If you are considering an affordable soundbar system, there are plenty of options to choose from. Sony recently announced a new offering in the affordable soundbar space, called the Sony HT-S400. It costs Rs. 26,990 and for the price, its spec sheet might seem a bit underwhelming. After all, Sony is only offering a 2.1 channel setup paired to a single subwoofer system. However, in the real world, the Sony HT-S400 is powerful enough to pamper most cinema lovers with its finely balanced soundstage.
To find out whether the Sony HT-S400 is a good buy, I paired it with my TV for almost a month and here is what I found after conducting multiple binge sessions and weekend movie nights.
With a budget soundbar system, most brands stick to a minimalist design theme and Sony does the same too. The HT-S400 has a simple bar speaker design dominated by a mesh up front and a control panel up top. The subwoofer unit looks rather simple too, although the shape of the speaker mesh looks interesting. The use of matte black on both the soundbar and subwoofer makes the system look underwhelming at its best, which is not a bad idea if you want your sound system to look stealthy.
The soundbar itself has a couple touch buttons for basic playback and connectivity controls. There’s also a small OLED display to show the source name as well as the volume levels. You can turn it off in case you plan to have a dark ambience for your movie sessions.
The soundbar unit itself has all the I/O ports. You get an HDMI eARC port as well as optical port. Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth 5.0 for the moments you want to pair it with your smartphone.
Being an affordable soundbar system, the Sony HT-S400 supports only the basic audio formats – it misses out on niceties such as Dolby Atmos. Don’t be sad as it comes with what Sony calls a S-Force PRO Front Surround system – a software solution to emulate a surround sound effect. All of this sounds cool but the question remains – does it all work in the real world?
In layman’s English, the answer is – you get what you pay for. For a basic 2.1 channel soundbar system, the audio performance is good enough. The single speaker bar unit houses the two rectangular shaped drivers and they get plenty loud. The soundstage is largely balanced and the focus remains on keeping the audio that way. Bass lovers have the option to let the subwoofer do its magic by pumping more low-end oomph but it never gets overwhelming.
Hence, whether you are doing a re-run of The Big Bang Theory or catching up with latest Marvel flicks, the soundbar is happy to enhance the experience with a wider soundstage and some meaty bass. The lack of Dolby Atmos means that the desired surround effects are missing on this system. Sony’s S-Force Pro system is decent although you need a acoustically friendly room to get the most out of that artificial surround sound effect – something which my room lacks.
If you have an entry-level or midrange TV with a sound system rated up to 40W, the Sony HT-S400 will make a noticeable difference with its sound output. For those having a high-end TV (like the Sony Bravia A80K OLED), you should spend on more expensive soundbar systems.
Being an affordable soundbar system from Sony, the HT-S400 lacks some of the basic smart features you get with other soundbar systems at this price. There’s no Wi-Fi onboard and that means you lose out on the ability to get Chromecast or Apple AirPlay. The Bluetooth connectivity is all you have to pair your iPhone, Android, or any other mobile device for streaming audio.
The remote controller is a basic unit with only the necessary buttons on offer. You can adjust the volume and manage the bass levels. You can also change the input source as well as mute the speakers. If you have the soundbar system connected to your TV via an HDMI eARC, you can use the TV remote controller to manage the soundbar. Some Sony Bravia models also let you control all the aspects from the TV’s UI.
Another convenience here is the presence of wireless subwoofer connections. This is great for those who seek a clutter-free setup of their soundbar systems. You still need dedicated power sockets for the subwoofer and the bar speaker.
The Sony HT-S400 soundbar system is certainly not the most feature rich sound system you can buy for less than Rs. 30,000 at the moment. However, as with most Sony products, you have just one reason to prefer the HT-S400 over its competitors – its brilliant sound quality. The wide and detailed soundstage is ideal for movie sessions and even if you need that extra bass, you can ask the Subwoofer to do so and it will oblige with some meaty low-end thump. I wish Sony had found a way to offer a Wi-Fi module for smart streaming, designed a companion app, and included support for Dolby Atmos.
Nonetheless, at Rs. 26,990, the Sony HT-S400 is a sound system you should check out while conducting your research.
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