There’s a lot of interest in soundbars that aren’t too expensive, but aren’t exactly budget products either. Approx Rs. I have a good soundbar. 30,000 price level would pair well with a decent mid-range or upper-mid-range television, and there are a handful of brands in India that offer such a product. Sony is known for its mid-range soundbars, and its latest product, the Sony HT-S40R 5.1-Channel Soundbar Speaker System, promises a lot for Rs. 29,990.
Though a soundbar at its core, the Sony HT-S40R is unique in that the package also includes a pair of wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer, which makes for an authentic 5.1-channel home theater setup. Is this speaker system convenient to use, and is it the best one you can buy for less than Rs. 30,000? Find out in this review.
Sony HT-S40R Design and Specifications
Soundbars and home theater speaker systems sound best when they’re discreet and simple, and the Sony HT-S40R sticks to this acronym. All components are painted black, and don’t look out of the ordinary for a soundbar speaker system. The sales package includes three-channel soundbar speakers, a subwoofer, two rear speakers, and an amplifier to power the rear-channel speakers. There’s also a remote for the system, a battery to power it, and an HDMI cable to connect the system to your television or AV receiver.
Most soundbar systems I’ve reviewed have the bar speaker as the master device, with the subwoofer, if any, pulling its signal from there. With the Sony HT-S40R, things are different; The subwoofer is the primary device, connecting to all the source equipment as well as the mains power. There are four options for connectivity on the subwoofer: digital optical, HDMI-ARC, and analog in the back, as well as USB in the front.
There are also sockets for connecting bar speakers to the subwoofer; The cable bar is attached to the speaker, which receives its audio signal as well as power from the subwoofer. The bar speaker is completely plain left over for the Sony logo on the left and some stickers showing off its features. There are no buttons or controls on it. A simple metal grille covers the speaker drivers.
The top of the subwoofer houses touch controls for power, source selection, Bluetooth 5 connectivity (with support for the SBC codec), and volume. There’s also a small monochrome text display on the front that displays the power state and active source.
Although Sony calls the rear speakers wireless, that’s not quite accurate; The rear speaker system connects entirely to the subwoofer wirelessly, but the speakers need to be connected to an amplifier using wires for audio and power. The amplifier also requires its own power outlet.
This means that you don’t need to wire the surround speakers to the main setup, but you definitely need to make sure they are suitably positioned for use with the required amplifier. The rear speakers can be mounted either on a tabletop or wall-mounted. The amplifier has two buttons for power and for connecting two speakers, and for power and linking with the subwoofer.
The Sony HT-S40R’s remote isn’t huge, but it does have plenty of buttons to control various aspects of the speaker system. You can set sound modes, adjust master and subwoofer volume levels separately, and even control playback on connected devices thanks to HDMI-CEC support.
Once connected and set up, I was able to control the system volume using my TV remote, and the speaker system powered on automatically when the TV was on. Oddly, I had to turn the HT-S40R off manually, as turning off the TV didn’t take care of it.
Sony HT-S40R Performance
The Sony HT-S40R is a mid-range soundbar, and naturally it has a feature set that fits with the pricing quite a bit. While important wiring is still included in the setup, the soundbar system delivers reasonable 5.1-channel sound and a rated 600W of total sound output. Advanced audio formats such as Dolby Atmos are not supported, but there is support for Dolby Digital Audio on the Sony HT-S40R. Although the sound isn’t quite as loud as the output figures, the Sony HT-S40R is capable of high volumes without any audible distortion.
While I frequently used the rear speaker system for some movies during my review, I usually only had the bar speaker and subwoofer turned on for most of my time with the HT-S40R. I was using HDMI-ARC to connect to the TV. I tested this home theater speaker system with a variety of television shows and movies on Netflix and Apple TV+, including Our Planet, Ted Lasso, The Good Place, and Greyhound starring Tom Hanks. This allowed me to test out native 5.1-channel content as well as see how the system performed as a 3.1-channel audio setup using only the bar speaker and subwoofer.
Although it’s a passive unit that draws power from the subwoofer, the bar speaker is the heart of the Sony HT-S40R. Its three dedicated channels offer left, right and center channel outputs appropriately, with sonic tuning tailored for specific television viewing. Voices were hoarse and clear; The sound effects and soundtrack were clean, subtle and easy to hear; And there was a feel of width despite the bar speaker being a few inches shorter than the TV.
The HT-S40R expectedly delivered a much better listening experience than what was used with the Mi TV 5X I. Although not as crisp-sounding or clean as the Sony HT-G700 soundbar, the HT-S40R made up for it with its rear speakers.
While there is a lot of native 5.1-channel content on popular streaming services, only a few of them have really affected the viewing experience in the way that surround sound is meant to be. With shows like The Good Place, it barely mattered what I could hear from the rear speakers (though there was a clear sense of isolation), but with Greyhound and our planet, there was plenty to enjoy in the sound. .
With the latter, David Attenborough’s amusing narration sounded just as good through the soundbar, while the rear speakers made for some impressive background work, handling the sounds of nature—like birds chirping and running water. Done – especially well. The speaker system also aptly reproduced the tense and fast-paced feel of the Greyhound for the most part, while correctly centering Tom Hanks’ dialogue delivery.
Surround elements were inherently missing when operating as a more traditional 3.1-channel soundbar and subwoofer system, but that didn’t affect most of my listening experiences with the HT-S40R. The rear speakers, while decent, aren’t too loud, and the bar speaker and subwoofer did a lot of the lifting anyway. Ted Lasso, The Good Place, and Our Planet all sounded practically enjoyable to me. They make quite a difference in sound if you have room for rear speakers, but aren’t necessary for TV shows.
The subwoofer, along with being the brain of the setup, also offers plenty of power and attack. With volume up, it added a lot of impact via capable and distortion-free low-end rumble, especially in Greyhound where it made for some pleasant thump in action sequences. The subwoofer’s volume is adjustable separately from the overall system volume, so you can turn the attack up or down according to your listening preferences.
I also tried bluetooth connectivity. Although the sound was loud, the tuning didn’t fit the music.
The Sony HT-S40R isn’t cutting edge, as you might expect from a soundbar speaker system under Rs. 30,000, but it makes up for it with crude performance. It’s loud, clean, crisp, and works great with native 5.1-channel content over HDMI-ARC. Although there’s no support for Dolby Atmos or any other advanced audio formats, the HT-S40R handles standard surround sound very well, thanks to its 5.1-channel setup.
That said, there are a lot of wires, and the rear speakers were a little difficult for me to position. It’s also not ideally geared towards listening to music, but if you can work your way around these hiccups, the HT-S40R delivers capable 5.1-channel sound at a good price. There are some decent competing options from brands like Polk Audio, Bose, JBL, and Samsung, but the Sony is worth considering for its volume capabilities and 5.1-channel output.