Sound bases are great. Unlike their entertainment center-sharing cousin, the soundbar, sound bases lift your TV experience to new heights both figuratively and literally with a larger, low-profile cabinet that leaves plenty of room for drivers and woofers to do their thing.
The Cambridge Audio TV5, the successor to the more petite, single-subwoofer TV2, is a mid-range base for A/V enthusiasts with screens less than 55 inches. It's solidly built and offers surprisingly balanced sound for $399 (£299, about AU$500).
From center channel dialog at whisper-quiet levels to bass-heavy beats at max volume, the TV5 performed admirably as one of the better sound bases I've ever heard.
It's not perfect, though. A simple remote hurt the overall package while a lack of ports made connecting every device in my entertainment center a logistical nightmare. Together, both of these issues make that price tag look mighty steep.
At 28.5 x 4 x 13.3 inches or 725 x 100 x 340mm (W x H x D), 23 pounds (10.4 kg), and built out of durable composite wood, the TV5 can support "any TV that fits on its 725 x 340mm surface," according to Cambridge Audio's website. While I wasn't able to test that bold claim, after seeing the unit in action, the realist in me would guess the best TV size to sit on this unit would be around 55 inches.
On the front 28.5-inch panel, you'll find a felt grille that guards two 2.25-inch Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers and a single LED indicator. The light glows green, blue or white depending on the mode and will flash when looking for a Bluetooth device to pair.
Like the ZVOX Soundbase 670, the TV5 comes equipped with two downward-firing, 6.5-inch subwoofers that provide meaty-sounding bass without distortion at higher volumes.
Spin it around to the back, however, and you'll only find a pair of RCA, 3.5mm and digital optical connections - a far cry from the half-dozen you'll find on equally-priced soundbars.
Despite the lack of features, the TV5 is a solidly built, low-profile, matte black cabinet that will look good in or on top of any entertainment center.
Setting up the TV5 takes mere minutes, and the unit sounds rich and warm once it's up and humming.
Like some other Cambridge Audio products, it benefits from a balanced sound profile. The bass is present but not digitally enhanced, while the highs and mids get the same sort of loving affection.
I noted that the TV5 has a pretty wide soundstage - how far angled the sound goes before it begins to distort - and dialog came through clearly without being overpowered by the other ranges.
The biggest problem I noticed with the TV5, though, is that its automatic power down sequence engages too frequently, usually within 40 seconds of inaction. This may not sound grossly problematic, but imagine needing to find the remote every time your audio source goes quiet for a minute. It's strange at best and irritating at its worst.
Additional functionality - namely AptX Bluetooth, which allows for high-res audio streaming - helped make up for the minor inconvenience. But, at this price, it's more of an expected feature than an extra. What's worse is that, beyond Bluetooth, features are few and far between - the remote tells the full story.
The IR remote packaged with every TV5 is functional, yet will likely leave you wanting more.
On it you'll find buttons to change between inputs, raise and lower the volume and sync Bluetooth devices, as well as four audio presets - music, voice, film and TV. There's no way to raise and lower individual levels, however, and the presets make a poor substitute.
Changing between inputs isn't exactly instant, and the only way to know what channel the sound base is on is by remembering what each color of the LED means. A simple LED screen that could display the channel could've easily prevented this confusion, though perhaps would drive the price up slightly.
Don't get me wrong - there's are a lot to admire in the Cambridge Audio TV5.: It comes in a beautiful matte black cabinet, offers instantaneous setup and touts well-tuned performance that aptly handles any end of the audio spectrum.
The best case consumer for the TV5 is someone looking for a no-frills, but stylish and strong, sound base with only one or two devices to connect to it. If you're looking for a completely customizable, robust solution though, you won't find it with the TV5.
Another similarly priced unit from Cambridge Audio with a few more features - like surround sound - and a handful more ports at the back could've easily scored it some extra points. But as it stands, the TV5 doesn't do quite enough for costing nearly as much as a decent TV to stand on it.