Customer Review

145 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Mid-Range Sound Bar! (Sony Adds HDMI), September 10, 2013
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This review is from: Sony HTCT260H Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer (Electronics)
I bought this model mainly because I wanted HDMI-CEC (a.k.a. Bravia Sync, SIMPLINK, Anynet+, etc.), and it works great. CEC turns the sound bar on and off with the TV, and it also lets you use the TV remote to control the volume. You get slightly better sound quality by feeding the source directly into the sound system with HDMI and then out to the TV instead of from the TV into the sound system. Many TVs downgrade the audio signal to stereo over digital coaxial audio out and optical audio out if the TV input is HDMI (has something to do with HDCP).

This sound bar supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). ARC lets you plug your TV cable, Roku stick (if you have MHL), Chromecast, or USB drive into your TV, and the sound can travel "backwards" through the HDMI cable to the sound bar. It also works with Smart TVs. For ARC, the audio input function on the sound bar is "TV", but it usually automatically switches, so you do not have to manually change the input.

Since the Sony spec sheet is unclear, here are all the ports for this sound bar:

Inputs:
1x HDMI
1x Optical
1x Stereo Mini (This is used to connect a media player like an iPod without Bluetooth using a 3.5 mm male to male cable. It is not an output, so connecting headphones will not work.)

Outputs:
1x HDMI

This model is mid-range so while the speakers definitely sound better than the built-in TV speakers, they can sound a little thin at times (I'm used to nice Polk bookshelf speakers). To put it another way, the treble can sound a little muddled at times due to the lack of tweeters. The subwoofer makes a huge difference though. 2x the price would get you only a slight improvement in sound quality. 5x the price would get you a big increase in sound quality. Then there's a lot of in-between quality as well. My point is that if you want to pay more, there are better options, but at this price, this sound bar is solid. I wouldn't consider buying a sound bar under $150 because the increase in performance over TV speakers would not be enough to justify it (to me anyway).

Everything is basically plug and play. The subwoofer is already paired. My iPhone and iPad paired perfectly, and I was playing music in no time. An interesting tip is that you can switch the audio input to Bluetooth, and the image will still stay on the TV screen because of HDMI video passthrough (e.g. You can play a PS4 game while listening to music from your iPhone over Bluetooth. The PS4 audio will be muted).

The only thing I can really knock on this model is that it only has 1 HDMI input, so this means I will have to use an HDMI switcher to hook up multiple devices. If you have a little more cash, you may want to get the HT-CT660 for the extra HDMI inputs. Using some apps like HBOGo, the 260's audio is quieter than I would like it to be at max setting, but for the majority of apps like Netflix, the sound is louder and just fine. Since the sound level is different between apps, I have determined it is mostly the apps' fault for outputting a lower gain. I have the speaker bar in a smaller room (less than 3 m x 3 m), so the lower volume doesn't matter too much. The 660 model is a bit louder than the 260 and has clearer treble and voice because of the added tweeters. 40 sound volume on the 660 sounds like 50 (max) on the 260; however, the 660 becomes distorted much past 44. The 260 can strain at higher volumes as well. The 660 is not as "plug and play" as the 260 because you have to really tweak the settings for it to sound good, and you have to change them (mainly voice and sub level) depending on whether you're listening to music or a movie. The 660 can sound better, but you have to work for it more than the 260. The 260 sounds great if you just turn up the treble and bass a couple notches. Depending on the room, sub position, and personal preferences sub level will vary (default is 2).

I think Sony could have left a little more space in the back for the HDMI cables. It's a little difficult to get both of them in at that angle. That's a minor annoyance though.

The remote is nothing amazing. It actually has more buttons than it needs. I would rather it be slightly more simplified by getting rid of the numbers and color buttons. It does have bluetooth controls at the bottom, so you can control your bluetooth device. I'm not sure how useful the bluetooth buttons are because you have to have the phone or bluetooth device in the same room anyway or else it skips, so I guess the benefit is not having to wake up the device's screen. The downside of the bluetooth buttons is that I can't use it to control my Blu-Ray player. I wish the remote had backlights. I may have to get a Logitech universal remote eventually. I like the ease of changing the equalizer presets. I mostly use Game, Music, and Movie. The Amp Menu settings are simple enough to change when you get to know the layout.

Bottom line -- This sound bar is the best under $300!

