Sad but true: Great sound and home theater-in-a-box systems rarely go together.
HTIBs are the province of "good enough" performance and features, but I'm totally jazzed about these two exceptional models: Samsung's HT-BD1250 and Onkyo's HT-S9100THX.
Looking at the Samsung HT-BD1250 Blu-ray Home Theater System ($550 MSRP) it doesn't exactly stand out in a field of black plastic HTIBs. But once I listened to the thing I knew Samsung had a real winner.
The HT-BD1250 sounds great on music and movies, with remarkably good clarity, bass extension/definition, and low overall distortion. Even high-impact, special-effects driven flicks didn't betray the wee speakers and subwoofer weaknesses. Sure, play a Blu-ray really loud or try to fill a very large room and the HT-BD1250 will cry uncle. But in average size rooms, the HT-BD1250 should satisfy most home theater fans.
Rocking out with the Rolling Stones "Shine A Light" Blu-ray the band's punch and impact came through like gangbusters. The HT-BD1250 sounds noticeably less dynamically compressed than HTIBs with similarly sized speakers and subwoofers.
Few HTIBs of any size can sound credible with solo piano CDs, but the HT-BD1250 truly shined with Joel Fan's excellent "West of the Sun" release. The naturalness of piano tone was striking, and even the lower register keys had just the right weight. I credit that to the HT-BD1250's subwoofer, its refined sound perfectly matched the satellites. The sats kept up their part of the bargain, delivering effortless midrange and treble resolution.