* Prices may differ from that shown
After buying a new HD TV, we decided it was time to upgrade our DVD player to something a little more fancy. There wasn't actually anything wrong with the DVD player, but we really wanted to go for something with surround sound and possibly a better picture. Looking on the internet, it seemed there were two main choices available, we could go down the expensive route of a Blu-Ray player or the considerably cheaper upscaling DVD. After taking the higher price of Blu-ray discs into account, along with the fact a Blu-ray system would cost considerably more, we decided to go for a DVD Home Cinema System. After a little further research we actually plumped for the Samsung HTC450, a 5.1 channel DVD Home Cinema System, that manages to do a lot more than just play DVDs.
As the more technologically minded member of this household, setting the HTC450 naturally fell to me. But I must say, it is very easy to set-up, I don't think even the more technically challenged would have much of a problem. The enclosed quick start guide was very easy to follow and all the speaker connections are colour coded. The wires for the speakers are all a good length, but due to the slightly less conventional set-up of my living room, I did have to swap one of the rear wires with a front one. (For obvious reasons the rear speaker wires are much longer than the front).
Each of the speakers has it's relative position clearly marked on the back, meaning that it's very hard to get them mixed up. The instruction manual even gives information on where to place your speakers around the room to get the best sound. As far as attaching the speakers to the wall, I found the best way was to put screws into the wall and then hang the smaller speakers from these. I then placed the centre speaker on top of the DVD player itself, with the sub woofer to the side of my TV.
Connecting the HTC450 to my TV was also very simple, there is a component output available, but I can't really comment on using this other than the actual component leads are not supplied. There's also the option to connect via SCART using the supplies video-out cable a SCART adapter. Personally I connected the HTC450 to my TV via a gold plated HDMI cable (again not supplied), which as far as connecting goes, was simple enough. I've also connected my SKY HD box using the digital optical input, so as to take advantage of the superior sound quality.
Once all connections are made, there is a little setting up to do in order to make the most of the system. First things first, and it's possible to set the picture resolution to match your TV, obviously I set this to match my own TV, but options included 580p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. It's also possible to make changes to the sound settings, including a delay and speaker test. I found the menu system easy to navigate, quite intuitive and had no problem finding the appropriate options for setting up both the picture resolution and sound settings.
The HTC450 certainly looks smart, shiny and more expensive than it actually is. Every component is a glossy black, that looks very nice. The main unit, is however considerably larger than many DVD players, so you may want to check that you have room for it. Saying that, it does fit on the shelf of my cheap and cheerful Argos TV stand, with a small gap. The wall speakers are fairly small and modern looking, the main speaker fits neatly on the player and the woofer is, well, fairly large. My only real gripes with the looks are that the shiny surfaces positively attract dust, and show up finger prints, but they are easy to clean. I'd also have preferred the speakers were wireless, but I knew what I was buying. I do, however like that the buttons on the player are all flush and touch sensitive as this gives it a far more streamlined look.
==Push My Buttons==
The remote control is well laid out, with fairly large, responsive buttons. It only took me a few minutes to get the hang of the very important volume control and I could operate it in a darkened room the first night. Especially as the play, pause, stop, skip and forward/rewind buttons all glow, which I think is a simple yet inspired idea. Another small and yet significant detail is that the back of the battery compartment is actually attached to the remote meaning that it's unlikely to be lost.
We bought the HTC450 primarily as a DVD player with surround sound, so I'm going begin by focussing on this aspect of the system. First thing's first, this a DVD player, so it won't play Blu-ray discs, but what it does do is upscale the video output from DVDs. From what I can gather this means that it 'fills in the gaps and missing details' meaning that DVD picture quality is greatly improved. And yes, that is something I can definitely verify. When playing commercial DVDs the picture is vibrant with no blocking or pixilation, although I must stress that we have this connected to a 32" 1080p LCD TV, which no doubt also contributes to picture quality. I would say that there is noticeable improvement in picture quality over our previous DVD player (also a Samsung). DVDs however do take a little longer to load than I'm used to, not too long, but over a minute.
What really puts system apart from a normal DVD player is the sound quality. It really is exceptional, even when at the extremes of volume. At low volume, the sound is still crystal clear and when playing a DVD with Dolby Surround sound it really is like being in the middle of the action. At higher volumes the sound doesn't deteriorate or warp (even at top volume), and this really does add to the viewing experience, especially when watching horrors and action films. I originally tested this using X-men, and there were several times where I jumped, the sound is just such a vast improvement on a standard DVD/TV combination.
