Designed to deliver a user-friendly, compact and almost wire-free surround sound solution, the Denon DHT-FS3 speaker bar and subwoofer combination employs sonic wizardry to 'project' multi-channel audio effects around your living room. It's available for around £570.
The DHT-FS3 is much smaller than other one-bar surround sound systems we've seen, so it can be easily accommodated on a moderately-sized TV stand, whether on its own shelf or simply placed in front of the TV. There is a subwoofer to find room for as well, but as bass boxes go, it's extremely compact. The build quality is another major plus point, with both the sub and the main unit feeling reassuringly sturdy and solid, while keeping it classy in a high-gloss black finish.
Setup is pleasantly pain-free, too. With the sub driven by the main unit, the entire system runs off a single power lead, while your external kit can be hooked up via digital -- two optical, one coaxial -- or analogue -- two dual phono -- inputs. Optical digital and analogue stereo cables are provided, which is a nice touch. Plus, tweaking the speaker settings is as easy as slicing melted butter, thanks to the menu system. If you're a super-Luddite, you can actually bypass this stage by opting for whichever of the three presets most suits your room layout.
Of course, none of that matters if the performance isn't up to scratch. Thankfully, the system has no problem whatsoever in this regard. Connecting a DVD player and chucking on old test favourite The Fellowship of the Ring, we skipped forward to the cave troll dust-up. Here, we soon realised that Denon's X-Space, wrap-around surround sound technology is brilliantly effective, with the single speaker throwing the rear left and right effects to the correct positions behind us. Dialogue remained crisp and clear in the centre. Despite the petiteness of the sub, the rumbles and crashes as the troll took on the Fellowship were agreeably deep and forceful.
The DHT-FS3 also made slick work of our Xbox 360 games as well as Sky. When the latter outputted stereo rather than Dolby Digital, the bar's processor used Dolby Pro Logic II to turn it into decent surround sound.
There's nothing about this system that's deal-breakingly bad. In our testing room, we noticed the left rear effect worked more effectively than the right rear effect. There's a sofa against the right wall of the room, while the left wall is bare, which suggests that X-Space works better when bouncing its audio off a clean, uncluttered wall. It's something to bear in mind if you have a room full of soft furnishings or heavy curtains.
Denon could have also made life easier for owners of HD kit by fitting a couple of HDMI inputs and an output, allowing users to use a single cable from each source rather than plugging one into the TV and one into the DHT-FS3.
There are a few one-bar surround sound packages on the market now, but we found this to be one of the most effective at actually creating a convincing effect. What makes it even more impressive is its compact size which, coupled with a stylish design, makes it a pleasure to have in your living room. While it's not as affordable as some alternatives, this is a fantastic way to get fuss-free surround sound into your home.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday