Soundbars like the Sony HT-S350 are a godsend - as built-in TV speakers are getting worse, 2.1 channel soundbars and subwoofers have stepped in to make our favorite shows and movies sound like they're supposed to.
With Sony’s HT-S350, you get both in the box, and with the booming sound they’re both capable of, the results speak for themselves... well, mumble might be a better word for it. While Sony's soundbar does deliver better sound than most TV speakers, it still doesn't live up to the high bar set by other 2.1 setups.
We took more than a listen to figure out where the holes were in this setup.
Once we unboxed the the soundbar and subwoofer, which come in an L-shaped box, we immediately noticed how understated both are. Neither has a particularly flashy design - they’re both in matte black and there are no distinguishing features.
Measuring about 35-inches wide and less than two inches high, the soundbar should be short enough to slide under a TV - however that can depend on the width of your TV’s legs though. If your TV sits too low, you'll have to place the bar right in front; something you could probably do if you have enough real estate to work with on an entertainment unit. If the TV is wall-mounted, then room becomes less of an issue.
The bar’s ports are right smack in the middle on the back, making it easy to run wires without having to worry about getting in the way of anything... not that there’s much back there. Aside from an HDMI CEC, optical audio input and the power adapter, there are no other things to plug in.
If you're looking to go wireless, Bluetooth is your only option. There’s no Wi-Fi, which negates any possibility of streaming directly from popular apps like Spotify, and no AirPlay or casting, either. That's a huge misstep there.
In terms of other audio standards, the soundbar supports Dolby Digital and Dolby Dual Mono, but not DTS or the vaunted Dolby Atmos that's available in higher-end soundbars.
What you're getting here is a basic soundbar and a subwoofer. Thankfully, the latter connects wirelessly to the soundbar, so there is no direct wired connection between them and there's a dedicated remote for the soundbar, where you can switch between multiple sound modes, like Music, Cinema, Sports, Game, News and Standard.
If there's one advantage to such a basic soundbar it's that there isn’t much to setting this all up. We had a TV with an HDMI ARC input, so plugged in that way first, but also tested it via the optical audio connection. (Sony includes the optical cable in the box, but not an HDMI one and the advantage of HDMI in this scenario is that it’s pretty much a one-and-done job.) We controlled volume using the TV remote, though we also tested the included remote that came in the box, too.
With up to 320 watts of power, the HT-S350 can get plenty loud, but we should preface that by measuring expectations. The balance tends to shift a little more toward the low end, largely because of the subwoofer, but there’s also a reasonably sharp high end most of the time.
Sony included a Voice mode to enhance dialogue, but we weren’t thrilled with the results: While it did amplify the mids to make people sound livelier, it also increased sibilance to the point where anything with a higher pitch carried a slight shrill or screech. Unless we were watching a talk show or interview, we chose to avoid this mode for anything else.
Cinema mode tended to be the most consistent, and we leaned on Game for both gaming and sports. No matter what mode we were in, we never fully found a balance that worked really well. The booming bass, especially at higher volumes, simply overpowered the mids and highs. When we listened at lower volumes, there was a lack of punch to the overall sound. It was as if there was a tipping point in the other direction.
Normally, distortion sets in when you go really high. Here, we found that we needed to raise the volume a certain level to feel the punchy and resonant sound the soundbar could muster. We were never blown away, but at least we felt some level of immersion.
When it came to listening to music, the Bluetooth button on the remote changes the system to wireless playback, and it was a similar story. We could go loud, but we never truly felt like it was great sound. Good for a soundbar with a woofer, though not as good as we would’ve liked.
The Sony HT-S350 has all the appeal of other 2.1 soundbars - it’s a system rather than a single piece and it's much easier to setup than two bookshelf speakers - but the sum of those parts is a little too limiting. We would’ve loved to see more connectivity options or just better sound at this price.
Overall we think the Yamaha YAS-207 is a better value because of its superior performance and is worth considering if you're interested in another option.
- Want even more options? Here's our list of the best soundbars