Note: I had an issue with the subwoofer dropping out randomly. It was being caused by WiFi interference (2.4 GHz). I turned off my G network (mixed) for N only (5 GHz), and the sub is working as it should now. You shouldn't have any problems with Wireless-N (802.11n) networks on the 5 GHz band. If you have close neighbors (or other networks in range), be aware of what they use. Fortunately, mine use Wireless-N.

UPDATE: And now it is way under $300! I would have to say the 660 model is now technically the best sound bar under $300 because it adds tweeters and is a little louder, but it does require a bit more configuration and tweaking than the 260 to sound right.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 16, 2013 11:11:45 AM PDT
A. Arya says:
Regarding your setup: do you have just the cable box feeding into the soundbar, and then out to the TV? If you have a blu-ray player, how is the sound from that going into the soundbar?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2013 5:48:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2013 2:41:34 PM PST
WARRZONE says:
I have cut cable and use streaming services, but if I had a receiver, it would be fed into an HDMI switcher -> sound bar -> TV. Depending on the device so you can preserve certain video settings, you could plug it into a different HDMI port on the TV and use HDMI-ARC out. As a note, even if the TV has ARC, there is a chance the TV compresses or downmixes the audio to stereo like using optical. I thought all TVs downmixed over ARC, but I guess it depends on the TV because I contacted LG and they told me otherwise (although it could have just been someone who didn't really know what they were talking about). It could be that you get 5.1 DTS core but not DTS-HD, but that doesn't even matter with this sound bar (it lacks HD audio codecs). The 660 adds HD codecs, but you'd need something like a YSP or HTST7 for all the benefits of HD audio. Blu Ray players and game systems sound better using HDMI because the sound is not getting altered by the TV and being downmixed (to 2.0) by going out via optical or coaxial or having other issues that arise from using optical. Without the .1 in 5.1 or 2.1 (the sub channel) the sound bar has to guess what the sub should play, and while it is good, it is not as accurate.

All that being said, this is not a 5.1 or 7.1 surround system or a YSP-5100. DTS is difficult to distinguish from Dolby Digital for example (though there is sometimes a volume difference), and it does not play uncompressed (HD) audio. The main reason for HDMI on a cheaper system like this is convenience.

Posted on Oct 20, 2013 10:23:33 AM PDT
Nilay says:
Great review! I just got it delivered yesterday. I was also interested in Bravia Sync and have got it working with the PS3 and TV now.

Posted on Nov 11, 2013 8:20:47 PM PST
Taboois says:
I just installed my new sound bar and do not notice a big difference in sound. In your first paragraph how did you connect your sound bar to get the better sound?

Posted on Nov 20, 2013 1:22:42 PM PST
I think I'm just getting mixed up in terminology here, but the big benefit of the ARC port is that the unit can function as a video pass-through correct? If I split the HDMI IN on the sound bar, I can plug in my PS4 and Chromecast for example, and still get the video feed on my TV yes?

Posted on Nov 23, 2013 9:39:16 AM PST
Iznbrth says:
Does the CEC feature only work with Sony TV's? (including remote control feature)

Posted on Nov 24, 2013 12:31:05 AM PST
mike240se says:
Can you elect to connect the sub woofer to the sound bar with a wire instead of wireless or is wireless required? I really dont get why companies dont give the option to connect the subs with a wire. I live in an apartment with near 25 wifi access points in range and am concerned this is going to be an issue (it's on it's way)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2013 4:52:26 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2013 5:16:16 PM PST
WARRZONE says:
@Iznbrth No, it works with any TV that has HDMI-CEC capability. Companies just like to call it something other than what it is. For example, LG calls it Simplink. Sony calls it Bravia Sync. Samsung calls it Anynet+.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2013 4:55:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2013 5:15:51 PM PST
WARRZONE says:
@Mike240se There is no option to connect it with a wire. I wish there was too. Bluetooth tends to compress sound, and you have to make sure you do not put the sub behind a chair because once someone sits in it, the signal may start to skip.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2013 5:15:24 PM PST
WARRZONE says:
@ChronoTrigger If I understand correctly, I believe you mean HDMI. Video passthrough is a major benefit. Wikipedia probably goes more into detail about the benefits of HDMI than I can. ARC would be used if you hooked up your PS4 or Chromecast directly to an HDMI port in your TV, and then your TV would output the sound through the special ARC port (it is usually labeled which HDMI port it is) to the sound bar.

HDMI is the gold standard now. The only thing I see replacing it is plain old ethernet (HDBaseT). The TV industry moves slowly, and it will be a while before those ports start to show up on consumer devices. Japan is already working on implementing and standardizing 8k.
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