Amongst their many products, Sony has rapidly expanded its offerings in the soundbar category, adding to its presence in the audio realm. Despite not being as front and center as it has been in the past, Sony still produces relevant, valuable products that, in many cases, still set high performance standards.
Sony produces two soundbars: the HC-CT350 ($399.99/MSRP) and HC-CT150 ($299.99/MSRP - reviewed here). Sony has essentially taken the very good HC-CT350 and shrunk it down, while retaining almost all of its features. The HC-CT150 is a two-piece system, with a horizontal speaker unit complemented by a subwoofer. The subwoofer (not the soundbar) contains all of the system's processing, amplification, connectivity, and controls. Sony also provides a remote that can control other Sony "BRAVIA Sync" products via CONTROL FOR HDMI, which is a mutual control function standard used by CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) for HDMI. The soundbar employs two 2-inch by 3.625-inch drivers, one for the front and one for the center, in a ported enclosure designed to match up with a 32-inch display, measuring 31.5 inches wide by 2.625 inches high by 2.875 inches deep, and weighing two pounds, thirteen ounces. The subwoofer (which contains the remote eye) is identical to that used in the HC-CT350. It employs one 5.125-inch downward-firing driver, in a ported enclosure measuring 7.75 inches wide by 17.75 inches high by 16.25 inches deep and weighing a hefty 23 pounds, three ounces. All five speakers are driven by 75 watts of power. The system provides much more connectivity than the majority of its competition, including three HDMI inputs (with an Audio Return Channel output), two stereo inputs, a Digital Media Port (for iPods and Bluetooth devices), two optical S/PDIF inputs, and one coaxial S/PDIF input. The system supports 3D and 1080p HDTV, and decodes Dolby Digital and DTS, and 2.1/5.1-channel PCM audio. Like its big brother, the fit and finish of the HC-CT150 is very good. It doesn't feel cheap or pieced together, and has nice gloss and matte finishing along with a low profile.
On music material, the HC-CT150 had a good top end combined with somewhat warm but mostly shallow and "canned" mids. Vocal and acoustic tracks needed more body and detail, although musicality came through occasionally. More intense material needed more substance and pacing. The bass had a weighty and punchy character that sounded good with large-scale classical tracks. However, the system's lightweight highs and mids stuck out in more delicate passages. The simulated music surround added a moderate increase in space and even overall impact in some cases (these modes do indeed offer some value). Movies and games had good thump on the low end, which gave intense action sequences a lot of substance. The system's thin midrange made the dialogue a little brittle and lacking body, with the top end making crashes and gunshots sound more fluffy than full. The system worked as well as did the 350; after all, the chassis is pretty much the same. The speaker part of the system didn't perform quite as well as that in the 350. It needed more body and attack, and sounded small, whereas the 350 at least approached a bigger, fatter, more complete sound some of the time.
• The HC-CT150 looks great and is put together very well.
• The HC-CT150's subwoofer can't be located out of sight, as its remote eye is on the front.
• The HC-CT150 sounded lightweight and shallow overall, which lowered music's power and pacing and the impact and excitement of movies and games.
• The HC-CT150 will not decode DTS-HD, Dolby Digital Plus, or Dolby True HD.
Competition and Comparison
You can compare the Sony HT-CT150 3D soundbar against its competition by reading our reviews for the Vizio VHT-210 and Aperion's SLIMstage30 by Soundmatters. You can find more information by visiting our Soundbar section or our Sony brand page.
The HC-CT150 presents an interesting quandary. On one hand, it offers a very powerful combination of features, connectivity, and cosmetics. It looks great and keeps a very low profile, it offers HDMI switching as well as Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, and a very handy remote. On the other hand, its sonics didn't particularly stand out. The low end had plenty of weight and punch, but the top end and midrange lacked body, speed, and overall impact and musicality. It certainly sounded acceptable, but in comparison to its big brother, came up short. Is that a minus? Probably not. Why? Because the HC-CT150 is $100 less, and, at that price, it is very competitive and deserves an audition.