Surround sound is one of the greatest inventions in home entertainment -- nothing involves you in the on-screen action more than an immersive soundtrack rumbling out from all around you. The problem is, if you have limited space, or simply don't want to run speaker cables all over your living room, surround sound really isn't an option.
Enter all-in-one speaker systems, designed to produce a virtual surround effect from a smaller number of speakers. These systems range from very good to utterly useless, but offer a decent solution for those not prepared to turn their front room into a gigantic ball of wire.
Sony has taken an interesting approach to the problem by building its virtual surround-sound speakers into a TV stand, the RHT-G800, which is available online for around £600. Can it succeed where others have failed?
We like the styling of this stand, finished in a nice dark black and covered with a glass top, on which you place your TV. Concealed under this glass is a simple display that allows you to set up the basic menu options and displays information about the current settings.
The two HDMI inputs and one output mean that this stand will also act as an HDMI splitter. This is particularly useful if you're running out of HDMI sockets on your TV. The stand even comes with an HDMI cable, which is unusual.
Putting the stand together is easy, as it comes pretty much in one piece. The only job you have to do is fit the middle shelf and hook it up to your Blu-ray or HD DVD player and any other inputs you might have.
There are both coaxial and optical digital inputs for DVD players, as well as analogue RCA inputs for older equipment, and the Sony will extract Dolby Pro Logic sound from these connectors.
There are speakers at the sides and front. The subwoofer is at the bottom of the unit, and when you stand back you can just about see the woofer air port. The speakers at the side are intended to bounce surround effects off the walls, which should envelop the listener, while the front speakers take care of speech and stereo effects.