Sony customers can’t seem to do without a good bass on any budget. And Japanese audio engineers say they have done their door-to-door research to come up with a new soundbar, tailor-made for India (read Bollywood). It also sets a new low in price for Sony as they enter a flooded sub-Rs 15,000 market. I spent some time fiddling with it before it hits the market on February 7. Here's my first impression of it for those eager to place their orders. For the rest of you, a detailed review is coming soon.
The HT-S20R is a three-piece ensemble, which consists of a 2kg soundbar (760 x 52 x86), a 6.9kg subwoofer (192 x 387 x 342) and two rear speakers of about half a kg each.
The soundbar has a neat metallic finish. It's a three-channel —or three-speaker — central piece, which is slightly wider than a 32-inch TV. Even if you place it right in front of the TV, it should not interrupt your view.
The subwoofer, though, will require a strategic placement, preferably at a lesser height than the TV. Sony maintains that a built-in woofer will just not cut it for a real 5.1 channel sound in the price range. The two rear speakers add to the stereo experience -- a car racing across the screen or bullets flying in every direction.
You can connect the soundbar via a single HDMI cable to TVs that support ARC (Audio Return Channel). For older models, there's RCA input — the red, yellow, white cables — and optical input — a lesser-known black cable. You can also just connect the soundbar to your phone via Bluetooth for streaming OTT content and for playing music. And if you'd really like to turn back time, there's a front-facing USB slot on the subwoofer for those who still carry a pendrive in their keychain.
Note: Rhe soundbar does not have eARC — a better version of ARC — because it does not support more advanced audio formats such as Dolby Atmos. The surround sound is restricted to Dolby Digital, which is good enough for the price.
I experienced the maximum output of 600W that HT-S20R claims to deliver and it's deafening in a small room and good enough for a modest living room space. House parties? Check. Still, it's a TV-first soundbar. I watched a scene of Denzel Washington-starrer The Book of Eli during the demo. Great film, by the way. And I noticed that the sound is mapped to deliver clarity in dialogues, very good bass for action sequences and a noticeable surround sound for everything else. But it seems to suffer a little bit in high range frequencies and the treble seems to bring along some distortion at high volumes. It's something you won't even notice in a film playing on a TV screen but maybe when you are listening to a wide range of music. I'll have a more definitive answer when I hear some classic rock on it. Not remastered, of course.
In the first look, hear and feel, the Sony HT-S20R seems to be delivering a quality audio experience on a budget. This one at Rs 14,999 is slightly cheaper than Sony's very popular HT-RT3 soundbar (Rs 17,850 on Amazon), which has all of this plus NFC as an alternative connectivity option.
Looking forward to pitting the Sony HT-RT3 against its own kind and its noteworthy competitors in the full review.