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Holiday Gift Guide 2008: Soundbar speaker systems

Some enthusiasts want the accuracy of a full surround-sound speaker setup handling their home theater audio output, but judging from the number of soundbar solutions that have been hitting the marketplace, many people are willing to trade fidelity for a single speaker (and often a subwoofer) that doesn't require you strewing cables all around your living room. They provide a sleek look and adequate audio for those you don't mind their virtual surround sound technology.

2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Some enthusiasts want the accuracy of a full surround-sound speaker setup handling their home theater audio output, but judging from the number of soundbar solutions that have been hitting the marketplace, many people are willing to trade fidelity for a single speaker (and often a subwoofer) that doesn't require you strewing cables all around your living room. They provide a sleek look and adequate audio for those you don't mind their virtual surround sound technology. If that sounds like a good gift to give yourself or someone with a new HDTV, here are five different soundbars that can provide the perfect fit for a home theater setup.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Sony HT-CT100

Sony HT-CT100
The best choice for budget buyers, the HT-CT100's speaker and subwoofer offer great 3.1-channel audio for the price, and the connectivity options (found on the back of the subwoofer) include an impressive three HDMI inputs. And since it can handle Dolby and DTS surround processing modes on its own, the HR-CT100 lets you save even more money, as you don't need to buy a separate receiver to handle audio processing.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Zvox 325

Zvox 325
This unit is a little bit different than many of the other single-speaker solutions covered here. It's shaped more like a component than a long, thin speaker, which owes to the fact that its subwoofer is built into the same housing. The Zvox is also notable for lacking a digital connection to hook up to your HDTV (it does come with a remote, at least). While that may make this a nonstarter for many people, for those who don't need the digital connection, the 325 delivers better bass output than its more up-to-date competition.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Samsung HT-X810T

Samsung HT-X810T
Like the Sony, the HT-X810T comes with a speaker and a subwoofer, but goes one better by including an upscaling DVD player as well. Better yet, the subwoofer is wireless, so that's another cable this setup helps you lose. And like the Sony, this Samsung unit can handle surround sound processing duties, decoding Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic-II and DTS. While it does have a few drawbacks in terms of performance and connectivity, the HT-X810T offers plenty of cable-free convenience.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Polk Audio SurroundBar 50

Polk Audio SurroundBar 50
As its name suggests, Polk's single speaker is designed for 50-inch plasmas and 52-inch LCDs. It houses three tweeters and nine midrange drivers, which helps the SurroundBar produce pure, clean audio. Polk's SDA Surround technology delivers virtual surround sound that's wide and possesses a solid sense of depth. The speaker's not designed to handle the low end, however, so you'll need to provide a subwoofer as well.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50

Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50
Priced around $1,100 this Mythos costs more than a decent HDTV does these days, but you get a speaker with a sleek design as well as a novel interior design that delivers better audio. You get actual tweeters for the three front channels, which are placed in front of the mid/bass drivers. The result is precise sound that can really come alive if you add a dedicated subwoofer to the mix.

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