This Sony HTS350 review mulls over the question of whether impressive hardware translates into impressive audio performance. We review this 320-watt, 35-inch, 2.1 channel soundbar to see if the sound it produces is as precise as it is powerful.
Sony HTS350 review: What great sound looks like
You want a soundbar that produces a primordial rumble that sends a chill down your spine. When that hidden monster surfaces from the depths and rears its awful head, you need to feel the raw terror of its roar. All the while, the dialogue between the protagonists should remain clear, even as they fight for their lives in a bass-heavy action scene.
This scenario points to two aspects of audio; the first being accuracy. The ideal soundbar should render an accurate reproduction of an input signal. Bass elements should be as deep and as detailed as the source signal. Treble elements should be clear without falling prey to sibilance (ringing) even at the highest pitch.
With our benchmarks laid out, let’s unpack this soundbar.
Sony HTS350 review: Unboxing
The soundbar ships with a subwoofer, an optical cable, a remote and a pair of AAA batteries. You can mount the HTS350, but you would need to buy your own wall-mount accessories. The manufacturer only provides a paper wall-mount pattern towards this effort.
The only other things that ship with this 2.1 channel soundbar are a user manual, a quick-start guide and a warranty card.
First looks and build
The Sony HTS350 is a 35-inch soundbar with rounded edges. It has a metal grille that covers the front and part of the sides. The top of the soundbar has a textured, leather-type covering that is only interrupted by a set of capacitive touch controls.
For some reason, Sony opted to use a set of LEDs as a display. Decoding what this display is trying to tell you is pretty much like trying to decode a cipher; something you may be into if you weren’t trying to adjust the volume. Luckily, the HDMI-ARC port does allow the use of a TV remote for the basic operation of the Sony HTS 350.
The subwoofer is a wooden cabinet that’s just over a foot high. It houses a relatively large front-firing speaker. Like the soundbar, it has a metal mesh at the front. A bass port sits right below the mesh, occupying the lower third of the front surface.
Inputs and connectivity
The back of the HTS350 has a sturdy plastic casing with an inset that holds the input ports. There are only two ports to choose from: An optical port and an HDMI-ARC port.
Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect the HTS350 to its subwoofer or a newer Sony TV. The lack of an analog audio jack is puzzling and makes the soundbar unsuitable for displays that lack HDMI or optical ports.
Lastly, the soundbar’s IR repeater forwards your remote’s signal to the TV set’s IR receiver. This feature comes in handy if the soundbar blocks the TV’s infrared sensor.
Sony HTS350 review: Sound quality
A previous section of this article describes the ideal of what an audio rig should sound like. Here’s a look at the hardware that works towards that ideal.
The ported subwoofer has a 6.3-inch, forward-firing driver. Two speakers that sit on either end of the soundbar take care of higher-frequency audio.
1. Frequency range and sound reproduction
The frequency range describes how high and how low the soundbar can go. The Sony HTS350 soundbar can produce a maximum treble frequency of 16 kHz. It only goes as low as 90Hz, which is high for a minimum bass level. This leaves the subwoofer to do all the heavy lifting where bass is concerned.
The result is a limited audio palette that affects the accuracy of sound reproduction. There is a lack of detail in both bass and treble elements, which flattens the overall audio. However, the sound stage mitigates this shortcoming.
2. Sound stage and virtual surround
The Sony HTS350 has a wide surround stage thanks to S-pro Virtual, Sony’s proprietary surround sound simulator. You can hear the pin-point location of the different sound artifacts, which creates an added dimension to your audio.
3. Distortion at high volume
The HTS350 already has a disadvantage when it comes to detail. Its lack of range translates as reduced accuracy when it comes to sound reproduction.
Take a guitar riff with a frequency that’s adjacent to that of a low-pitched percussion element. The soundbar will drown out one audio object and enhance the other. At peak volume, the different audio elements meld into each other, to a degree. The result is audio that sounds muddy or compressed. You might also notice a little ringing with high-frequency sound objects.
4. Equalizer and audio presets
The only function that resembles an equalizer is an option to adjust the subwoofer. All other ‘equalizer adjustments’ happen with the help of seven audio presets.
Standard mode gives the most balance, although the audio signature of the soundbar is always bass-heavy. Movie mode harnesses the subwoofer to produce thundering bass. Music mode works alright, but not as well as standard mode. Night mode is useful when you need to watch TV without waking everyone up with a sudden roar of applause from your favorite late-night show.
5. Audio format support
The soundbar only supports Dolby digital.
- Solid build
- Deep bass that helps the soundbar to render an immersive movie experience
- Wide soundstage
- Limited inputs, both in number and type
- Unfriendly user interface
- Individual audio artifacts lack definition and tend to meld into each other
- As an example, the bass elements tend to drown out voice frequencies in all audio presets
Sony HTS350 review verdict: Delivers powerful bass
For the movie buff who likes their action flicks, the HTS350 is a valid option. Still, this Sony HTS350 review finds that the soundbar falls short when it comes to balancing bass and higher frequency sound objects. The result is audio that seems to drown in an overall bass-heavy audio reproduction.
Coupled with the cryptic display and a dearth of inputs, the Sony HTS350 really could use a little reworking. However, the bass that comes out of this soundbar is something to behold. Click here to learn more about this soundbar.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Sony HTS350 Soundbar
1. Can you connect additional speakers to the soundbar?
The soundbar is only compatible with a proprietary subwoofer from Sony.
2. Is the soundbar rechargeable?
No. The HTS350 soundbar does not have a rechargeable battery. It must be connected to a power source at all times.
3. Does the soundbar work with a 220V electrical outlet?
No. It is only compatible with a 120V socket
4. Will the soundbar turn on automatically when you turn the TV on?
If you use the HDMI-ARC port to connect the soundbar and the TV, the soundbar will turn on when you switch on the TV. It will also power down when you turn off the TV
5. Can you control the soundbar with the TV remote?
The HDMI-ARC port allows you to control the volume of the soundbar with a TV remote. However, you’ll be unable to turn the soundbar on or off. Some remotes (like the types that come with Direct TV) are incompatible with this soundbar.
6. Does the soundbar work for a TV that lacks both an optical and an HDMI port?
If the TV is not a Sony model with Bluetooth A2DP capability, then the answer is no. The Sony HTS 350 lacks the auxiliary port that would allow you to channel an analog audio signal through the soundbar. You should look for an alternative soundbar that has an analog audio port.
You can find TCL, Polk and JBL soundbars with similar features and auxiliary ports. Also, check out the Sony HT-MT300, a soundbar with an aux port and features comparable to those of the HTS 350.
7. How far apart can the subwoofer and soundbar sit from each other?
For the Bluetooth connection to remain at peak signal strength, the subwoofer should remain three feet from the soundbar. Any further and the connection starts to become shaky