Designed as a one-shot surround solution for anyone with one or more HDMI-equipped AV sources, the Sony HT-IS100 features what must be the smallest satellite speakers yet.
About the size of a golf ball, they're a cinch to place around the room and brilliantly inconspicuous – but do the dinky dimensions come at a cost to audio quality?
Well, not really. Granted, this £400 package isn't going to wow the golden-eared audiophiles that would happily spend more than that on a single centre speaker, but it does as good a job as any other affordable 5.1 audio pre-package out there. The diminutive satellites are just a bonus.
Setup is a doddle, thanks to the enclosed wired mic and automatic calibration feature. Plug in the mic, place it where you'll be sitting and the 30-second process automatically sets speaker levels and delays.
The subwoofer unit houses the amplifier, FM/AM tuner and pluggery (including three HDMI inputs and a single output). An LED display keeps you up to date with settings such as the level (treble, midrange and bass as well as master volume), which input you're using and what DSP mode you have selected.
While it'll decode standard Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound signals that are input via HDMI or digital audio cables, the amp isn't compatible with Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA lossless audio from a Blu-ray player. Lossless audio is achievable, however, if your BD deck is capable of internally-decoding such soundtracks and then outputting the result via HDMI as PCM.
Audio quality is solid rather than stellar.The 200W sub is capable of some beefy rumbles and booms, but can get a touch woolly and uncontrolled when it's called upon to deliver really low frequency effects.
Those miniscule satellites, meanwhile, distribute surround effects and dialogue well, but don't produce the depth and texture of sound you get from the best sub-sat systems. Listen to music on the HT-IS100 and it'll sound okay – but not particularly refined.
The great-looking HT-IS100 is designed to replace your TV's audio, propelling you cheaply and with simplicity into the realm of surround sound. In this respect it succeeds.