The Good Superslender soundbar home-theater system eliminates the need for an AV receiver; comes with a potent subwoofer; three HDMI inputs; supereasy setup.
The Bad Subwoofer-based connection jacks may require creative placement or cable runs; only supports four AV sources (plus Sony's proprietary DM Port accessories).
The Bottom Line Sony's HT-CT100 soundbar/subwoofer audio system is a phenomenal value that sounds great with movies and music.
Editors' note: The rating of the Sony HT-CT100 has been changed since publication to better reflect its value compared to competing home theater systems.
It's a familiar story in consumer electronics: Start with a luxurious, expensive, and exclusive product category, and within just a few years, you'll see a sea of imitators delivering the same basic item with more features, less money, and--ideally--better performance. Take single-speaker audio. Once the exclusive domain of Yamaha Digital Sound Projectors, the category is exploding, with boutique brands (Zvox, Soundmatters), home-audio stalwarts (Polk Audio, Definitive Technology), and major manufacturers (Samsung, Sony) all throwing their respective hat into the ring. But even in this hotly contested category, the Sony HT-CT100 home-theater system is a standout design. The two-part (speaker plus subwoofer) 3.1-channel system is one of the smallest soundbar speakers we've tested to date, and it boasts better-than-average connectivity highlighted by three HDMI inputs. Best of all, it costs just $300, and--considering that modest price tag--it sounds great. And because the HT-CT100 handles power and surround processing, you don't need to buy an AV receiver--just plug in your components and enjoy some powerful audio with more than a hint of faux surround.
To reiterate, the Sony HT-CT100 is a two-part system: a small soundbar designed to sit under the TV, and a modest-size subwoofer that also houses all of the electronics and connections. The skinny speaker is a mere 2.75 inches high and 2.6 deep. Its 31.5-inch width is also smaller than most soundbars and will make a nice match with TVs with 32-inch screens or larger. The speaker sports a satin-finished black plastic cabinet and perforated (nonremovable) metal grille; it's a no-frills look that won't win any beauty contests, but it's unobtrusive enough. The soundbar has three oval-shaped 1.6- by 2.8-inch drivers (left/center/right). You can wall mount the 4.4-pound speaker with its keyhole slots, so long as you account for the permanently attached 10-foot umbilical cable that connects it to the subwoofer. The cable terminates with a 9-pin serial connector that plugs into the subwoofer--if you need to run it a longer distance, check out our related tip.
Before you buy a sound bar, read this
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