Sony HT-S400 2.1-Channel Soundbar Review | Sony ht-s400 2.1ch soundbar Sony is one of the biggest names in the soundbar and home entertainment speaker segment, but most of the Japanese brand’s mainstream options are in the premium price bracket.
Approx Rs. Budget buyers. 25,000 or less usually requires looking at options from brands like JBL and Polk Audio, or very affordable products like Blaupunkt, Zebronics, and the like. Sony’s latest soundbar, the HT-S400, gives it a solid presence in the somewhat affordable soundbar space, and promises capable performance at a reasonable price.
Priced at Rs 21,990, the Sony HT-S400 is a 2.1-channel soundbar that focuses on the important things including design, connectivity and ease of setup. With a wireless subwoofer, a rated sound output of 330W, and both wired and wireless connectivity options, is this the best reasonably priced soundbar system you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
Sony HT-S400 design and specifications
Although significantly more affordable than the Sony HT-S40R soundbar, the new HT-S400 looks and sounds better, thanks to a nice grille up front and an interesting body texture. That said, it’s still discreet and totally easy to miss, which is what a soundbar should look like. The size of the bar speaker suggests it’s best used with a 43-inch television, though I tested it with a 55-inch television for this review.
Of course, the Sony HT-S400’s low price is due to the vastly different key specs. Unlike the 5.1-channel HT-S40R, this is a 2.1-channel soundbar, with a single two-channel bar speaker and a separate wireless subwoofer. Rated sound output is also pretty low at 330W, split between a 130W subwoofer and 200W bar speakers. The subwoofer weighs in at 7.3kg and supports wireless connectivity with only 2.4kg bar speakers, with the latter acting as a master device and handling connectivity with external devices.
The sales package for the Sony HT-S400 includes a power cable for the bar speaker and subwoofer, an optical (TosLink) audio cable for wired connectivity, and a small remote (with battery). The bar speaker features a small monochrome OLED display on the front, which displays basic information, including the audio source and volume levels.
On the top of the bar speaker are touch-sensitive buttons, which can be used to control power, volume, and audio source, even without the remote. There are two ports on the rear of the speaker – HDMI and optical (TosLink) – for wired connectivity, and there’s also Bluetooth 5 for wireless connectivity, with support for the SBC codec.
Sony HT-S400 is very easy to setup. The bar speaker and subwoofer, of course, needed to be connected to separate power sockets, but wireless connectivity meant there was no wire between the two components. Sony’s proprietary wireless connectivity protocol worked reliably, with the subwoofer connecting immediately to the bar speaker when the latter is on, and maintaining a stable connection. I used HDMI ARC for connectivity with the TV for my review, as well as the occasional Bluetooth connectivity for listening to music from my smartphone.
Other features of the Sony HT-S400 include HDMI CEC, TV Wireless Connection (which allows wireless connectivity with Sony Bravia TVs without using Bluetooth) and support for the Dolby Digital audio format. The HDMI CEC worked well, and I was also able to control the Sony HT-S400 (basic functions like volume) with Google TV with the Chromecast’s remote, which I connected to my television, while the TV Switching on or off was controlled similarly to the power of the soundbar system when using HDMI ARC for connectivity.
Sony HT-S400 performance
The Sony HT-S400 isn’t a particularly complicated or bulky soundbar system. The 2.1-channel setup means it must downmix high-resolution audio formats to stereo for output, and the actual length of the bar is the only difference between the HT-S400 and a simple three-piece stereo speaker system. However, despite its technical shortcomings, the Sony HT-S400 delivers surprisingly straightforward performance that’s a considerable improvement over most television speakers.
The speaker arrangement also means that the Sony HT-S400 is particularly good with music, and does a fair job of making movies and television shows sound even louder and better. I found the sound to be clean, the soundstage reasonably spacious, and the sound signature fairly balanced. The subwoofer wasn’t too powerful for bar speakers, and the two components worked well together.
Of course, the somewhat basic driver arrangement means that the Sony HT-S400 is unaffiliated with advanced audio formats, even downmixing the native 5.1-channel encoding that provides the most modern content on streaming services. Is. Still, despite the kind of material I saw, it did a decent job with it. The spaciousness of the soundstage was particularly good to hear, especially with films like The Gray Man and The Batman, where the background score and sounds made a big difference to the viewing experience.
Where the Sony HT-S400 really makes a difference is how loud it can get. With a rated output of 330W between the bar speaker and subwoofer, the soundbar system is noticeably louder than most TVs — budget or premium. With the volume up, the HT-S400 soundbar system was able to produce a loud, wide and straight sound that worked with all types of content. Voices were loud, background scores were distinct and clean, and there were no significant volume spikes that required frequent adjustments.
I used the Sony HT-S400 system at relatively high volume levels most of the time, but there was always room to go further when needed. At very high volumes, the sound had a tendency to lose a bit of refinement, but that’s not the volume level, if you need it often. The 60 percent volume level was enough for me for most content, but I turned it up to 75 percent for some dialogue-focused content, such as
The sound also felt pretty balanced, with the subwoofer feeling like the optimal size for bar speakers and output. The bass never felt too aggressive as is often the case with budget and mid-range soundbars, yet it didn’t feel held-back or inadequate. It’s possible to simply adjust the subwoofer’s volume using the remote, but I found the default level to be fine for the most part, and I only adjusted it occasionally when I needed to keep the volume low and couldn’t hear the dialogue clearly.
The Sony HT-S400 features something the brand calls ‘S-Force Pro Front Surround’, which is said to offer virtual surround sound effects with only the front-facing speakers. In my experience this was not really the case, there was no significant effect of back or side sound even from the sound field mode. Voice and night modes (which can be selected via the remote) made the sound more voice-focused and softer, respectively, but not by much.
The 2.1-channel setup meant that the Sony HT-S400 soundbar system performed well with music, whether from a connected smart TV or over Bluetooth. The loud output, spacious soundstage and balanced sound were pleasant for a medium-sized room even at low volume levels, and the ability to tweak subwoofer volume for extra attack and punch was quite useful.
The Sony HT-S400 soundbar may be a little under-equipped and lack features, but that’s not a bad thing. Where the soundbar shines is its simplicity of setup and use, sharp and balanced sound, and the reasonable prices on offer. That said, the lack of advanced audio format support and surround sound (real or virtual) should be taken into account, as is the fact that this is actually a 2.1-channel speaker system designed to act like a soundbar.
If you have approx Rs. If you have a budget then get the Sony HT-S400. 25,000 and something that adds volume, attack, and drive to your home entertainment setup. You can also consider options from brands like Polk Audio and JBL, but Sony’s straightforward approach and focus on core functionality make the HT-S400 worth a look.
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