Despite an overall slump in loudspeaker sales in 2009, the soundbar market is absolutely booming and looks set to explode in 2010. It seems that people have really taken to the idea of boosting their TV sound quality without committing to a full home cinema system – sure, soundbars don’t provide the same immersive experience, but the clutter-free, decor-friendly benefits are often worth the sacrifice.
Pioneer HTP-SB300 soundbar not for you? Check out our round up of the best soundbars to buy
It’s no surprise then to find Pioneer helping itself to a slice of the soundbar action with the HTP-SB300. Unlike the Samsung HT-BD8200 and LG HLB54S, this one comes without a built-in Blu-ray player but still caters for owners of separate Blu-ray decks with HDMI inputs and Dolby TrueHD decoding.
In the box you get two components – the soundbar, which is designed to partner TVs between 32 and 37in, and possibly the smallest home cinema subwoofer we’ve ever encountered. The front and centre speakers inside the soundbar make this a 3.1 system, plus Pioneer’s Front Stage Surround Advance technology is on hand to make the soundstage more enveloping. Overall output power is quoted as 250W (50W to the fronts and centre, 100W to the sub), which is a respectable amount of muscle for such compact components.
As you’d expect, the soundbar can be mounted on the wall using the brackets in the box, but it can also be placed on an AV rack – there are rubber pads on the bottom to stop it slipping. The subwoofer can be placed horizontally or vertically, and because it’s wireless you don’t have to worry about where you install it in relation to the soundbar.
Looks-wise the main unit is very fetching, with an elegantly curved profile and some classy mirrored panels at either end. In the middle is a display panel that shows the currently selected input or the volume when adjusted, all in clear illuminated letters. There’s also a row of buttons for controlling volume, input and sound modes, but the supplied remote covers the rest.
On the back, Pioneer goes for quality over quantity, offering a choice of optical and coaxial digital audio inputs, plus two HDMI inputs and one output. Inside is an HDMI repeater, which means you can plug in other sources and pass signals through this unit (including 1080/24p), which is handy if you only have one input on your TV. Not a bad selection, but it’s surprising not to find any analogue stereo inputs or a USB port – there was a time when Pioneer would put one of those on anything.