Thankfully the soundbar’s performance is far more pleasing, but by no means the best we’ve heard. With 300’s Dolby TrueHD Blu-ray soundtrack, the HTP-SB300 produces a powerful, detailed sound that will have most flatpanel TVs – and indeed some home cinema systems – hanging their heads in shame.
Inevitably skipping to the movie’s testosterone-fuelled battle scenes, we revelled in the wide spread of effects across the front soundstage and the crisp, forceful way it conveys the sound of metal on metal without sounding bright.
Also impressive is the amount of body and depth behind bass effects like the non-stop barrage of pounding drums, punches and kicks. The subwoofer integrates well with the front channels, and rarely overpowers the other speakers. Sometimes a little more subtlety and agility wouldn’t go amiss, but on the whole it exceeds expectations.
But it’s not all a bed of roses. Switch to the Front Stage Surround Advance mode and the sound becomes harder and less comfortable on the ear – at loud volumes, blokes shouting at the top of their voices made us wince, while clashing metal sounds bright.
And sadly the processing doesn’t make rear effects any more immersive. As arrows rain down around the Spartans, the effects are contained at the front of the room, although to be fair it does achieve a very convincing sense of width. We’re also not completely sold on dialogue clarity either, which sounds a little muffled.
For a break from all the aggression we switched to Corinne Bailey Rae’s The Sea on CD and weren’t overly impressed. The subwoofer is the main problem – it heavy-handedly gatecrashes the delicate I’d Do It All Again, then goes into overdrive during the more uptempo numbers like The Blackest Lily, drowning out the musical intricacies. But turn off the sub and the sound is too thin, leaving you between a rock and a hard place. Playing with the LFE Attenuator and turning off the Loudness mode help, but on the whole we’re looking for a more open, spacious performance than this.
There are many things to admire about the HTP-SB300, such as the inclusion of HDMI inputs, Dolby TrueHD decoding and a wireless subwoofer, all of which helps explain why the price tag pushes £500. It’s also beautifully made and the compact subwoofer is a real bonus if space is tight.
But on the downside, it’s not the most user-friendly soundbar we’ve come across and the sound quality is surprisingly disappointing for a Pioneer product. Provided you avoid the Front Stage Surround Advance, movies sound fine, benefiting from the system’s powerful sound and spacious front soundstage. But music playback is disappointing, mostly due to the overbearing sub. It’s no disaster, but we’ve heard better from soundbars like the Teufel Cinebar 50 and Yamaha YHT-S400.
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