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Sony HT-S400 Soundbar review

Phenomenal audio performance at an incredible price point

The Sony HT-S400 and the wireless subwoofer.
(Image: © Sony)

TechRadar Verdict

With a $299 / £269 / AU$499 price point, the Sony HT-S400 offers an affordable soundbar/subwoofer combo that doesn’t compromise on much. Between powerful audio quality and respectable feature set, it’s nearly perfect for an 2.1-channel soundbar. Just be mindful of the limited connectivity, though.

Pros

  • +

    Affordable

  • +

    Fantastic audio quality

  • +

    Solid feature set

  • +

    Thoughtful design

Cons

  • -

    No 3.5mm or USB connectivity

  • -

    No proper Dolby Atmos

One-minute review

From the HT-A7000 to the HT-G700 and HT-X8500, Sony has made a habit of making premium-level soundbars that would normally cost a lot more. This is what makes the Sony HT-S400 so remarkable: not only does the soundbar/subwoofer combo pump out an impressive 330W of total audio output but does it at a reasonable price point of just $299 / £269 / AU$499. 

The 2.1ch front surround sound speaker comes with S-Force PRO Front Surround and Dolby Digital and the subwoofer is completely wireless. Besides utilizing Bluetooth A2DP, HDMI ARC and optical cable support, Sony TV owners can connect the speaker set wirelessly alongside providing integrated controls. 

Unfortunately, however, there's no 3.5mm input on the soundbar itself, nor a USB input should you want to run your music from a USB stick - two minor sticking points for an otherwise rock-solid soundbar.

That said, the core audio experience is what counts. On its own merit, the HT-S400 does a bang up job across film/television, general music and games across various platforms. Potential buyers looking to get their feet wet in the world of quality soundbars at an approachable price should look no further. 

Price and release date

Starting on April 15, the Sony HT-S400 will be available for / £269 / AU$499 on Sony’s web store alongside major retailers. Compared to similar audio solutions within the $200 - $300 price range like the Yamaha SR-B20A Sound Bar, Razer Leviathan and even Sony’s own Sony HT-X8500, the HT-S400 is a winner.

Buyers looking for more robust audio experiences with support for things like more speakers or Dolby Atmos may want to spend a bit more on a true spatial audio system like the Sonos Arc, but we respect that Sony wants to walk a fine line between the respectable feature set mentioned and a no-frills package. 

The Sony HT-S400 and the wireless subwoofer.

(Image credit: Sony)

Design

Like the other soundbars from Sony, the sleek blacks for both soundbar and subwoofer add to the premium aesthetic of the HT-S400 it looks as good as it sounds. Even better, environmentally friendly buyers should know that the subwoofer rear panel is also made with recycled plastics. Obviously, more recycled material would be better, but this is a good first step.

For added measure there’s an OLED display on the soundbar to inform you of things like input mode, volume, Bluetooth connection and bass levels amongst others. That along with the speakers are also covered with this really cool metallic-like mesh. Beyond a green light to inform you that it’s connected to the soundbar, the subwoofer has a beautifully minimalistic black on black design, too. 

The ports on the back feature one HDMI 2.0 ARC, optical port and USB-A port for firmware updates only. It’s disappointing that the USB port is pretty much useless and that there isn’t any 3.5mm jack support for those aux-cord DJs. 

Handling the unit is pretty simple as the soundbar is about three feet across and two and a half inches tall while the subwoofer is about three inches across, a foot wide on its side and about foot with some change in height. 

Set up is pretty easy considering the subwoofer automatically connects to the soundbar once plugged in. Everything else is as easy as connecting through HDMI or optical cable. Buyers looking to mount the soundbar below their wall-mounted TV can do so as well as thanks to the HT-S400’s flat back. 

That same simplicity of set up continues with utilizing Bluetooth too. Connection to compatible BRAVIA TV is simple as well and the integrated user interface also ensures buyers don’t have to use the included remote. Beyond the remote, which controls everything from volume and bass levels to turning off/on the sound field surround sound technology, the controls on the soundbar are adequate as well. 

The Sony HT-S400 and the wireless subwoofer.

(Image credit: Sony)

Features

The HT-S400 comes with a handful of nifty features for its price point including Voice mode which heightens spoken dialogue over other audio elements like music score or sound effects. 

During tests, this was definitely most useful when watching series like HBO’s Julia or more action heavy films like Furious 9. Buyers who are more into dialogue-heavy films may appreciate the option, though clarity isn’t exactly night and day. 

For times where using a subwoofer can be distracting during nighttime hours or even in a small apartment, Night mode dials down the bass enough to minimize vibration. It's almost like having a mute button for the subwoofer on top of the remote's built-in bass intensity controls. 

The last audio-centric feature is Sound Field which gives standard stereo audio into surround sound. It’s an adequate implementation of Sony’s virtual surround sound technology S-Force PRO. Though not perfect and not a replacement for multiple speaker setups, it is comparable to the effect of more virtual surround sound features on modern mid-to-low range gaming headsets. 

The Sony HT-S400 and the wireless subwoofer.

(Image credit: Sony)

Audio performance

When it comes to sheer audio quality, the HT-S400 performs well-beyond what its affordable sticker price would suggest. For a 2.1 channel soundbar/subwoofer combo, the volume quality alone can reach some impressive peaks. The HT-S400 is probably best for those in small apartments looking for a cinematic audio experience without the need to have multiple speaker set-ups as audio clarity matches volume levels. 

This is definitely most notable during moments of watching extremely loud by default action films or moody sounding horror movies. Watching Disney’s Moon Knight the experience was definitely more immersive thanks to the clarity of the dialogue, score and rumble of that bass. Though the HT-S400 converts audio signals to Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual Mono and LCPM, having some sort of Dolby Atmos support would have really made the audio device stand out significantly. 

General music listening is a treat as well regardless of music genre. EDM or Southern Hip Hop fans looking to put that subwoofer to work are going to have a blast. Meanwhile, more nuanced instrumentation from rock to jazz will appreciate the richness in mid-tones and treble. Voice mode really came in handy during moments of listening to breathing meditation exercises and spoken word performances. 

One of the first games tested with the HT-S400 was 2018's God of War on PS5. Since Sony patched its current gen console to allow Spatial Audio from television speakers last September, it was a wonderful experience playing the first-party classic at high volume. The already cinematic presenting game really took things to the max to levels initially thought were only possible through headsets. During moments of playing games like Gran Turismo 7, the audio effects definitely helped in gameplay in telling which direction cars were attempting to pass. 

Should you buy the Sony HT-S400 Soundbar?

The Sony HT-S400 and the wireless subwoofer.

(Image credit: Sony)

Buy it if...

You want a soundbar and subwoofer combo at a reasonable price
Arguably, the HT-S400 couldn’t be a better bargain. 

You need an easy set up
The wireless subwoofer doesn’t require any complex connecting and it just works once plugged into the electrical socket. There’s also no complex sound calibration needed either. 

You're looking for thoughtful design and feature set
Having a flat back allows easy wall monitoring while features like Night Mode reduces the amount of bass in the subwoofer for those moments when a little less noise is needed. 

Don't buy it if...

You are expecting spatial audio formats like Dolby Atmos
The HT-S400 converts audio signals to Dolby Digital and does offer virtual surround sound, but it would be great to have proper Dolby Atmos support instead. 

You want more wired connectivity options
Though HDMI, optical cable and Bluetooth are supported, the USB port is only for firmware updates and there's no 3.5mm jack. 

Ural Garrett is an Inglewood, CA-based journalist and content curator. His byline has been featured in outlets including CNN, MTVNews, Complex, TechRadar, LA Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and more.