If you’re unhappy with the quality of the sound coming out of your flatpanel TV (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) the obvious solution is to invest in a home cinema system. But that’s often easier said than done. Constraints on your budget or living room space might rule out a full 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system and AV receiver, and the clutter that comes with most systems might fill you with dread. If that’s the case then a soundbar might be more suitable, as they deliver an audio upgrade without encroaching on your living space.
Sharp first ventured into the soundbar market back in 2009 with the HT-SB200, a relatively basic but affordably priced model that offered decent sound quality. The HT-SB400 is the step-up version, with a couple of differences – its greater 985mm width matches Sharp’s AQUOS TVs from 42in to 46in (the 800mm HT-SB200 was designed for 32in to 37in TVs) plus the built-in speaker system has been upped from 2.1 to 3.1 channels.
There have also been some very welcome improvements to the external design. Gone are the chunky buttons and garish blue digits in the front display panel and in come a scrolling dot matrix display and a cluster of touch-sensitive controls that light up when you put a finger on the panel. A row of icons allows you to choose from the various sound modes, plus there are volume, power and input controls. The rest of the HT-SB400’s front panel is taken up by a speaker mesh hiding the driver array - more on that later. There’s nothing overly radical or jaw-dropping about the design – it’s just a sleek black box that should blend in seamlessly with any surroundings.
The Sharp also boasts excellent build quality thanks to an enclosure made from strong, sturdy materials, making it surprisingly weighty. And when mounted on the wall below a TV using the supplied brackets, its 70mm depth means it won’t stick out too far. Wall-mounting isn’t the only option however, as it can also be placed on a TV stand if you connect the supplied feet cushions or spikes.
On the rear panel is a modest line-up of connections, which reveal the HT-SB400 to be less a home cinema hub and more a glorified set of TV speakers. There are just two inputs – analogue stereo and a 3.5mm minijack port primarily for MP3 players – plus a subwoofer pre-out. It’s not geared up to accept or decode digital bitstreams from Blu-ray or DVD players – the idea is that you simply connect your TV’s analogue output and enjoy whatever’s on, rather than hooking up all of your external kit and using the HT-SB400 as an audio hub.