One of Philips's more intriguing announcements at this year's CES is an inexpensive, virtual surround home-theater-in-a-box system that features HDMI connectivity. The sleekly styled HTS6500 has only two speakers, but Philips says its SonoWave Surround Sound System delivers "powerful multichannel surround" via the system's full six-channel amplifier. If you have an HDTV with HDMI, the HTS6500 will upscale DVD video to what I like to call faux HD resolution. There's also USB access, which means you'll be able to connect your MP3 player directly to the system. Like some of Philips's recent DVD players, the system will feature compatibility with just about any disc format you can throw at it: DVD, DVD+/-R and +/-RW, (S)VCD, SACD, MPEG-4, DivX Ultra, CD-R/RW, MP3, MP3-CD, and JPEG. Due in May 2006, the HTS6500 will carry a list price of $399.
Before the show, Philips also unveiled a sleek, higher-end, all-in-one home-theater system, the HTS9800W. Like the HTS6500, this model also incorporates HDMI digital high-definition audio and video upscaling to HD resolution. But it's a true surround system that features slim, wall-mountable front speakers and wireless rear speakers, not to mention incorporating Dolby Digital EX and multichannel SACD. Also due in May 2006, the HTS9800 will retail for $899.