Sometimes a simple extra feature can take a product to the next level—in this case, it’s Bluetooth. The Sony HT-CT260 soundbar is already a solid choice for enhancing your HDTV’s audio with a wireless subwoofer and warm midrange response, but built-in Bluetooth lets you turn it into a powerful sound system for your smartphone or tablet as well. At $299.99 (direct), the HT-CT260 offers plenty of functionality and excellent, albeit not-audiophile-level performance for a reasonable price, making it our new Editors’ Choice for soundbars.
The speaker itself is a 4 by 37 by 3.5 inch (HWD) hexagonal tube weighing just 6.1 pounds, suitable for any HDTV around 40 inches in size. The hexagon-shaped cross-section sits point-down on a stand, so the flat face is parallel with the wall and easily seen. The soundbar is covered with a matte black cloth grille, with a black plastic control panel on the front. The simple, one-line blue LED display shows what input is active and lets you flip through the different settings on the soundbar. The back of the soundbar holds optical, analog RCA, and coaxial audio inputs, along with a socket for the included wireless adapter for use with the subwoofer.
The subwoofer enclosure is a 15.3 by 10.6 by 10.6 (HWD) black plastic cube with a downward-firing port. A single green LED on the front indicates which way it’s facing and whether it’s on and paired with the soundbar. The only cable the subwoofer needs is for power, and the only controls are Power and Sync buttons. Once you slide in the other included wireless adapter into the socket on the back, the subwoofer will automatically pair with the soundbar, and then lets the soundbar and the included remote handle everything. It’s a very easy process to get all components set up.
The remote is very functional, but a bit complex for a speaker controller. It has standard volume and input buttons, along with basic TV controls, a direction pad for menu navigation, playback controls for Bluetooth devices, and a set of six “Sound Field” buttons for changing how the soundbar handles sound: Standard, Movie, Game, Music, P. Audio, and Stereo. None of the buttons are backlit. While the Bluetooth playback controls are very useful (if you want to keep your device plugged in somewhere while you play music on it), it could have done without the TV controls cluttering it up.
Besides optical, coaxial, and analog audio inputs, the HT-CT260 supports Bluetooth audio, which adds significant appeal to smartphone and mobile device users. The Bluetooth pairing button on the remote makes pairing with any device extremely simple, and I had no problem connecting my Samsung Galaxy S III to the soundbar.
For music, sound quality is solid without excelling in any category. The subwoofer puts deep bass through easily, with enough output to shake a small-to-midsized room, while the main speaker enclosure delivers a nice, warm midrange sound. However, treble sounds a bit muddled in comparison. In Rage Against The Machine’s “A Fistful of Steel,” the texture of the high-hat and cymbals were lost against the heavy drums and guitar, and vocals seemed a bit weak.
Movies sounded fairly good on the HT-CT260. The subwoofer and warm midrange drivers gave both explosions and sweeping orchestral scores on Avatar a nice sense of impact, and dialog sounded relatively clear (though treble could have been boosted just a tad). The sound field isn’t the most impressive, filling the room with sound but only offering modest stereo imaging. Like most soundbars, the HT-CT260 is limited by the distance between drivers on the bar itself, and it doesn’t offer as much of a detailed stereo (or simulated surround, with Dolby Digital Pro Logic II and dts Digital Surround) impression as dedicated speakers can. Still, when done well (as it is here), the price, convenience, and general audio quality can make up for a soundbar’s inherent limitations.
The Sony HT-CT260 is a high-quality, flexible home theater soundbar with an affordable price and some useful extra features. Its wireless subwoofer is easy to set up and offers plenty of power for bass-heavy music and movies, and its built-in Bluetooth support means you can stream music from your smartphone or tablet to the soundbar with ease, making it our Editors’ Choice for soundbars. If you don’t have the space for a separate subwoofer enclosure, the Yamaha YAS-101 produces great midrange response and a strong sound field without a subwoofer.
More Speaker Reviews:
|Wireless Remote Control||Yes|
|Power Rating (Left and Right, Each)||85 watts RMS|
|Type||Home Theater, Wireless, Soundbar|
|Power Rating (Subwoofer)||130 watts RMS per channel|
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