Review Price £599.00
It’s the cheaper of two new soundbars introduced by Sony at IFA 2013, offering 4.1-channel sound from a super-slim speaker unit and subwoofer. In fact, at just 40mm high and 30mm deep, it’s the world’s slimmest Bluetooth-equipped soundbar.
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The reason why the HT-ST3’s soundbar is so slim is because all of the sockets, amplifiers and processing are found on the subwoofer, with a single cable connecting it to the speaker bar. If you’re after a wireless sub, you’ll need to step up to the £1,099 HT-ST7, which also offers 7.1 sound and Sony’s Magnetic Fluid speakers.
The soundbar itself is styled to match Sony’s ‘Sense of Quartz’ TVs and Blu-ray decks, with an all-black finish and angled facets at both ends. It’s not particularly eye-catching but should blend nicely with most TVs.
You wouldn’t realise it from afar but its build quality is superb. The main body is made from aluminium alloy with a brushed finish, while the front end features a stainless steel mesh. It all feels very solid and substantial. You can hang the speaker on the wall simply by hooking it onto screws, or place it on a tabletop using the supplied rubber stands.
The subwoofer is styled to match in a low-key, tasteful black finish. An LED display shines through the steel mesh on the front showing the selected input and volume level when adjusted. There’s a row of buttons along the top for up-close volume and input control.
The beauty is that you can place the unit horizontally or vertically depending on your layout, although when horizontal it’s roughly the same size as an AV receiver (430 x 135 x 370mm), so it’ll command a lot of space in your AV rack.
The wide range of sockets on the subwoofer gives you lots of flexibility when connecting the rest of your kit. If you simply want to pass sound from a TV to the HT-ST3 for example, there’s a dedicated optical digital audio input and an ARC-compatible HDMI output, forming a neat, single-cable connection.
But connecting external devices to the Sony isn’t a problem either – there are three HDMI inputs, all of which can pass through 3D signals, a second optical digital input and analogue stereo RCA input. It’s a shame there’s no USB port, but that aside it’s a superb line-up.
Built-in Bluetooth with apt-X and AAC support is a stand-out feature, with NFC (Near Field Communication) providing a hassle-free way of pairing Android devices – simply tap it on the NFC logo and you’re ready to start streaming music.
Another big feature is HD audio decoding – the HT-ST3 handles Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS-HD and 7.1 LPCM via HDMI, as well as Dolby Digital, DTS and DTS 96/24.
Sound is delivered from a total of 11 speakers – three for each of the front channels (a cone woofer, dome tweeter and passive radiator); two woofers and a tweeter for the centre channel; and two 100 x 150mm woofers for the sub. These are driven by an S-Master digital amplifier with power output rated at 2 x 15W for the front channels, 2 x 25W for the centre speaker and 2 x 75W for the subwoofer.
Sound modes include Standard, Movie, Music and Virtual Football, a new setting designed to replicate the acoustics of a stadium – perfect for watching England flunk out of next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Sony’s S-Force Pro Front Surround aims to fill the room with sound, while the three-stage Voice mode brings dialogue into sharper focus.
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