Phones spend most of their time in your pocket, cameras in some bag. If you really want the world to know what a great eye you have, then it’s home cinema where you need to spend the bucks on good looking technology. So, that’s exactly where we’re up to today on Style Week on Pocket-lint.
We’d like to tell you that all the items on this list are completely affordable, but that’s just not the case unless you bleed fifties. Still, there are a couple of more achievable style bargains to be had and, after all, what would the very best looking home cinema kit be if it wasn't something to aspire to?
Dutch design is famously strong, so it should be of little surprise to see Philips, the royal Dutch engineers, appear in this list. The Philips Aurea TVs are the evolution of Ambilight and if you don’t know what Ambilight is all about then prepare to be both educated and slightly miffed that your set doesn’t do it. The Ambilight feature is essentially a bunch of back-facing LEDs on Philips TV frames that project complimentary colours from behind the television onto the wall surrounding the screen to make your viewing more immersive.
So, the evolution of that, which Philips first launched at IFA 2007, was to turn the entire frame, front and back-facing, into a massive light show of lights that change according to the colour on the TV picture.
The effect is that it ends up looking rather like the AV version of a jukebox but there’s no doubting that it’s both sexy and impressive, if not exactly subtle. The most recent Aurea, the Philips Aurea 3, turned up at IFA 2009 in Berlin but there have been none since. Could this be the end of the line or the build up to a famous Philips Cinema 21:9 Aurea set instead?
For something a little more up to the minute, which offers as much on the inside as it does on the out, you might want to save your pennies for the top of the line Samsung D8000 series of televisions. They come with Samsung’s connected SmartTV service, 3D viewing, Wi-Fi and pretty much brush your teeth for you but what really makes them classy is that they look lush. Samsung refers to it as the OneDesign and what it means, essentially, is maximum screen with minimal bezel.
LED lit, it’s super thin and what you end up with is a seriously slimline black panel with a very tasteful but expensive looking silver frame around the edge. This drops down to a cross-legged TV stand that, unlike most TV stands, actually looks, you know, pretty good. The 8000 is the current poster boy for LED TV technology and may as well be so for TV design in general.
Sony SUB400S TV stand (£299)
To be fair, this place in the list should go to the NX-series Sony Bravia TVs that fit into the SUB400S but, when it comes down to it, the look is all thanks to the stand itself. The Monolithic design of the Sony TVs, which has been around since 2010, means the sets have an edge-to-edge glass look despite the bezel hidden behind and they also slouch at a lazy 6 degrees from vertical which is apparently to fit in for the trend of art deco-style, low slung furniture.
Really, you’d hardly notice it at all but insert your Bravia into the Sony SUB400S TV stand and the look comes to life. The brushed metal grey of this stand-come-2.1 sound system just sets off the pure black of the TV beautifully and of course, you get that compact, home cinema sound in for your trouble too.
Again, you’ll have to appreciate that beauty is in the eye of the beholder for this one because the JVC Videosphere is not going to be to everyone’s taste. Introduced in 1970, the idea was to make a TV set shaped like a space helmet given the backdrop of the Apollo missions and their moon landings. You could buy the Videospheres in red, grey, black and white but the most classic colour of all has to be orange.
The design is said to have been inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and, for a second film reference for free, a red one pops up in the Matrix. As a collector’s items, the JVC Videosphere isn’t easy to find and expect to pay a pretty penny when you do manage to track one down. As for the picture, well, the less said, the better.
Samsung BD-P4600 Blu-ray player (£295/£115)
In a world of black oblongs, Samsung made an impressive step when it announced the first wall-mountable Blu-ray player on the planet at CES in 2009. The Samsung BD-P4600 has touch-sensitive controls that spring to life as you fondle them, it’s 1.5 inches thick and is Wi-Fi connectable so that you can stream media around your house to it without the need of any unsightly cables.
On the tech side, it supports downloaded DivX video files via a USB port and will also upscale your standard definition DVDs to a 1080p Full HD version. You can pick one up brand new for nigh on 300 quid or grab yourself a second hand bargain for £115. A great tip for some easy home cinema style.
LG Serie 1 Retro Classic TV (£135)
Of course, a retro TV look doesn’t have to cost you the same as a Faberge egg and be just as hard to find. In fact, for a mere £135, or thereabouts, (plus the cost of a return to Korea, but we’ll gloss over that for now) you can pick yourself up something that looks straight out of a 1960s American household that actually still works as reliably as any flatscreen you could pluck from the shops today.
The LG Serie 1 Retro Classic has a 4:3 aspect ratio 14-inch display with a digital tuner inside, a remote control and even a switch to flick between colour, sepia and black and white filters for that added retro feel. It comes with chrome legs, rabbit-style double aerial and looks the part from top to bottom. Bags of style and just about enough substance.
Ferguson Hill FH009 home cinema sound system (£795)
The majority of seriously good looking speakers are largely reserved for a pure audio set with the AV side of sound mostly ignored. Ferguson Hill is fortunately an exception that proves the rule with its FH009 home cinema system.
Based on the jaw-droppingly incredible horn speaker design from its more "standard" audio products, the FH009 consists of two transparent, high quality acrylic speakers with the drivers at the centre. The idea is to make their impact minimal on your home design. The result, in practice, is to give you the most ultra-modern look home cinema sound system that money can buy. Between the speakers is your white acrylic amp unit with two bass speakers strapped in. Yours for an actually quite reasonable £795. Must be rubbish then.
Loewe Reference System
The entire Loewe Reference System is an exercise in home cinema lushnicity but we could probably live without the TV itself if the rest of it didn’t look a bit silly in its absence. In actual fact, it’s the speakers that utterly blow you away.
The whole system’s aesthetics are built to lean back at that fashionable angle and, finished off in either brushed aluminium or glass, they’re a bit of a treat to behold. What’s so stunning about the speaker though, is that they’re so very thin. The secret is that they contain just the one very large speaker diaphragm within which measures one tenth of the thickness of a human hair. Fortunately, the sub has no such graces and is a large, fat cube of pure bass. Still looks good though.
Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 8 (£3,600)
Similar to the Sony SUB stand is the Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 8, only this time it’s the whole TV. The chunkiness of the set is all down to the fact that the BeoVision 8 is a product of all-in-one sound as much as it as a visual unit. Inside, the chassis is jam packed with a state of the art amplifier as well as five speakers. Obviously, we don’t care about that today, but the effect is to make having a fat TV look cool again.
Whether you choose to stick it on a metal pole stand or enjoy it from your Swiss Ball - something we all do often, of course - anyone can appreciate its utter beauty despite having a chin like Quentin Tarantino. Naturally, it’s also set at a bit of an angle from the vertical.
World Cup 1TB Sky+ HD box (£249)
Subtle, they’re not but the statement is a thing of beauty if you’re into football and you also happen to be English. Every now and then, Sky hands over the design reigns of its set-top boxes to fashion peoples of the land to come up with a limited edition version.
In 2010, it was all about the World Cup and as one of three, Wayne Hemingway hit the nail on the head with his version of the 1TB Sky+ HD box. In a "Wayne woz ere" moment, he simply painted the thing red, picked a nice typeface and scrawled “1966 4-2” - the football equivalent of mentioning the war. You’d be hard pressed to find one these days what with the fact that they were limited edition over 12 months ago, but have a dig around on eBay and keep your eyes open and you might just be in luck.
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