Sony Soundbar HT-S400 2.1 Channel Full Review

The Sony Soundbar HT-S400 has opted to keep things super simple. But would you be surprised to know that, in its quest to eliminate complexity, it left its latest soundbar out of the competition? So let’s take a look. One of the newest options is the $300 Sony Soundbar HT-S400.

Sony Soundbar HT-S400 2.1 Channel Review

Design and Build

Sony’s classic, understated design and build philosophy works perfectly with soundbars. The Sony Soundbar HT-S400’s textured black plastic body and light gray metal grille call almost no attention to themselves, which should be the goal of any soundbar.

At 35.5 inches wide and only a hair over 2.5 inches tall, you’ll be able to place this speaker in front of (and maybe under) almost any TV that’s 40 inches in screen size or larger.

The same cannot be said about its wireless subwoofer. At 15 inches tall and 15 inches deep, it’s the largest we’ve seen at this price. Still, you should be able to hide it in a corner somewhere to make it less obtrusive. (Note that subwoofer placement is less important because of the low frequencies).

Interestingly, as one of the few front-firing subs in this category, and with a fully shielded driver, you can potentially lie on its side, with even more placement flexibility.

Speaking of wireless connections and placement, it’s worth noting that the HT-S400 has the ability to connect to a TV via Bluetooth instead of the usual HDMI or optical cable.

Your TV will need to support the A2DP Bluetooth device profile, and the sound quality won’t be as good as using a physical cable, but it’s a pretty handy option.

If you want to wall-mount the soundbar, all you need is the wall-mount template included in the box, and a pair of screws — the built-in keyholes and small plastic standoffs on the back panel should provide a nearly flush-to-fit.

Results of the wall. If the soundbar blocks your TV’s infrared sensor, a built-in IR repeater on the back of the Sony Soundbar HT-S400 will prevent any communication problems.

All Setup

If you like your technology simple and straightforward, you’ll love the Sony Soundbar HT-S400. Besides the Bluetooth option I mentioned above, there are two ways to connect the soundbar to your TV: HDMI-ARC and optical.

Sony includes an optical cable in the box, but if you choose to use HDMI, you’ll need to supply your own HDMI cable. Whichever of these options you choose, you’ll get exactly the same audio quality, so it really comes down to two things: your TV’s output and your personal preference.

If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI-ARC port, it makes things even easier – you have to use an optical connection. Similarly, if you have an HDMI-ARC port, but not an optical one, the decision is made for you.

But, if you have both as I do on my 2017 LG OLED C7 here’s how to make your conclusion. The Sony Soundbar HT-S400 doesn’t have an HDMI input for sending video to your TV, so if you don’t want to give up the HDMI input on your TV, use the optical connection. 

If you want to seamlessly control the soundbar using your TV’s remote, and don’t mind losing that HDMI input, go with HDMI ARC because it allows HDMI CEC a control communication path that almost all HDMI-equipped devices use. is shared by device. This is something that optical connections cannot do.

Unfortunately, whichever you choose, you can’t use the other as a secondary audio input, say for a CD player, Sonos port or Blu-ray player. In fact, apart from Bluetooth, there are no other options for connecting additional devices. That USB port you see on the back of the soundbar? Drop it.

It is strictly for software updates and cannot be used to play music from an external hard drive or thumb drive. Now Plug the soundbar into your TV, plug the wireless subwoofer into a wall outlet and  then do the same with the soundbar.

A small OLED display hidden behind the soundbar’s metal grill will show you whether you’re listening to TV or Bluetooth, and it’ll also let you tweak settings like volume, bass level, and sound field effects.

As well as adjustments (more on that later). If the display is too bright, or you want to turn it off when you’re not using the remote, you can change its settings using the top-mounted controls on the soundbar.

I prefer having a scrolling alphanumeric OLED display rather than a series of LED color dots that must be explained with a legend — as many of Vizio’s soundbars do — so kudos to Sony for including that.

If you own a compatible Sony TV and you connect the HT-S400 via HDMI, you can view the soundbar’s settings on the big screen using Sony’s well-designed user interface.

Control of Remote

The Sony Soundbar HT-S400 includes a small and basic remote control with. It feels better in the hand, but the Remote is not backlit for easy viewing in darkened rooms.

