Easy-to-use soundbase adds HDMI hookup, retains meaty sound
Cambridge Audio could have gone back to the drawing board for its latest soundbase speaker, but has instead opted to take its previous TV5 model and refresh its audio chops and connective options while retaining the muted styling and driver technology. It's retained the naming system too, so be aware that this is known as the TV5 (v2), and the more affordable new TV2 is the TV2 (v2).
Physically, the soundbase is from the chunky end of the spectrum, measuring 10cm high. At a little over 72cm wide, it's a perfect fit for 50in TVs. Owners of larger displays should check their screen's stand characteristics before investing, or make room to rack the 'base nearby. Cambridge Audio suggests the top-panel is strong enough for 30kg loads.
The unit features sturdy-feeling MDF bodywork and a deep, black-cloth front speaker grille. This can be prized off to reveal the TV5 (v2)'s two front-facing 2.25in BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) drivers, arranged at either end of the front panel in a typical stereo config. It's under here where you'll also find the necessary button to perform the TV's IR remote learning function, for volume control from your display's own handset.
Joining these drivers are dual 6.5in down-firing woofers on the soundbase's belly – four stubby feet keep the cabinet off your furniture and give the drivers space to breathe. These are allied to rear-firing bass ports.
Cambridge Audio doesn't quote a power figure for the TV5 (v2)'s onboard digital amplification. However, the brand does report that grunt has been increased over the previous version (rated at 100W), and the signal path redesigned to upgrade sound quality.
Other refinements offered by this new model include an individual sealed chamber for the BMR drivers, and revised DSP engine. Ones that are actually obvious from the outside are the absence of a 'power brick' (the power supply is now integrated into the unit) and a new HDMI terminal amongst its rear-panel connections.
The inclusion of HDMI is good news, although the implementation here is kind of unusual. The single port is an ARC-enabled HDMI output, not tied to an HDMI input of any kind. So external sources (Blu-ray players, games consoles, etc) will still need to be either hooked up via the TV5 (v2)'s optical input, or through a TV.
The ARC output does, however, enable an HDMI connection to a display, and hi-res playback of TV-delivered material up to 192kHz/24-bit.
As with its predecessor, the soundbase supports Bluetooth streaming (aptX) and, says Cambridge Audio, can remember up to eight different paired Bluetooth devices for automatic connection. This is something I didn't test as it turns out I don't own that many Bluetooth sources. Useful for the Waltons, though.
A final alteration over the first TV5 concerns the bundled remote control. As before this is a full-sized offering, but the button layout has been rearranged in pursuit of slicker ease of use. In truth, the limited options offered (input, volume, sub level, EQ mode) means a credit card-style zapper would have sufficed, but this feels good in the hand and is less likely to go missing.
If the TV5 looks no-nonsense and ready for business, the same can be said of its audio performance. It delivers a happily high-power, dynamic and weighty sound that is easily commensurate with the £300 asking price.
Those BMR drivers (which function both as mid-range and tweeter) are chosen for their balanced frequency response and wide-dispersion characteristics. The latter is an obvious trait of the soundbase.
The benefits of having no mid/HF crossover are perhaps less of an issue on a reasonably-priced telly add-on. The TV5 (v2) loves big, loud movie moments, and its dual bass driver complement is key here. The sense of scale that only comes from a strong low-end is present in Fast & Furious 5's bank vault robbery sequence. As Dom and Brian tear through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, the hulking metal box in tow smashes through concrete bollards and collides with cars with enjoyable impact. LF is tight and sudden, and puts you in the heart of the action. Similarly, when Owen demonstrates his laser-light helmet in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, the accompanying extra-terrestrial sound effect positively bursts from the lower mid-range with alarming dynamism.
The lack of dedicated tweeters is perhaps responsible for a smoothed-off top-end delivery, which is easy on the ear. HF effects don't spit or sparkle uncomfortably; there's a fluid feeling to its handling of finer soundtrack details. Cracking glass during the F&F bank sequence is nicely forward in the mix. Some may prefer the delivery to be a bit more aggressive, but I like the sense of cohesion.
There's no way of altering the speaker's treble output. Adjustments offered are Film, TV, Voice and Music EQ modes. As with the previous TV5, subjectively these aren't massively different, although, oddly, I found Film to be less impactful than the TV and Music options. Whatever mode you choose, you have the option of boosting or diminishing bass response. I kept it up high.
The TV5 (v2)'s mid-range is full and bold – dialogue, vocals and musical scores are obvious beneficiaries
– and it meshes well with the rest of the frequency range, particularly the meaty low-end. This soundbase sounds well-balanced at all times.
A criticism is that its volume control jumps up and down in quite severe steps, which can sometimes make it hard to find the right setting for the material you're watching. And, as said, the soundbase's preset modes would be better joined by a more varied EQ. More of an issue, perhaps, is that single HDMI – it feels like a halfway house when switching capability would have been better.
And then there's the fact that times have moved on a bit since the first TV5. On-trend buyers may expect more than just Bluetooth streaming from a home entertainment product. App control and Wi-Fi streaming (plus Atmos!) are avenues for Cambridge Audio to explore next time around. But none of this detracts from the sound quality and ease-of-use on offer.
Cambridge Audio TV5 v2
Price: £300 approx
We say: A solid, energetic and confident stereo performance from an unassuming TV booster. Not the last word in attacking delivery, and an HDMI input would have been nice.
Drive units: 2 x 2.25in BMR drivers; 2 x 6.5in down-firing bass drivers Onboard power (claimed): N/A Connections: HDMI ARC output; optical digital audio input; 3.5mm analogue input; analogue phono input Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD MA: No/No Separate sub: No. Remote control: Yes Dimensions: 725(w) x 100(h) x 340(d)mm Weight: N/A
Features: aptX Bluetooth with up to eight paired device memory (automatic connection); BMR driver technology; hi-res (192kHz/24-bit) via HDMI; four sound preset modes (Voice, Film, TV and Music); bass level adjustment; automatic power-down (20 minutes)
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