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Sharp HT-SB602 review: Slick sound bar goes wide

The Sharp HT-SB602 offers plenty of features, a wide soundstage and high-energy movie playback, but its overall sound quality can't stand up to similarly priced rivals.

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Ty Pendlebury
Steve Guttenberg
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Ty Pendlebury

Editor

Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.

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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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In the past 12 months we've seen some terrific values in sound bars, with the Yamaha YAS-203 and the Pioneer SP-SB23W in particular offering amazing performance for the money.

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6.9

Sharp HT-SB602

The Good

The ultra-wide Sharp HT-SB602 squeezes a ton of features into an incredibly svelte package, with Bluetooth, Dolby, DTS, HDMI inputs and a wireless subwoofer. It's capable of creating a wide soundstage and movie dialog is very crisp.

The Bad

The Sharp's sound quality is surpassed by competitors at the same price. There's an audible bass gap between the speaker and sub, and the sound can be annoyingly bright when listening to music. The unit's subwoofer looks cheap compared with the main unit.

The Bottom Line

The Sharp HT-SB602 offers plenty of features, a wide soundstage and high-energy movie playback, but its overall sound quality can't stand up to similarly priced rivals.

The Sharp HT-SB602 is part of a very competitive field, and it offers a couple of interesting features for the money, including HDMI switching with DTS decoding and Bluetooth streaming. Cosmetically the main unit looks decently stylish with its two-tone metallic finish, but the subwoofer is a little unfinished-looking. And it's really, really wide.

The Sharp's "movie-only" sound balance means it isn't quite as good for music as the 'bars mentioned above, so overall it's not our favorite sound bar for the money. That said, its sheer physical breadth makes it well-suited to owners of 60-inch-or-so TVs who don't mind its sonic limitations.

Design

Sarah Tew/CNET

The HT-SB602's cosmetics mimic the steel-gray appearance of the company's TVs. That makes sense because you will probably be buying this sound bar as part of a Sharp bundle deal, or to go with a Sharp TV, rather than seeking it out separately.

At 54.5 inches across, the HT-SB602 is quite wide for a sound bar, though it's not as tall as some, at 2.9 inches high.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The unit features two sets of twin metallic drivers across the front and a small LED display in the middle.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The separate sub is side-firing and features a frankly gaudy plastic port and large "NFC" badge. While competitors offer finished backs on their subs, the bare-MDF finish on the Sharp looks cheap. Good thing it will likely be facing a wall.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote control stands out from the pack of credit-card-style clickers by being surprisingly well-featured and reasonably easy to use.

Features

The HT-SB602 is a stereo sound bar that features a wireless subwoofer and it is capable of a claimed 80W per channel and 150W output, respectively.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The sound bar offers dual HDMI inputs (including HDMI ARC), Bluetooth with NFC pairing, an IR blaster in case your TV's IR sensor is blocked by the bar itself and an optical input. There is also an analog input.

Unlike many sound bars, the Sharp is capable of both Dolby and DTS decoding for potentially better sonic performance from Blu-ray discs.

Setup

After we unboxed the HT-SB602 and set up the system, we searched the box for the remote's two AAA batteries, but we couldn't find them. After consulting the owner's guide we discovered Sharp doesn't include batteries with the HT-SB602. No problem, but it's worth noting this is the first 'bar we've tested that omits batteries.

Afterward setup proceeded without a hitch, and wireless subwoofer pairing was automatic. As soon as we started listening we felt that the factory default subwoofer volume setting was much too loud. We turned it down almost all the way, to the -4 setting on the remote, for most of our listening tests.

The blend between sub and 'bar wasn't perfectly smooth, even when we placed the sub within a foot or two of the 'bar. That is, we were aware the bass was coming from the sub; ideally the bass should sound like it comes from the 'bar.

Performance

The Sharp HT-SB602's double-wide sound bar has a huge advantage over most smaller 'bars: its generous stereo spread requires no processing tricks to sound big. The scale of the presentation is a big part of the HT-SB602's allure; the sound is lively and powerful, and it can play louder than a lot of sound bar systems. Bass is big, too, but definition is a tad soggy.

In our comparison the HT-SB602's sound was brighter and more fatiguing than that of Yamaha's terrific YAS-203 sound bar. Turning down the HT-SB602's treble helped reduce the glare, but no amount of fiddling with the tone controls closed the clarity gap between the two, and we consistently preferred the Yamaha.

The HT-SB602's space-expanding 3D processing opened up the soundstage and added depth, but generated a hollow sound and increased harshness, so we continued sans 3D processing. The subwoofer is powerful, but it lacks the control we get from the YAS-203's subwoofer, an issue that was especially evident when we played Eminem's "Live From New York City" DVD.

Most similarly priced 'bars and bases make do with just Dolby, but the HT-SB602 has onboard Dolby and DTS processors. That's a good thing, because a lot of movies are DTS encoded. With the HT-SB602 we could stick with Bitstream for all of our listening tests, so it has that key advantage over most 'bars. Bitstream soundtracks tend to sound bigger and more spacious than those played via PCM.

Some of our favorite 'bars, like the Pioneer SP-SB23W, only have Dolby, and it couldn't produce as large a soundstage as the HT-SB602. Even so, the SP-SB23W has a warmer, more listenable (less harsh) sound than the HT-SB602.

When we watched "King Kong" the HT-SB602 nailed not only Kong's ferociously deep, guttural growls, but human dialog also sounded completely natural. When the big ape goes on a rampage on the streets of New York City and tosses cars and buses around, the HT-SB602 easily communicated the full force of the mayhem. This sound bar has plenty of muscle for home theater high jinks.

Cranking up AC-DC's new "Rock or Bust" CD was less successful. The sub-to-sound-bar bass gap was the culprit; we either could have too much or too little bass, and never achieved the just-right bass balance. The HT-SB602's aggressive edge was annoying. The YAS-203 may not be a hard rocker's dream system (no sound bar is), but it handled "Rock or Bust" with greater ease.

Conclusion

The Sharp HT-SB602 is a mixed bag. It's strong on features, plays loud, and produces an impressively large soundstage, but the quality of the sound isn't up to the standards set by the best 'bars at its price point.

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6.9

Sharp HT-SB602

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Sound 7Value 6