As well as being able to play commercial DVDs, the HTC450 can play various home-made DVDs, including DVD+R, DVD-R and DVD-RW. So far I've only tried the DVD-R discs and these have worked perfectly. There are some DVD formats that it can't recognise though which include DVD-RAM. What I really like about this player though is that as well as standard DVD-Video, this also plays unconverted AVI files. There are a few limitations but so I've played a variety of different films that use different CODECS (DiVx, Xvid, MP4) with little difficulty. My only real gripe with this, is that if I pause an unconverted film, and leave it for a while the player goes back to the root menu and won't let me resume.
Whichever format I use, the player fast forwards smoothly (without sound) and picture quality does seem to be slightly improved. Although, it can't work miracles and if the video file is of poor quality then the resulting picture quality will still be rubbish. One problem I had with my previous DVD player (that also played AVI files) was that it wouldn't play the whole of a film if the file size was over a certain amount, meaning a film would suddenly stop. I never quite worked out the limits of this, but am glad to say that, fingers crossed, I've not had the same problem with this player, and have finally managed to see the end of those films.
==Dance Baby Dance==
Although we already had a CD system, it's not been used much since we got this player. The sound through this system is just fantastic, we play lots of R&B and dance music where the bass is pumping. And we play it at a pretty loud volume. I've had no problems with commercial Cds, the sound is clear with no skips or distortion even at a volume loud enough to blast your ears. Under normal circumstances the sound only comes out of the front four speakers, but it is possible to utilise all six speakers by a simple press on the remote. There's also a P-Bass button to enhance the bass in your music, and when I use this the floor really does vibrate. When using Cds I've burnt myself, I've found that this really doesn't like the super cheap Cds very much. Although they will play, for some reason they just don't sound as good and will occasionally skip, I do mostly blame the Cds rather than the player, because slightly more expensive Cds play perfectly.
As well as music Cds, the HTC450 will also play MP3 cds, and does a perfectly acceptable job of this, as with films, the better the quality of the MP3 the better it sounds. But I must say that my MP3 files from Amazon sound fantastic and I can put up to
500 tracks (not very realistic at top quality) on a CD, meaning I don't need to keep changing discs during a party. There's also a function that optimises for MP3, but I can't say the improvement in audio quality was very noticeable. Oh, the HTC450 can also play WMA files as long as they're not DRM protected, but it cannot play files direct from iTunes, you will need to convert those.
==Burn Baby Burn==
So that's the basic functions out of the way with, what else can this baby do. Well, surprisingly (to me anyway) this player can actually rip Cds! I know, who would believe it. Simply connect a music player, USB flash drive, or even mobile phone to the USB port, put a CD in the drive and press a button on the control and the HTC450 will rip the either the track you're listening to or whole CD and place it on your device. Although this is quite a handy function, it's not without it's limitations. Firstly it cannot play the CD while ripping, and secondly it's quite slow, ripping at only 3x. But it does work, I can connect my Samsung Monte (phone) and then rip a CD onto it, which will play perfectly.
As well as being able to rip onto USB media, the HTC450 can also recognise and play various file types. For example you could attach an MP3 player and the play the music through the speakers, or attach a camera and view photos and videos. It will even recognise external hard drives, as long as they are in the FAT format and don't require special drivers (basically if you can just plug it into a computer and use it then the HTC450 will recognise it). This means that I don't even need to put my music, photos and video on to discs as I can just plug in my hard drive and play the files from there. I love this feature, it's really reduced the number of discs I have hanging around. But, the player doesn't recognise the whole of my 1.5TB drive, it can only recognise the first 160GB.
==What There's More==
There are a few other functions some of which I've not really explored because I've no need for them. There's a FM radio, which works fine, but I get far more radio stations through Sky. There's also something called Anynet+ that works with Samsung TVs (which I don't have). Other equipment can also be connected via the digital input, as I've said I have my Sky connected this way, as the sound is fantastic especially when the programmes are broadcast in surround sound.
So how much would you expect something that does this much to cost? Well, we bought this for the princely sum of £131 from RGBdirect.com, including delivery and a free multi-region upgrade. Personally I think this is a very good price for such a decent bit of equipment.
