Pros: Great dynamic sound, good picture quality, affordable price, very easy to use.
Cons: No custom equalizer, remote would benefit from glowing in the dark and having larger buttons.
The Philips HTS3440 home theater system is an all inclusive answer to your homes 5.1 surround needs. It includes a DVD player, USB input (for flash drives), 5 satellite speakers with 230 watt subwoofer, and enough digital and analog ports to support the audio requirements of most home theaters. MPEG, and DivX format video playback is supported from discs and USB devices over component, standard definition, or S video cables, HDMI is not supported on this particular model but the next years version does have that capability.
I purchased my Philips theater system from Wal-Mart about a year ago. While at the store, I had the opportunity to compare it to other models being displayed. The lowest priced model ($150) did not have much bass response and the satellite speakers sounded cheap...next was this Philips model ($200) and the difference in sound quality was immediately apparent. I really did not intend to spend more than $200 on a system and after evaluating a $300 and $500 theater system; I saw no justification for doing so. The $500 model was a little nicer but it did not even have the USB connection; that was a critical factor in my decision to buy the Philips system.
Setting It Up:
Set up is made easy with a detailed, step-by-step, 50 page owners manual. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the manual is well written and grammatically correct as many electronics manuals are not. The manual has several pictures to help guide you along and a decently long trouble-shooter and glossary solve most problems.
All of the inputs/outputs are labeled and the speaker connections on the back of the subwoofer (which houses the internal amplifier) are color coded, so you can easily see what speaker connects to each port. This labeling and color coding is nice because it ensures that you will correctly place speakers; incorrectly placed speakers make for an interesting mismatch of what's on the screen to where the sound is coming from in surround sound applications.
Everything considered, it probably took longer to get this thing out of the packaging than to set it up. The main unit that houses controls and the DVD player is vertically compact but is very wide and long (about 16 inches across) so this may be a consideration when positioning the unit. There is a helpful placement guide for all parts of the theater system a few pages into the manual. The subwoofer is quite large and requires a separate connection to an outlet from the main unit. The satellite speakers can be hung on the wall like a picture or can be free standing as I have them. As I stated earlier, figuring out where to plug in wires is simple because of the easy to read labels on every port and connector.
Philips claims that this unit will handle 1,000 watts total (125 watts front and rear, 250 for the sub, and 250 for the center channel). Although the internal amplifier may be capable of producing this much power, the chances of the 2" speakers being able to handle it are slim. This is not to say that the system doesn't sound good or can't be turned up, just that your not likely to compete with a movie theater any time soon. I have personally played the volume level at 32 out of the maximum 40 before hearing distortion (it distorted during the film Independence day when the mother ship flies over the moon and the speakers reach maximum volume) and if that ear numbing volume isn't enough for you, I don't know what is.
The sound quality is more than enough to suit the average user, the system reproduces sound from 30 Hertz to 20 KHZ all speakers included. I'm not sure what that means but for those of you who do, those numbers are from the owners manual. I do NOT hear the tin sound of lesser systems through the satellites or the violent shudder of a subwoofer vibrating out of range with this system. You can hear background whispers in movies and fans cheering during football games like your in the stadium. I've had many experiences watching movies with this system where gunshots or other loud sounds are in a movie scene and I have had to check back into reality to realize that no one is shooting in my living room.
The unit includes a DVD player that I have set up to play over component video cables. The picture quality is excellent even when played over my 50" television (see my other review here). DVD playback is not high definition but then again it is not intended to be. The picture is always crisp, bright and clear, with in my opinion, much better quality than cable broadcasts. I have watched well over 100 DVD's with this system and will continue to use it as I build my DVD collection.
Ease of Use and Connect-ability:
This home theater system is very easy to use and connects to virtually anything. The on screen display is easy to follow whether playing a data disc (CD-R with pictures or other files on it), USB drive contents, or music CD. There is also a small screen on the unit itself that displays information such as: track number, volume, surround mode, or equalizer selection.
The unit has stereo audio inputs, a digital audio input, and stereo audio inputs for a television. Video can be transmitted over standard, S, or component video cables. The unit also has an included AM antenna and RF jack for the AM/FM receiver that is built in. You can preset 42 channels on each frequency and select them using directional buttons on the remote.
The remote control lets you scroll through DVD functions and inputs with ease. There are a total of 6 inputs including:digital, auxiliary, TV, tuner, disc, and USB that appear on the top of the remote or can be accessed by pressing the function button on the DVD player's main unit. You can choose your audio mode (Dolby, surround, multi or stereo) by pressing the Surr. button on the bottom of the remote. Pressing the sound button allows you to scroll through the different preset equalizers, there are different equalizer sets for playing movies than for listening to auxiliary devices or playing a CD.
I have two principal complaints about this system, 1) there is no option to set a custom equalizer and 2) the remote is two small and hard to see in the dark. Relating to my first complaint, this system sounds superb when watching DVD movies but the preset equalizers sell the systems capabilities short when listening to music. Bass response and volume do not seem to reach full potential when listening to a CD or MP3 off of a USB port. The radio sounds good on this system but I think it could sound better with a custom equalizer.
I have found one way around my listening frustrations however, I just plug my computers sound card into the digital audio input and set the computers equalizer. If you don't have a computer with a sound card then this won't work for you, but for me the ability to connect this system to my computer is its saving grace. When I use the computer and Windows media player equalizers I get the bass and treble responses that I always knew this system was capable of. The sound quality of computer games like San Andreas also comes off quite well with this set up.
As for my second complaint, my primary use of this system is watching movies. I like to watch movies in the dark for the full theater effect. The remote has relatively small buttons that do not glow in the dark and this annoys me, enough said.
Overall this home theater system meets all of my needs, I wanted better sound for my big screen, computer, and Playstation. I needed a new DVD player and stereo system. I got all of those things and more with the ability to play files off of a USB flash drive and CD-R discs. The picture quality is great, sound completely envelopes you, and user friendliness is not an issue. If you want high priced performance in a lower cost system, the Philips HTS3440 is the right match for you.