Sharp HT-SBW202 Review
An audio upgrade for a TV that won't break the piggy bank
A affordable and soundbar from Sharp that ticks all the requisite boxes in terms of performance for its price. If the influx of cheaper, compact Atmos soundbars aren’t of interest, and you’re instead looking for a simpler experience, and giving your TV listening a boost for a low price, then the Sharp comes recommended.
- Affordable price
- Good, balanced sound
- Decent Bluetooth performance
- Easy to use
- Display is deceptively tricky to read
- No immersive audio support if that’s what you’re after
- UKRRP: £169
- EuropeRRP: €169
- 200W powerBar and wireless subwoofer max power output
- Equalizer settingsThree presets plus custom bass and treble EQ
- USB playbackConnect USB to play audio via bar
These days, it’s possible to upgrade your TV’s sound without spending a fortune, and Sharp’s HT-SBW202 is a soundbar that looks to deliver on exactly that promise.
With no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, Sharp’s soundbar isn’t a complex one to wrap your head around. If you have a TV that’s 40-inches or bigger, and are in need of an audio boost, then you may want to give Sharp’s HT-SBW202 a closer look.
- Prosaic design
- Wireless subwoofer included
- Display could be better
Like an electrician coming round to fix your boiler, the HT-SBW202 is here to do a job and that job only. It isn’t much of a looker; its combination of grey and matte black plastic will sit beneath a TV without grabbing the limelight, which is absolutely fine.
It’s long at 988mm, and slim and slender, too, so will easily slot below a TV. The rounded edges and curved design give it a neat appearance, although the matte black finish can attract smudges.
The front expanse of the bar is covered by a metal grille, while around the back is a recessed area for connections; at either side you’ll find fixings for attaching the bar onto a wall. On the right-hand edge are four buttons: power, volume up/down and source selection, in case the remote disappears down the back of your settee.
The 4-digit LED display is positioned above the logo in the middle of the soundbar, but the combination of the grille and the display’s small size make it deceptively tricky to read from a seated position. It’s dimmable in case it’s a distraction.
The wireless subwoofer is small, and in terms of positioning, placing it to the side of the bar will make the most sense; the rear port implies plonking it in front of a wall provides the best bass performance. Like the bar, the sub’s finish does attract a few fingerprints that accrue over time. There’s a “pair” button to connect the bar and sub; although they should connect automatically when paired for the first time.
The ergonomically shaped remote is a simple one to operate, with playback buttons located on the D-pad in its centre, plus control over bass and treble frequencies, EQ adjustment, a Mute button, Bluetooth, source selection and, of course, power. The D-pad has a nice click to its operation, while the other buttons offer more push. Overall, it’s a simple design and a simple user experience, too, delivering as little inconvenience as possible.
- Covers basic connection needs
- Stereo support
- Four equalizer modes
Connectivity covers all the usual points: HDMI ARC and digital optical input for connection to a TV; the AUX-in can be used to connect a headphone, or as analogue legacy connection to an older TV. The USB port can be used either to update the bar or for audio playback, with drives up to 32GB supported. Wirelessly, there’s Bluetooth 4.2 for streaming from a mobile device. Switching between the sources is easy via the remote, and HDMI CEC support means that the TV remote can be used to control the bar’s volume.
As a strictly stereo device with its two full-range speakers (the subwoofer makes this a 2.1 system), there’s no Dolby Atmos or support for any other immersive audio. Sharp still sells the HT-SBW800 if you’re looking for a more affordable Atmos setup. I’ve managed to play Dolby and DTS soundtracks so there shouldn’t be an issue for basic soundtrack compatibility.
There’s a selection of equalizer modes, although in a slightly unhelpful manner, the technical specs refer to them as News, Movie and Music, while the manual and bar itself lists them as EQ1, EQ2 and EQ3. Presumably, EQ1 is News, EQ2 is Movie, and so on, but that’s something that should be made a little clearer. The fourth EQ mode is a Custom one, and when that’s engaged the bass and treble levels can be changed via the remote.
- Clear, smooth and natural performer
- Decent bass
- Solid detail levels
Performance-wise, the Sharp is a smooth and uncomplicated performer that easily improves on any budget TV with which it’s matched.
Dialogue is replicated naturally and there’s more weight to its output. Compared to Toshiba’s UK31, the Sharp’s presentation of Marvel’s Shang Chi easily outperforms the Toshiba, delivering more loudness and force afforded to punches, actual bass, and a better sense of depth to the soundstage.
Quiet and loud moments of dialogue and action are treated as such, and the soundstage isn’t as cramped as you’d find on a TV; the music soundtrack benefits from the larger sound, since it isn’t competing with other elements. Compared to a cheap TV, the Sharp offers a much better balance.
Adjusting the bass and treble levels has a slight effect – a little more sharpness and focus on dialogue with the latter, some more weight and thud to low frequencies with the former; but the adjustments feel minor rather than having any great consequence on what’s heard.
In terms of scale, the Sharp performs better with the volume pushed up some more; its dynamic range – that difference between the lowest and highest sound – becomes more pronounced. It did help to add more excitement watching Dune, utilising the bar’s 200W of power to decent effect in some of bigger, more dramatic action moments. Pushed to max volume with Blade Runner 2049, there are no artefacts in handling bass, just a little distortion with high frequencies and some noise, but it equips itself well. If anything, the Sharp could do with being able to go a bit louder.
Detail levels are assured in Le Mans 66 (or Ford vs Ferrari, for American readers) during the Willow Springs race. The squeals of the tyres, the throttly and raspy roar of the engines, mechanical gear shifts and sound of the dirt being kicked up are all handled convincingly well. In addition, there’s good balance achieved between maintaining all these effects and music without overwhelming dialogue.
Add to that good tracking and panning of cars and objects as they move across screen, placement of voices that match their origin point, and a decent amount of height to the soundfield – the plane that Matt Damon’s Shelby flies before announcing the Ford deal does feel as if it zooms above the TV – and the Sharp is a very solid all-round effort at this price. If there’s a complaint, it’s that there isn’t a whole lot of width beyond the soundbar’s dimensions, and sounds aren’t projected towards the viewer. As a result, smaller rooms might suit the Sharp better and help it fill up the space.
Streaming music over Bluetooth, the Sharp is better than expected for its price. It’s a bit quiet initially, but cranking up the volume shows what it’s capable of: good vocal clarity, decent bass and balanced enough sound when playing Daft Punk’s Around the World. What it doesn’t quite communicate as well is the energy or bass depth of some tracks, but that isn’t an entirely unexpected development when Bluetooth is in the mix.
Should you buy it?
If your budget is tight £160 is cheap but not so cheap that you might have a few misgivings about the sound or build quality. The Sharp puts in a solid performance on both counts, and as such, it will be a good partner for any cheap TV.
If your interests are more immersive For Atmos you’ll need to go up a few more rungs on the soundbar ladder, with Denon’s DHT-S517 available for around double the price if you can jump that far.
If thought of as a box-ticking exercise for a cheap soundbar then the Sharp HT-SBW202 ticks all the boxes it needs to. It’s simple to use, has all the connections you’d need, and it offers an audible improvement over a TV.
At £160, the expense isn’t too great either. For those simply looking to give their TV’s sound a boost, to gain a more cinematic experience from what they watch, this is a very competent and solid effort from Sharp.
How we test
We test every soundbar we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for a few weeks
Tested with films, TV and music
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We’d recommend placing the sub to the side of the subwoofer, with a wall behind it to help reinforce the bass levels.