Sony HT-CT150 review: Sony HT-CT150

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The Good Three HDMI inputs; excellent sound quality for a sound bar home theater system; no AV receiver required; capable of switching between six devices.

The Bad IR receiver on the subwoofer limits its placement options; subwoofer isn't wireless; cluttered remote.

The Bottom Line Sony's HT-CT150 sound bar home theater system sounds great and is way ahead of the competition with its three HDMI inputs; however, its IR receiver limits the subwoofer's placement options.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7

The amount of sound bar home theater systems in the $300 price range has exploded this year, but nearly all of them lack HDMI switching despite it being the near-universal home theater connection. (Now you can even connect the Nintendo Wii via HDMI.) Sony's been way ahead of the game with its HDMI port count, which is why its HT-CT100 sound bar home theater system has been one of the most popular products we reviewed: it has three HDMI inputs, excellent sound quality, and an affordable price tag.

For 2010, Sony released an updated version, the HT-CT150, and little has changed on the features front. Sure, its HDMI inputs are now 3D compatible, but otherwise the feature selection is nearly identical, which is fine since the competition still lags. Other sound bars have caught up in terms of sound quality; we found that the HT-CT150 still sounds very good, but it's not a standout performer as the HT-CT100 was. The system's biggest letdown is that Sony made a couple of design tweaks that make it less flexible in terms of subwoofer placement. However, as long as the HT-CT150 fits your home theater environment, it's still the best value in terms of sound quality and features.

The typical design for a sound bar home theater system consists of a long cylindrical sound bar that you connect all your components to, plus a wireless subwoofer. The HT-CT150 breaks many of these conventions. The subwoofer isn't wireless--it has an AC power cable and an umbilical link to the sound bar--and it acts as the main hub of the system, housing all of the inputs and the amplifier. That leaves the sound bar itself to be just a small, thin speaker that measures 31.5 inches wide by 2.63 inches tall by 2.38 inches deep.

This speaker arrangement is less than ideal for several reasons. First, the wired subwoofer limits how far away you can place it from the sound bar--Sony's included proprietary speaker cable is only 9.8 feet long. Even if the cable were longer, you'd have to keep it close to the TV anyway, because all your home theater devices need to connect directly to it. Finally, Sony made the unfortunate decision to put the IR sensor--which receives commands from the remote control--on the subwoofer rather than the sound bar. That means the sub needs to be within line of sight with your couch; many people like to hide their subs in a corner or behind other equipment. To be fair, the HT-CT150 will work perfectly fine in many home theater environments, but be sure to plan ahead before deciding to buy it.

A few buttons are available on the subwoofer.
There are a few buttons available on the HT-CT150's subwoofer, along with the LCD screen.

Sony made the remote more complex than it needs to be. It makes the mistake of trying to be everything for everyone by providing buttons for controlling both a TV and a Blu-ray player, although it can control Sony branded products. The result is an ugly remote with many buttons that have two or three functions--labeled with tiny yellow dots or pink lettering--that require you to hit a "shift" or "TV" button first to enable the function. It's not a pretty picture, especially when you compare the HT-CT150's remote to the clicker Vizio includes with its competing VHT210. Yes, the HT-CT150's remote has more functionality, but it certainly is not enough to justify all the clutter. As always, the best bet is to spring for a quality universal remote.

Since the HT-CT150 has so many HDMI ports, you might expect it to include a graphical user interface, as many Blu-ray home theaters include. Unfortunately, you have to use the small LCD screen on the front of the subwoofer to adjust the HT-CT150's settings. It's not fair to knock the HT-CT150 for doing this, as no competitors have onscreen displays either; however, it would have been a nice extra.


Key features
3D pass-through Yes Subwoofer Wired
Remote Yes LCD display Yes

The HT-CT150 is an exceptional sound bar in its price class because it has video switching and 3D pass-through capabilities--meaning that it can pass a 3D video signal from a 3D video source to a 3D HDTV. While 3D compatibility isn't a must-have feature for us, it's still nice that Sony future-proofed a relatively inexpensive system.

It is worth pointing out that the HT-CT150 is one of the few sound bar home theater systems in this price range that lacks a wireless subwoofer. It's not a huge shortcoming, but as we mentioned in the design section, it limits your placement options for the HT-CT150.

AV connectivity
HDMI inputs 3 Analog audio inputs 2
Optical inputs 2 Coaxial inputs 1
Minijack input No Max. connected ext. devices 6

The HT-CT150's connectivity options are outstanding across the board. The only other competing system with any HDMI connectivity is the Panasonic SC-HTB10, and it only has one port. There are quite a few sound bar home theater systems at this price, and the HT-CT150's HDMI connectivity puts it in a class of its own.

Even beyond its HDMI ports, the rest of the HT-CT150's connectivity is better than average. Its three digital inputs and two stereo analog inputs are more than enough to cover any non-HDMI gadgets you have. The HT-CT150 has six total input labels (such as "BD," "SAT/CATV," and so on), which means that's the maximum amount of external devices you can easily switch between at a time, even though there are more total inputs.