Sony has started to announce its 2022 lineup of audio products, beginning with the new HT-S400 soundbar that will become available around April of this year for $299 / AU$499 (around £220).
It'll be sold as a 2.1 soundbar system - i.e. a soundbar with two channels and a subwoofer - but Sony says it will act more like a surround-sound system thanks to the inclusion of its S-Force PRO Front Surround technology.
Another issue that Sony set out to solve with the HT-S400 was the distinct lack of vocals in other two-channel systems.
Sony says it has solved this problem with its X-Balanced Speaker Unit and a Separated Notch Edge that "improves vertical amplitude symmetry" by using "strategically placed cuts on the edge, which help to control the stress inside and outside the edge of the diaphragm".
We'll have to put that claim to the test when we get our hands on one, but so far the HT-S400 sounds like it will deliver far better sound than its $300 / AU$499 sticker price would suggest.
Analysis: Why buy a 2.1 system when you can buy a 5.1 system instead?
While the HT-S400 is selling at a great price for a proper soundbar, Sony faces some steep competition from the likes of Vizio and Samsung, who offer cheaper systems.
Vizio in particular offers the V-Series 5.1 Sound Bar (V51X-J6) with satellite speakers that sells for $219 in the US - or $80 less than what Sony plans on charging for the HT-S400.
So why buy any 2.1-channel system when you can buy a 5.1-channel system for even less? Well, you might not have the room for - or like the look of - satellite speakers. In the case of Vizio's 5.1 system, you have to run cables from the subwoofer to the rear speakers, and that could be problematic for some.
The other reason is that the main bar on 5.1 systems - the one responsible for driving the center, left and right channels - is underpowered compared to a more expensive 2.1 soundbar. The difference in power might result in hard-to-hear dialogue on the less expensive system or underwhelming stereo sound.
Ultimately, it's nice to have options in the soundbar space, and for that reason we're welcoming Sony's new soundbar with open arms.