Investing in a good flat-screen TV will do wonders for your eyes, but even the best built-in TV speakers and simulated surround sound will be disappointing to your ears in comparison to what's available from external speakers. If you're ready to take that step into home theatre but don't want to mortgage the house to do it, you'll want to look into a home theatre surround kit.
No need to assemble your own, however: integrated systems such as Yamaha's YHT-175 include everything you need to bring your sound to life. Actually a combination of the NS-P270 5.1 speaker package and the HTR-5930 amplifier, the YHT-175 includes a consumer-level amp, subwoofer and five speakers that deliver 100W peak power each for some good, clean 5.1 home theatre surround sound.
Because speakers are such a visible part of the home theatre, aesthetics are important, and here the YHT-175 doesn't disappoint. Silver is the colour throughout, with the front speakers small enough to tuck into your entertainment unit while still packing a punch. The subwoofer, also silver, can be tucked away into any convenient space with access to the floor but is attractive enough that it doesn't have to be hidden.
The two rear satellite speakers are a bit boxier, but are still small enough to sit unobtrusively on side tables or suspended on the wall. Their biggest shortcoming is the fact that the YHT-175 is a wired system, so you have to figure out where to put the long black speaker wires (included) that link the satellites to the main system.
Even in our relatively small test room, it was clear that the wires could have been a lot longer, since they were barely long enough to reach the far wall after being run around doorway skirtings. If ever there was a case for wireless surround speakers, this set makes it abundantly clear. If you're planning to run these wires behind your walls, make sure you BYO speaker cable.
The main amplifier is a little smaller than typical audio components, offering an attractive front panel display in a subdued orange colour. A series of buttons allows selection of audio inputs (the unit supports two sets of speakers) and sound modes, although most functions are managed using the unit's remote control.
This remote control is perhaps the package's only letdown: relatively small and wide, it is crammed with so many buttons that it is hard to find the volume buttons by touch alone; they're double-wide but the same thin width as the other buttons that surround them. Yamaha could definitely do better by reconsidering the size of the unit and giving more emphasis to commonly used buttons.
Like most comparable home theatre units available today, the YHT-175 includes just enough to suit your needs but none of the bells and whistles of a more expensive system.