Review: Philips HTL5160

Clear speech

The Philips soundbar does its job, with crystal clear dialogue and a fairly balanced sound.

Karakter
Philips HTL5160
We think
The balance in the sound is fine, and the soundbar simulates surround sound quite well. Google Cast provides great usability for streaming.
We want more overtones, and the stereo perspective on the music should be wider.
Specifications
  • HDMI: 1 input, 1 output (ARC)
  • Digital input: Optical
  • Network: Wi-Fi, ethernet
  • Wireless: Google Cast, Bluetooth (NFC)
  • Analogue in: 3.5 mm minijack
  • Subwoofer: Wireless
  • W x H x D: 110 x 5.1 x 6.9 cm
  • Colour: Black
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The Philips soundbar came in a somewhat suspiciously small box, which we thought could only have room for a subwoofer. It turned out that the soundbar comes in three parts that must be assembled. It is the thinnest of the test, so if you find a place to hide the wireless subwoofer, there is little that will attract anyone’s attention.
The soundbar has an HDMI input and one output, but since they don’t support 4K video from Blu-ray, all sources must be connected to the TV with HDMI, then to connect the soundbar to the TV’s audio return channel (ARC). It works fine. Alternatively, you can use the optical digital input.
The soundbar connects to the wireless network using the app HCWeSet. Follow the instructions in the app, it’s easy. To stream music, Philips uses Google Cast. It’s super easy. You just open the app that you use for your music, and touch a virtual key in the app that makes the soundbar take over as an audio source instead of the mobile phone. Your mobile phone is now turned into a remote control. If you have multiple Google Cast products in your home, these can be combined so that they play the same music throughout the house. Google Cast supports many streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal and Deezer. But not currently Apple music or the local music player on the iPhone.

Sound quality
I must admit I was sceptical as to whether this thin soundbar would be anything special. Thank goodness I am able to put some of my prejudices aside. The problem with thin soundbars is that they often struggle to play well with the subwoofer, as it frequently turns out that vocalized consonants come from the soundbar while the vowels – vocalzation from the diaphragm – come from the subwoofer. The subwoofer must then be placed very close to the soundbar so that it doesn’t sound quaint.
In this case, it sounds far more decent than anticipated. The voices in the movie are clear and open. With the surround feature enabled, the soundscape spreads uniformly throughout the room without compromising the voice rendition. This is because the centre channel has been equipped with separate speakers. The wireless subwoofer also reproduces the bass effects quite well.

There is a lack of shade in the overtones. Raindrops are reminiscent of tiny glass crystals hitting the ground. There’s also a gap between the subwoofer and the soundbar, but you don’t think much about it during a movie.
The problem arises with music, where the bass instruments sound rather monotonous and unnuanced. You don’t really hear the string plucking on a bass guitar, just the body. Vowels sound clear, but the whole thing becomes a little thin.

Conclusion
Despite the low price, Philips soundbar provides fairly good sound on film with clear dialogue. For music, we’d like more air in the cymbals, and the soundscape is too constricted — the stereo perspective is virtually non-existent.
The Philips soundbar works on the whole perfectly fine. We like streaming with the Google Cast. This is a nice choice if you want a thin and affordable soundbar.

Photo: Philips

Also in this test

Yamaha YSP-2700

Hissing sound

The biggest problem with this soundbar is a huge hole in the soundscape.

Many speaker drivers and advanced DSP allow one to get virtually true surround sound.
There is a large hole in the sound between the subwoofer and the soundbar. The soundbar gives us the consonants from vocals, while the subwoofer provides the vowels.

Bluesound Pulse Soundbar

The most accomplished

Bluesound’s soundbar costs a bit more, but pays off in the form of a much better experiences on both film and music.

Very powerful sound, even without a subwoofer, timbre balance is great and user-friendliness very good.
There could also be even more air at the top.

Sonos PlayBase

The TV's resting pad

Sonos’ new sound base PlayBase acts as a base for the TV. But did it arrive too late?

The sound is balanced, and the room correction fixes problems. Increased chassis volume accommodates subwoofers.
It lacks HDMI inputs, and the sound is not as engaging as the best sound bases.

Sony HT-NT5

Good compromise

This is designed to lie flat and point towards the ceiling, but nevertheless sounds good facing forward. It works pretty good.

The most successful flat soundbar we have heard. Sounds both natural and open, and has good usability.
The focus of the soundscape is better from the soundbar that play directly forward.

Samsung HW-MS660

Impressive balance

Samsung’s soundbar sounds just as well on music as it does for movies.

The sound is very clear and clean, Samsung is in the forefront when it comes to natural sound.
The bass can once in a while almost be too rich.

Yamaha YAS-306

Rather complete

If you are looking for an affordable option with multi-room, and do not want an extra bass crate, then this one is good.

A low price and good usability are a plus, and the soundbar provides a rich enough audio without a subwoofer.
Music in stereo lacks energy and life.

Bose SoundTouch 300

Not good enough

Bose has banked on user-friendliness, but has unfortunately forgotten about the sound quality.

In typical Bose style, the soundbar is very user-friendly, and room correction can help in difficult environments.
The sound is too bad, and it lacks support for multiple streaming services.

Klipsch RSB-14

A lot of sound pressure, little else

Klipsch has the highest sound pressure in the test. But the soundbar disappoints on sound quality.

When it comes to sound pressure, Klipsch is in a separate class. The user-friendliness of the Play-Fi multi-room is very good.
The sound quality does not measure up.

Heos HomeCinema

User-friendly and tough

Heos has endowed this with user-friendliness, and here one also gets tough, rich sound for one’s money.

The usability is top notch, many streaming services are supported, and with subwoofer included, the price is very favourable.
It lacks some nuances in the overtones, especially for music in stereo.

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