You could be forgiven for thinking the subwoofer is a big centre speaker when you first get it out of the box. Its dinky measurements (411 x 181 x 215mm) make it a dream to hide away if you like your speakers to be heard and not seen. But with its matching black finish and mirrored side panels, it’s certainly attractive enough to have out on show, and the lack of confusing dials and switches on the back is refreshing – everything is controlled from the main unit.
Onto features, and we’ve mentioned the HTP-SB300’s ability to decode Dolby TrueHD bitstreams, but sadly it’s not backed up by DTS HD Master Audio support. It can, however, decode DTS, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus, and supports multichannel PCM from Blu-ray decks over HDMI.
There’s also a range of nine Advanced Surround modes that suit different material with names like Action, Drama and Sports. You also get some other useful modes, such as Auto Level Control – which keeps the volume constant when noisy double glazing adverts kick in mid-way through ”Midsomer Murders” – and Advanced Sound Retriever, which enhances playback of compressed audio formats like MP3, WMA and AAC. You can bypass these modes by selecting Direct or Pure Direct on the remote.
The wireless sub makes installation easy and pairs with the soundbar automatically. But when wall mounting the soundbar you’ll need to be clever with the HDMI cables coming in and out, bearing in mind your Blu-ray deck might not be anywhere near the unit. Running cables in the wall can be tricky and time consuming, and if that’s a problem perhaps a soundbar with an integrated player might be a better bet.
Once in place, setup is fairly easy, although it would have been greatly improved by an onscreen menu. As it stands, the options on the front display have to be abbreviated and don’t make a great deal of sense unless you consult the manual. The menu enables you to tweak things like audio delay, LFE attenuation and some of the sound modes.
The remote makes it easy to carry out basic tasks like adjusting the volume or selecting a different input, but otherwise this isn’t a great example of simple, streamlined zapper design. It’s far too cluttered for its own good, many of the buttons are too small and the presence of keys for controlling other devices complicates matters further. The use of the dreaded shift key for some functions is also irksome – back to the drawing board you go.