I'm really happy with the Samsung HTC450, it does exactly what I would have expected from a DVD home cinema system and quite a lot more. I love the way that it plays almost everything that I throw at it, and plays them exceptionally well. I love the way that watching DVD films is far more atmospheric, with excellent sound quality and improved picture quality, almost as if I'm in the middle of the action. And I love the way it makes the most of my music Cds, even going as making my floor vibrate. Ok, this won't play Blu-ray discs, but it will make the most of your DVDs and do so much more besides and so I can't help but recommend this system if you're looking for a new DVD player. And so the Samsung HTC450 gets a very healthy 5 stars out of five.
5.1Ch, 500W Satellite Speakers
HDMI with HD upscaling
Multi Codec: DVIX (XVID), WMA, WMV(1/2/3/7) JPEG, MP3
At first when purchasing this product I was not sure if I should get it because home theatres can look so good, but once switched on they sound awful and distort at high volumes.
The main reason for purchasing this product was to get clear high and low sounds with great bass and surround.
As I installed the product it had a very easy to follow instruction manual and explained every feature and cable in great detail. As I placed the speakers on each corner of the room knowing that I will get a surround effect they were very easy to carry and store. I placed the subwoofer in front of my TV to get the full effect. After setup I switched it on and tested it out with an action movie (Die Hard 4). The menus are so easy to navigate and understand. I configured the bass and treble and activated a feature called power bass which gave me a whole new experience in sound. After watching the movie on the action scenes the bass from the car explosion and crystal clear treble and surround was simply amazing for such a compact device.
The other nifty feature that I through use and enjoy is the Divx playback. I played the movie and it looked excellent and sounded great. The playback is smooth and flawless. You can fit several Divx movies onto one disc.
I really enjoy playing Playstation 3. It brings out the surround sound from the speakers especially when playing FIFA 11. It feels like you are watching from the stadium with the support of the home fans. I turned the device to the near maximum and the speakers handle the deep bass superbly with minimal distortion.
Overall the speakers look amazing with their glossy black finish. It matched my Samsung LED 3D TV very nicely due to its black glossy finish. Speakers are very powerful for such a compact device. I have never had an issue with them since owning. For a small price you get big results. 5/5 is my verdict!
We finally took the plunge and baught a Blu-ray player and surround sound system. We paid £450 for it from Play.com and that included the wireless speaker transmitter for the 3 rear speakers.
The day it arrived we where itching to get going with it, so we unpacked it and began setting it up. The instructions are rather unclear, but after a couple of hours we managed to set it up. The speakers where easily to screw to the walls, forget buying brackets for them you dont need them. The wireless receiver is a bit of a con- alls it does is plugs in at the back of your room and you still have to run wires from it to your rear speakes. For an hour we asumed it made the back speakers wire free, in the end we clicked and was very disapointed.
The sorround sound system is very disapointing- the background sound is a lot louder then the voices and the bass is terrible! We dont even use it now, its just too overpoweing and beleive me i have tried changing the settings etc. On the plus side the blu-ray player is amazing. The picture qaulity is fantastic and extremely high definition. We have a blu-ray player in our ps3 but the qaulity is nothing compared to this. I only wish now id just purchased the blu-ray player on its own as the surround sound system is way over rated- the neighbours deffinately wont be happy about the bass from it if you buy it!
I was sceptical at first, because I have heard bad things about some home theatre systems that they can sound awful or worst than the speakers that are included on the TV itself.
I placed speakers in each side of my room and really got that effect of being at the cinema due to the effective 5.1 channel surround sound. The speakers on my HDTV are ok but I found they lacked any kind of bass and sounded like I was listening through a tin. Using a feature called power bass, it added clarity, depth and you guessed it, bass to give a really good quality sounding cinematic experience.
DivX playback is a really good feature. Sometimes I download DivX movies off of the internet and with this feature I can I can burn the movie onto a DVD-R and watch them on my TV, without loosing any quality through the process.
Playing games sound utterly amazing. When I first plugged everything in and set it up, the first game I played was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on my 360 and it sounded like I was in a warzone (which isn't a bad thing, honest). Having the great sound really gets your adrenaline going, and I didn't even have the volume turned up high.
You might be worried about size but the speakers themselves are small enough that they don't obstruct or get in the way of anything and the system itself has a nice glossy black finish, which on the downside is a dust magnet but it fits perfectly with the other gadgets and gizmos I own so I can't complain.