Cambridge Audio TV5 Speaker Base - Review

Cambridge Audio TV5 Speaker Base - Front and Rear View
Cambridge Audio TV5 Speaker Base - Front and Rear View. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Sound Bars and Under-TV audio systems are very popular these days, and there are lot of choices. One choice is the TV5 Speaker Base from UK-based Cambridge Audio. To find out if the TV5 is the right TV sound solution for you, continue reading this review.

Product Overview

Here are the features and specifications of the Cambridge Audio TV5.

1. Design: Bass reflex single cabinet design with left and right channel speakers, subwoofer, and two rear mounted ports for extended bass response.

2. Main Speakers: Two 2.25-inch (57mm) BMR speaker drivers for the upper bass, mid, and high frequencies.

3. Subwoofer: Two 6.25-inch downfiring drivers, augmented by two rear ports.

4. Frequency Response (total system): Not Provided (see Setup and Audio performance section for more details).

6. Amplifier Power Output (total system): 100 watts Peak

7. Audio Listening Options: Four DSP (Digital Sound Processing/EQ Settings) Listening Modes are provided: TV, Music, Film, and Voice (Designed to improve vocal presence and clarity). However, no additional Virtual Surround Sound processing is provided. Access to uncompressed two-channel PCM (via digital optical input), analog stereo, and compatible Bluetooth audio formats is provided.

9. Audio Inputs: One digital optical and two sets of analog stereo inputs (one RCA type and one 3.5mm type). Also, wireless Bluetooth connectivity is also included.

10. Control: Both onboard and wireless remote control options provided. Also compatible with many universal remotes and some TV remotes (TV5 Speaker Base has a remote control learning function built-in).

11. MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) cabinet construction.

12. Dimensions (WDH): 28.54 x 3.94 x 13.39 inches (725 x 100 x 340mm).

13. Weight: 23lbs.

14. TV Support: Can accommodate LCD, Plasma, and OLED TVs. No weight restriction information is provided, but a TV's own stand has to fit within the top surface dimensions of the TV5. The TV5 can also be used with a video projector: Read my article: How To Use A Video Projector with an Under-TV Audio System, for more details.

Setup and Performance

For audio testing, the primary Blu-ray/DVD player I used was the OPPO BDP-103, which was connected directly to the TV via HDMI outputs for video, while the digital optical and RCA stereo analog outputs were alternately connected from the player to the Cambridge Audio TV5 for audio.

To make sure that the reinforced rack I placed the TV5 Speaker Base on was not affecting the sound coming from the TV, I ran a "Buzz and Rattle" test using the audio test portion of the Digital Video Essentials Test Disc and there were no audible issues.

In listening tests conducted with the same content using the digital optical and analog stereo input options, the TV5 Speaker Base provided very good sound quality.

The Cambridge Audio TV5 did a good job with both movie and music content, providing a well-centered anchor for dialog and vocals...

Since the TV5 has a straight 2.1 channel configuration listening to CDs or other music sources (Bluetooth) is a very pleasing stereo listening experience with well-centered vocals and a natural high/low-frequency range and good detail.

The midrange serves both movie dialog and music vocals well, in terms of presence, and the BMR drivers, provide a good tweeter-less high-frequency response without being too brittle.

On the other hand, considering the inclusion of two subwoofers (with additional ports), I felt that the extreme low-frequency performance, although clean and tight (no distracting boominess), was restrained in terms of output volume - and Cambridge Audio does not provide a separate subwoofer volume setting to allow further tweaking of subwoofer output, if more bass impact is needed, or desired.

Using the audio tests provided on the Digital Video Essentials Test Disc, I observed a listenable low point between 50Hz to a high point of at least 17kHz (my hearing gives out at about that point). However, there is audible low-frequency sound as low as 35Hz (but it is very faint). Bass output is strongest at about 60Hz.

Audio Tip: With regards to audio decoding and processing, it is important to point out that the TV5 Speaker Base does not accept or decode incoming native Dolby Digital or DTS-encoded bitstream via the digital optical input.

What you need to do if using the Digital Optical connection option, and playing a Dolby Digital or DTS encoded audio source (DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and DTS-encoded CDs), is to set the digital optical audio output of the player to PCM if that setting is available - another alternative would be to connect the player to the TV5 Speaker Base using analog stereo output option.

Also, if your Blu-ray Disc player has set of 5.1/7.1 channel analog outputs and you are using the left and right front channel outputs to feed to the TV5, make sure you set your Blu-ray Disc player's downmix option to either Stereo or LT/RT. If you don't, then the center (where most of dialog and vocals are assigned) and surround channel information will not be downmixed to the two-channel signal and sent through the analog stereo outputs of the player to the TV5.

Bluetooth: In addition to devices that can physically connect to the TV5, you can also playback music from compatible Bluetooth-enabled devices. In my case, I paired the TV5 with a HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Android Phone and had no difficulty streaming music from the phone to the TV5 - although I did have to turn up the volume level of the TV5 higher than from physically-connected devices to get room filling sound.

What I Liked

1. Good overall sound quality for the form factor and price.

2. The design and size of the form factor matches well with the appearance of LCD, Plasma, and OLED TVs.

3. BMR speaker technology provides wide range frequency reproduction without the need for a separate tweeter.

4. Good vocal and dialog presence.

5. Incorporation of direct wireless streaming from compatible Bluetooth playback devices.

6. Can be used either to enhance the TV audio listening experience or as a standalone stereo system for playing CDs or music files from Bluetooth devices.

What I didn't Like

1. No HDMI pass-through connections.

2. No separate subwoofer volume control option.

3. No Dolby Digital or DTS decoding capability.

4. No Virtual Surround Sound.

5. Skimpy User Guide.

Final Take

As I have mentioned in previous reviews of Under-TV audio systems, the main challenge of taking the characteristics of a sound bar and placing it into an even narrower horizontal form factor, is the delivering of a wide sound stage.

Due to the "speaker base" design of the TV5, although sound is projected somewhat beyond the borders of the unit, it does not provide a very wide sound stage - which is fine for music, but not as effective for movies. On other hand, the actual sound quality, especially in the midrange and highs is actually pretty good, but there needs to be a subwoofer volume control option in order to allow users to fine tune those dual subwoofers.

Official Product Page

For a closer look at the connections and features of the Cambridge Audio TV5, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile.