(Pocket-lint) - Speaker bases have appeared from all corners recently, their purpose to offer an upgrade over your TV's built-in speakers but without the need for a full speaker setup or soundbar. Denon's DHT-T100 offering lives directly under the TV to keep it tucked out of the way.
It's a play to all those people who have their TV sitting on a cabinet or stand, rather than mounted to the wall - where a soundbar might be preferable - and want to avoid the clutter of a separates system. The DHT-T100 is designed to be exactly that sort of plug-and-play speaker, offering a compact and unobtrusive upgrade for TV audio in addition to Bluetooth for music and other media playback.
Speaker bases can't offer a huge degree of design variety due to the nature of their application, but the Denon DHT-T100 is more compact than some of the rival models on the market such as the Maxell SB3000.
Measuring 71 x 608 x 355mm, the Denon is a good deal smaller than the Onkyo LS-T10 we recently reviewed. It will accommodate screens up to 50-inches in size and up to 27kg in weight. While the design is compact, that brings some limitations with it.
Some older TVs with larger stands might not fit for example. When we plonked an ageing 40-inch Samsung set on the top, it was at the limits of fitting on. The Denon might be slightly less intrusive than other speaker bases, but be sure to check the stand size of your TV - Denon says that the T100 will accommodate a footprint up to 546 x 308mm in size.
However, even though a speaker base is pretty much just a slab to fit under your TV, Denon has still managed to fit in a couple of interesting design features. They're mostly around the back, however, with a cutaway making it easy to get to the connections so it's simple to hook up. It's easy enough to add and remove cables without having to pull the whole thing out and turn it around as there's more visibility from the top down.
Connections and control
These all-important connections around the back don't feature an external power brick which means less clutter. All you have to do is plug the base in to the mains with the supplied cable.
On the back you'll find a variety of audio connections including a 3.5mm analogue audio input, optical and coaxial digital inputs and all of the cables are supplied in the box. Denon recommends using the optical connection as the preferred solution and you'll find optical outputs are commonplace on most modern TVs.
The T100 offers two modes: TV mode, which automatically selects the connected audio input for playback; and Bluetooth to stream music from a connected device, such as your phone or tablet.
There is a run of buttons on the front of the T100 that handle power, the input mode (TV/Bluetooth), remote learning function (so you can control it with your TV/cable remote), sound mode, mute and volume.
These controls are generally replicated by the supplied remote control. It fells a little on the cheap side, as is often the case, and having the Denon learn the controls from the remote you already use is a much better option. We found that the supplied remote didn't have a great deal of range either, so we had the T100 learn the controls from our Virgin Media TiVo controller.
However, if you want to switch sound modes or input, you'll probably have to use Denon's remote, or make the short walk to the speaker base and poke the relevant button.
There are five basic "listening modes" or sound profiles that you can cycle through by pressing the relevant button on the remote on the front of the speaker. They're typical, offering settings for speech, music and movies, with "wide" versions of music and movies too.
These sound profiles are fairly self-explanatory, but as you cycle through the different modes the LED icons in the buttons on the front will light up to show you which you're in. You'll have to learn the pattern, but essentially they reflect the spread of audio across the T100's speakers. The same method is used to indicate volume: as you nudge it up or down, a different number of button lights will briefly illuminate to show the level.
The preset profiles all sound distinctly different, with speech really punching out of the front using the dialog setting. However, we found that we were happy to select movie - for a bit more bass thump and power - and just leave it there. It will depend very much on what you're listening to, as well as the setup of you room, but above all it comes down to personal preference as all the presets sound good.
There is plenty of volume on offer and the T100 makes both TV and music sound good throughout the volume range. If you want it antisocially loud the Denon will happily supply. There's a night mode you can engage that flattens things out, so loud elements are slightly more restrained so you don't wake up the neighbours when watching that late-night action movie, but whether you have the volume low or high, the T100 sounds great.
Although we like the sound that the Denon T100 produces, we prefer the independent bass control that the rival Onkyo system offers, which is just a little more versatile in this area. If you were trying to decide between the two then we're not sure that alone would justify the additional £100 you'd have to pay for the Onkyo system, however.
We have been living with the Denon T100 for a couple of weeks, using it for everything from playing Call of Duty on the Xbox One, through to watching the Olympic Winter Games and Top Gear. The wide soundstage brings an immersive audio solution and while it won't compete with a dedicted 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system, this is a much simpler and more affordable solution.
Speaker bases are designed to be simple - the sort of device that you plug in and can then forget about while enjoying the enhancement they bring. The Denon DHT-T100 excels in this role, so should be of interest to anyone who wants to get a boost over the tinny sound that their TV makes, as well as doubling as a good quality Bluetooth speaker.
The design is attractive and the compact dimensions will appeal to those who like to keep things tidy, but that comes with the caveat that it will be too small for some of the older or bigger TVs out there.
It's the price point paired with the good all-aound performance that makes the Denon DHT-T100 an attractive prospect, but those wanting more bass control, or support for a larger TV, will want to look elsewhere.