Sony HT-CT150 review:

Sony HT-CT150

Audio decoding capabilities
Dolby Digital Yes DTS Yes
Dolby Digital Plus No DTS-HD HR No
Dolby TrueHD No DTS-HD Master Audio No

Like nearly every other sound bar HTIB, the HT-CT150 only supports standard Dolby and DTS decoding. In our opinion that's not a major loss, as the superior sonic fidelity of high-resolution soundtracks like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio is likely to be lost on a single speaker system like the HT-CT150.

Weighing just less than 3 pounds, the HT-CT150 is light enough to be wall-mounted with a couple of screws. Or do what we did, and just put it on the shelf in front of our TV.

The HT-CT150 doesn't have an auto-speaker calibration program, and it doesn't really need one. However, you can separately fine-tune the sound bar's center channel and the subwoofer's volume levels. Doing so requires navigating the HT-CT150's setup menu, which is visible as just a small LCD screen on the subwoofer. Even so, we found navigating the menu's layers on the HT-CT150 display easy enough to do.

While we were there, we experimented with the bass and treble tone controls, Dolby Digital DRC (dynamic range control), and Night Mode settings. The last two settings are provided to help reduce movies' soft-loud dynamic volume swings. DRC and Night Mode worked well enough, but since the HT-CT150's sound isn't that dynamic, we didn't feel a need to use DRC or Night Mode. In any case, Sony should provide direct access via the remote, instead of all the other less useful functions it includes. Jumping into the HT-CT150's menu every time we wanted to make a sound adjustment (other than volume level) was a minor annoyance.

Audio performance
Our previous, very positive experiences with Sony's HT-CT100 sound bar led to high expectations for the HT-CT150. The HT-CT100 was a standout in 2008, but the budget-price competition has shown steady improvement. Would the Sony HT-C150 still lead the pack?

We would have liked to compare the old and new Sony sound bars face-to-face, but we returned our HT-CT100 sample to Sony years ago. The HT-CT150 on its own was very good. It had decent clarity, and thanks to the subwoofer, a healthy, full-bottomed bass sound. The sound bar and subwoofer's blend were excellent, so it was hard to distinguish the sub's bass from that of the sound bar's--that's a good thing.

We also noted the HT-CT150's faux surround and soundstage depth were above average. No, the sound wasn't as room filling as an actual 5.1 channel system would be, but the soundstage extended to nearly the full width of the front wall of the CNET listening room. Its dimensionality and depth made it easy to forget most of the sound was coming from a skinny sound bar speaker.

We could hear the windswept desolation of Southwest Texas in the quieter scenes on the "No Country For Old Men" Blu-ray. That sort of subtle detail adds tremendously to the realism the HT-CT150 can muster. And when Chigurh (Javier Bardem) executes his victims with a cattle gun, the sound made us jump.

The "Terminator Salvation" Blu-ray's more sustained violence proved to be a tougher test of the HT-CT150's stamina. There, the blasts of gunfire and explosions didn't deliver the dynamic jolts we got from Samsung's HW-C450. Not that the HT-CT150 sounded bad, it just seemed to run out of power faster, and even when pegged to its max volume level, it wasn't that loud.

The HT-CT150 sounds a bit better than Vizio's VHT210 sound bar home theater system; its dialog was clearer and the HT-CT150's deeper soundstage made for more convincing surround sound. Its sub made more bass than the Vizio's tiny sub, but we can't say the HT-CT150 really clobbered the VHT210 by a significant margin in any area.

The Rolling Stones' "Shine A Light" Blu-ray sounded pretty nice with the HT-CT150. The big sub took a lot of the credit for that, but bass definition was only fair. Mick Jagger's vocals and Keith Richards' guitar clarity impressed, thanks to HT-CT150's center channel speaker. While playing CDs, its sound was above average, and the HT-CT150 is gusty enough to rock out, something few sound bars do at all well.

The Sony HT-CT150 is probably a bit better than the original HT-CT100 was, but the competition has now caught up to or bettered Sony's entry-level system, at least on the performance front.

What you'll pay

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