As televisions get slimmer and less "audio friendly," the demand for a separate sound system has increased significantly. Sound bars have been around for a while and have quickly become popular as an easy step-up over a TV's built-in speakers. But they don't always work seamlessly in every setup; many traditional sound bars end up blocking your TV's remote control sensor or worse, part of the screen. That's why many manufacturers have started to introduce sound stands, like Sony's HT-XT1, which let you place the speaker under your TV, rather than in front of it.
For $300, the Sony offers a ton of features, including HDMI connectivity and Bluetooth, plus the sound quality is pretty good too. Like a traditional sound bar, it's easy to hook up and simple to operate with a better-than-average remote. The HT-XT1 also looks better than its competitors, with sleek aesthetics that nicely compliment most flat-panel TVs. Sure, a separate subwoofer would help beef up the sound's bottom end, but there's no other complaints you could make for such an attractive price.
While most sound stands sit flat on the ground, the Sony HT-XT1 is perched on small half-inch feet. These are intended to allow some breathing space for the dual 100mm bass woofers beneath the unit.
While the Sony boasts a surround-like effect with movies it doesn't actually have side-mounted woofers like the Onkyo LS-T10. Instead you get two oval, full-range drivers mounted on the front protected by a metal mesh. This grating also hides a front panel display, which gives visual feedback on the chosen input and volume level. It's a particularly nice perk, as many sound bars don't have a display at all.
The top of the unit is a tempered glass shelf, which can support up to 55-inch televisions weighing less than 66 lbs. (30kg), and it includes touch-sensitive controls for power and input selection.
Unlike the thin credit-card remotes that are common on these systems, the Sony includes the neat wand-style remote that's included on the $1,300 Sony HT-ST7. The remote includes the usual volume and mute controls, with additional controls for subwoofer level and the menu system hidden beneath the slide-out panel.
For the price, the Sony has an embarrassment of riches in the feature department, including Bluetooth and NFC support, which allows you to touch compatible phones to the speaker to instantly pair them. I found that Sony's quick Bluetooth near-field communication (NFC) pairing worked well and eliminated some of the annoyance of the usual searching and connecting procedure.