Don't let the term, "Digital TV Sound System" confuse you. Basically the V300 (from the loudspeaker company, KEF International) comprises two high-end speakers that can replace and upgrade the speakers integrated into your HDTV.
The "sound system" is completed by the "V Series Activation Module," which provides all the necessary connections to the TV and the power to the pair of speakers. You can even attach a powered subwoofer, which is not included in the V300 package.
The stylish slim speakers produce lively and lovely audio quality and enough volume to fill a medium sized room. Though the V300 is a bit expensive at $900, the sound improvement it achieves easily outclasses the performance of almost every speaker system integrated in today's TVs.
If you are thinking about upgrading your TV's audio without the expense and logistics of a multi-speaker (5.1, 7.1 or even 9.2 + AV receiver) surround system, I would recommend the V300, which is simple to setup and use.
But - and this is important - there is one technical caveat to my endorsement. The V300 is only compatible with PCM audio. For example, it does not decode DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. If you feed it anything other than PCM audio, the speakers will simply not output sound.
Since the V300 receives its signal from your HDTV, you should check that the TV can be set to output PCM audio. (I'll go into more detail below.) If the TV cannot, then I suggest you take the V300 off your shopping list.
Out of the Box
The thin, rectangular speakers (23.6 x 5.5 x 1.4 in.) are sculpted out of aluminum with a brushed black finish and the front is covered with a black mesh grille.
Each unit contains two mid frequency, 4.5-inch dual layer diaphragm drivers and one high frequency, one-inch vented aluminum dome driver. The Frequency response is 80Hz - 30kHz, with a Max peak SPL of 103dB.
The speakers can either be screwed on to the supplied aluminum bases or mounted to the wall. (The height without the stand is about the same as the screen height of a 40-inch HDTV.)
The V Series Activation Module is an unassuming compact black metal box (1.1 x 10.7 x 6.4 in.). The front is singularly adorned with a blue Power light.
The back panel supplies all the audio connections, one HDMI In, one Optical Digital Audio In (S/PDIF), one Subwoofer Out, and L & R pairs of Speaker Outs. KEF includes one HDMI cable and the speaker wires (about five feet long), but no Optical Digital cable.
There is also an EQ switch that you set according to how the speakers are positioned, either on the Wall or on a Stand.
The module's Class D amplifier is rated at 2 x 50W.
The V300 has no remote control because the only settings that you can change are the volume of the speakers and if you have one, the subwoofer volume. Both volumes are adjusted with the volume buttons on your TV's remote. This is one of the main reasons that the V300 is so simple to use.
Because the V300 does not have a remote, you can hide the Activation Module box out of sight. KEF has even provided brackets that allow you to attach the box to the mounting holes on the back of your TV. It's a great solution, though obviously you then cannot mount the TV to the wall."
Activation Module mounted on TV
In case you were wondering, the V300 does not offer any wireless, Bluetooth, NFC, or streaming capabilities. It is purely a simple plug and play solution for attaching high quality speakers to your TV.
Of course, if you are an audiophile who loves to fine tune, the V300 does not provide even the most fundamental Tone tweaks like Treble, Middle and Bass.
With that said, setup is easy. Take the speakers out of the box and attach the speaker wires to them and the Activation Module. Screw on the bases or wall mount the speakers (hardware is included).
If your TV has an HDMI-ARC Input (Audio Return Channel), then attach an HDMI cable to it and the Activation Module.
If the TV doesn't have an HDMI-ARC input, you still need to attach the HDMI cable to another HDMI In on the TV so that the TV's remote can control the volume of the V300 speakers. You also need to connect the TV to the Activation Module with an Optical Digital (S/PDIF) cable, which is not supplied. This cable will transfer the audio from the TV to the Module.
Finally, and vitally, you need to go into your TV's Audio Menu and find where you can set the Digital Audio output to PCM. I'm reviewing a Toshiba LX9300U HDTV right now and the setting is conveniently labeled "Digital Audio Output." Other manufacturers might use another term.
Digital Audio Output and TV Speakers on a Toshiba TV
In addition, there should be a setting in the TV's Audio menu to turn On or Off the TV Speakers. You want to turn them Off because you are using the V300 speakers instead.
Once that is done, you should be set.
As I mentioned, you control the volume with the TV's remote. If you do attach a subwoofer (sold separately) to the Activation Module, the manual instructs that you push the Mute key three times on the TV remote and then its Volume control will raise or lower the subwoofer volume.
One final note about the requirement for PCM audio output from your TV, I am finding that other components have PCM Output options. For example, with the Dish Hopper set top box, you can set its audio output to PCM. If you are feeding PCM to your TV, it should be able to pass it through to the V300.
But, if you are planning to stream Netflix from your Smart TV, you will need a TV that can be set to output PCM audio or the sound from Netflix will not be heard.
Basically, unless you feel especially adventuresome, don't purchase the V300 unless your TV can be set to output PCM audio.
I am always a bit trepidatious whenever I first listen to a new speaker system. Happily, my anxiety was quickly quelled as I settled into sampling the 2L - the Nordic Sound Blu-ray of examples of classical, jazz and modern music.
The sound was full bodied, with good low end response even without a subwoofer. The high end was lively without being artificially bright.
Even when the volume was cranked up, the speakers responded well and didn't begin to wobble or crack.
I did attach a powered subwoofer (non KEF) and it did add muscle in the low end, as you would expect. But the two speakers by their lonesome, acquitted themselves quite well.
Obviously, the V300 cannot generate a true 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound experience. Then again, you don't need to purchase an AV receiver and multiple speakers that you have to run all over your room.
And even without a center channel speaker, the V300 does a decent job of presenting clear dialogue.
I'm well aware that audio products can be expensive and $900 for a high quality self-contained speaker system is not outrageous; but still, it's a chunk of change especially when you can buy an equally high performing 50-inch HDTVs for less.
If you do decide to add a subwoofer, KEF's least costly model, the C4, will set you back another $450.
The V300 speakers are stylish in their sleek minimalist way. And the system with the Activation Module is easy to set up. Both features are valuable.
All in all, if you are looking for a simple but quality upgrade of your TV's integrated audio, KEF's V300 system is worth your consideration.
The KEF V300 Digital TV Sound System provides a stylish, easy-to-use, high performing two speaker upgrade to your HDTV's integrated audio, without the expense and bother of installing a 5.1 surround system. Please be advised that the V300 only plays back PCM audio.