Then again, Remote only has a few buttons that you’ll need with any regularity. A beautiful, big volume rocker gets hold of center stage, with a smaller bass level rocker and mute buttons within easy reach.

Usually, Bluetooth would get its own button. But since the soundbar S400 only has two inputs TV, Bluetooth, you access Bluetooth via the input button. The night engages the soundbar’s night mode, which reduces vital sounds.

So, you can still hear what’s going on without waking your housemates and “Voice” places an emphasis on higher frequencies so you can make conversation a little easier, so you can make conversation a little easier. Ultimately, Sound Field lets you toggle Sony’s S-Force Pro front surround processing on or off.

Audio Performance

As a 2.1-channel system, with no keep up for Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual:X, you should think of the Sony Soundbar HT-S400 as an upgrade to your TV’s internal sound system setup, as opposed to a complete house theater solution. 

Different talk, movies, TV shows, and music will all sound bigger and bolder like they’ve been released from their audio prison  but they stop short of being fully immersive.

The large difference comes from the wireless subwoofer. It’s powerful enough to provide the low-frequency effects that we’ve come to associate with blockbuster Hollywood movies -growling drive, approaching thunderstorms, the footfalls of a T-Rex, they all sound deep and thrilling.

The sub won’t shake your sofa or rattle your teeth, but given that the Sony Soundbar HT-S400 will likely find a place in condos and smaller rooms, that’s barely a deal breaker.

The biggest difference comes from the wireless subwoofer. The Sony Soundbar HT-S400 is powerful enough to provide the low-frequency effects that we’ve come to connect with blockbuster Hollywood movies growling engines, approaching thunderstorms, the footfalls of a T-Rex; they all sound deep and thrilling.

The sub won’t shake your sofa or rattle your teeth, but given that the Sony Soundbar HT-S400 will likely find a place in condos and smaller rooms, that’s barely a deal breaker.

However, the Sony Soundbar  HT-S400 isn’t quite as capable when it comes to the midranges, which tend to sound a bit hollow. The Sony Soundbar HT-S400 is much more obvious when listening to music than when watching TV.

But, there are still events, when I expected a scene from a movie to feel richer than it sounded. One example is a site from Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, where Duke Leto’s airborne ornithopter is approaching a spice harvester.

Sonically, it’s a complex scene with voices and technology competing with each other. Sony’s S-Force Pro virtual nearby sound does a great job of expanding the soundstage outward and even adds some depth. It never sounds over processed and I found I wanted to stay on it for both TV and music content.

But as better as it is, you will need to keep your expectations in check. I was impressed by how close it was to the virtual Dolby Atmos capabilities. I have seen products like the Vizio M-Series 2.1 and Sonos Beam Gen 2. As with almost all Bluetooth connections.

It is not a hi-fi contact and Sony doesn’t even attempt to optimize it with AAC or aptX support. Once again, Sony Soundbar HT-S400 the pale midrange definition that keeps the system from being a strong substitute for more music-centric soundbars like the Sonos Beam or the Bose Smart Soundbar 300. 

But given that these speakers cost $100 more and need their own wireless subwoofers, maybe that contrast isn’t very fair.

I’m induced to wonder if a set of EQ adjustments could offset some of the midrange weakness, but Sony doesn’t let you adjust anything other than the amount of low-end coming from the subwoofer.

Advantages

Pros

  • Very Simple setup: Yes 
  • Meek design: Yes
  • Wonderful bass response: Yes
  • Clear and detailed dialogue: Yes
  • Wide soundstage with S-Force Pro: Yes

Cons

  • It Only TV or Bluetooth inputs: Yes
  • Weak midrange definition: Yes
  • Dolby Atmos: No
  • Wi-Fi, AirPlay, or Chromecast: No

Conclusion

I think the Sony Soundbar HT-S400 is a suitable bar for you within your budget. And so I hope you will get a full understanding of this bar through the detailed discussion above.

Because, we have discussed the design, all setup, remote control, audio performance etc. to give you a complete idea about Sony Soundbar HT-S400.

FAQ

What is Sony Soundbar HT S400 price?

Last price update as per available information. The Sony Soundbar HT-S400 can be purchased for $199.99.

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