When CNET reviewed the Sony HT-CT100 in the spring of 2008, we hailed the $300 single-speaker audio system as one of the best values in its class. For 2009, Sony will be offering a step-up version, the HT-CT500. The $500 system retains the same basic two-part design (soundbar plus subwoofer), but supersizes it with a wider speaker unit and more powerful onboard 400-watt amplifier. The overall system delivers a 3.1 effect, thanks to the left/center/right speakers mounted in the soundbar.
Unlike the HDMI-only HT-CT100, the 500 supplements its three HDMI inputs with two component jacks and several audio inputs as well--and those analog inputs can be upconverted to HDMI output, so you'll need just a single cable running to your TV. Other niceties include an icon-based onscreen menu system and the ability to wirelessly transmit audio to other products that utilize Sony's S-AIR feature. Look for the HT-CT500 to hit stores in June 2009.