The small, centrally-placed display panel on the front shows two digits at a time. Usually this is the currently selected input (L1, L2) but switches to the volume when adjusted (which goes up to 60). If the display proves distracting there’s a dimmer button to reduce its intensity.
On either side are lights indicating the currently selected sound presets, of which there are four – Standard, Cinema/Game, Sport and News. Below these is a row of miniscule buttons for up-close control of volume, sound modes, input switching and power.
Glancing at the rear panel we did a double take. There are just two inputs, one analogue stereo and a 3.5mm minijack for MP3 players. The lack of on-board decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS explains the lack of digital audio inputs, but a few more analogue ports is essential given the number of components in a typical system. You can hook up a DVD deck, but what happens if you also want to run your Sky box and games console through the system? Of course you could run your TV’s audio out into the HT-SB200, which would solve that problem, but then you’d have to turn your TV on every time you wanted to listen to a CD or the radio.
In the States there’s a step-up version (HT-SB300) which adds a digital audio input, Dolby Digital/DTS decoding and a subwoofer output, but there’s no word on when that’s being released in the UK.
Given the lack of sockets and the rudimentary display panel, setup is a quick process. The unit is also easy to operate with the terrific credit card shaped remote, which has a pleasingly low button count. In the centre there’s a diamond of keys that control volume and the subwoofer level, which ranges from -5 up to +5.
You can also adjust the bass and treble levels by pressing the relevant button and using the volume keys to find the right tone. Also useful are the row of sound preset keys along the top and the cluster of controls for Aquos TVs.
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