantage of digital media.
DivX is also catered for, which is pretty much standard now on players, a trend which Philips helped to encourage early on. We're always pleased to see it, and we're sure it will be useful to people who have downloaded video content.
In order to squeeze pseudo-5.1-surround from just two stereo speakers, Philips has employed a bit of wizardry called Ambisound. The idea is that it can create an illusion of surround sound from just two speaker units. This is the main selling point for this system, and the company has put quite a lot of research into getting it right.
The good news is that the picture quality from the HTS6515 is very good. We'd go so far as to say it's some of the most impressive upscaling we’ve seen from an all-in-one unit like this, and is probably only beaten by DVD players with high-end scaling hardware built in.
The image was very clean and blur-free on our Sony 40E4000, without any excess MPEG noise visible. The good news is that the noise-free image is also sharp enough to produce a very good looking picture.
Sound quality was also excellent. Although the subwoofer is physically quite large, the sound it produces is actually restrained and tight. There is no flabbiness in the low-end response and watching dinosaur attacks was a deeply satisfying experience. T-Rex made an appropriately terrifying noise upon his escape, without any hint of distortion.
We were also very surprised by the depth of the Ambisound system. Philips claims that you can create quite a nice, wide sound field from just two speakers -- each speaker contains three full-range woofers -- and we have to say we agree with them.
We paid careful attention to the sound of rain and thunder in Jurassic Park, and the effect was incredible. We truly felt there was rain falling everywhere, and thunder cut across the room in a remarkable way. For a three-speaker system, this really was a much more involving sound than we're used to from such set-ups.
Using the system is very easy indeed. There is no particularly complex set-up process, although you'll need to be happy plugging a few cables in and possibly wall-mounting the DVD unit. Aside from that, you could be up and running in just minutes and have a very nice looking, high-quality DVD and sound system.
We think £300 is a bit steep for the HTS6515, but it performs well, and if you want a good quality DVD upscaler and decent 'virtual' surround sound system, we think this is one of the best we’ve seen.
In terms of 2.1 systems, we like the Onkyo HTX-22HD, but it doesn't include a DVD player and costs nearly as much as this Philips system. It does, on the other hand, offer more flexibility with outputs for a full 5.1 speaker system, if you want to upgrade in the future. We also like the Onkyo LS-V501 but at £100 more than the Philips, we don't think it will appeal to this part of the market.Edited by Cristina Psomadakis