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Sony HT-S400 Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.2
Review updated Jul 06, 2023 at 12:29 pm
Latest change: Writing modified Jul 06, 2023 at 12:29 pm
Sony HT-S400 Picture

The Sony HT-S400 is an entry-level model released as part of Sony's 2022 lineup. It's also available at Costco as the Sony HT-SC40. You'll get built-in support for Sony's S-Force Pro Front Surround technology, which uses psychoacoustic principles to widen the soundstage past the edges of the bar itself, similar to Samsung's Acoustic Beam. There's no Dolby Atmos support to help you enjoy immersive object-based sound common to streaming platforms, though, and you won't find as many features as with Sony's top-of-the-line models.

Our Verdict

N/A Mixed Usage

The Sony HT-SC40 is okay for mixed usage. It's a simple 2.1 bar that's pretty limited regarding audio format support and sound enhancement tools, so it's best suited for listening to stereo content like music and TV shows. Still, it's a solid upgrade over existing TV speakers, with a clear reproduction of vocals and instruments in your favorite content. The extra emphasis in the high-bass adds some boom to the mix, though it's missing some rumble in the low-bass. Even with its S-Force Pro Front Surround, you still don't get a very immersive feel with surround sound formats like Dolby Digital.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Subwoofer level adjustment.
Cons
  • Limited sound enhancement features.
  • Poor surround sound.
N/A Dialogue/TV Shows

The Sony HT-SC40 is satisfactory for dialogue-focused TV shows and podcasts. With its balanced mids, voices reproduce quite clearly and accurately, and there's even a dialogue enhancement tool called 'Voice' on hand. If you're watching shows at night, you can use the 'Night' tool to balance the volume level between extremes to avoid bothering those around you. There's no center channel, so you don't get the same vocal clarity as with more premium models.

Pros
  • Dialogue enhancement tool.
  • Night mode.
Cons
  • Limited sound enhancement features.
  • No discrete center channel.
N/A Music

The Sony HT-SC40 is decent for music. Its balanced mids offer clear and detailed vocals and lead instruments, making it suitable for listening to most genres. There's also a little extra boom in the upper bass range, so you feel the punch in bass-heavy genres like EDM. Its sub struggles to reproduce lower frequencies, so you don't feel the low-bass with the same intensity as other models. Also, there aren't a lot of sound enhancement features on hand.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Subwoofer level adjustment.
Cons
  • Limited sound enhancement features.
  • Lacks low-bass.
N/A Movies

The Sony HT-SC40 is okay for movies. It supports Dolby Digital, the most common surround sound format found on many different streaming platforms. However, it has to downmix 5.1 surround into stereo to play it, which doesn't sound as immersive. It doesn't support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, either, so you can't enjoy more immersive object-based formats, which are also quite common on streaming services.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Subwoofer level adjustment.
Cons
  • No Atmos support.
  • Poor surround sound.
  • N/A Mixed Usage
  • N/A Dialogue/TV Shows
  • N/A Music
  • N/A Movies
  1. Updated Jul 06, 2023: Minor text updates to the review for clarity. No changes in test results.
  2. Updated Jun 07, 2023: Converted to Test Bench 1.2. Updated the results for audio format support via ARC/eARC, HDMI In, and Optical. Added Video Passthrough to TV results as well.
  3. Updated Mar 07, 2023: Added cable lengths to In The Box.
  4. Updated Mar 06, 2023: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. With this update, we've added a Mounting test and added information aboutSubwoofer Output, Spotify Connect, and Microphone Mute.
  5. Updated Jul 12, 2022: Review published.
  6. Updated Jul 05, 2022: Early access published.
  7. Updated Jun 14, 2022: Our testers have started testing this product.
  8. Updated Jun 13, 2022: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  9. Updated Jun 09, 2022: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

This soundbar is available in Black. You can see the label for the model we tested here.

There's also a Costco-exclusive version called the Sony HT-SC40. We expect it to perform similarly to this model.

If you encounter another version of this soundbar, let us know in the forums, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The Sony HT-S400 is a simple 2.1 soundbar that's ideal for stereo content like music and TV shows. That said, it lacks a lot of enhancement tools, even compared to other budget models, so you don't have a lot of ability to control its sound, and there aren't rear speakers available. It's a solid bar, but for the price, other options like the Vizio V Series V51-H6 offer a lot more.

See our recommendations for the best budget soundbars, the best Sony soundbars, and the best soundbars with subwoofers.

Sony HT-G700

The Sony HT-G700 is better than the Sony HT-S400. The HT-G700 is a 3.1 bar with a discrete center channel to improve vocal clarity. Also, it supports Dolby Atmos content, so you can take advantage of more immersive object-based formats often found on streaming platforms. It's better built, too.

Samsung HW-Q700A

The Samsung HW-Q700A is better than the Sony HT-S400. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 bar, and unlike the 2.1 Sony, it has a discrete center channel to improve vocal clarity. Also, it supports more audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos content. There are more sound enhancement features, too, including a graphic EQ to customize its sound.

Sony HT-S350

The Sony HT-S400 and the Sony HT-S350 are both 2.1 bars with similar features. The S400 is a bit better overall since it reproduces a more extended low-bass to help you feel more rumble in the mix. Its sound is also more neutral and balanced, especially in the treble range, so it sounds less dark than the S350.

Samsung HW-A650

The Samsung HW-A650 is better than the Sony HT-S400. The Samsung is a 3.1 bar, and unlike the 2.1 Sony, it has a discrete center channel to improve dialogue clarity in the mix. It also has more sound enhancement features, including a graphic EQ to customize its sound.

Vizio V Series V51x-J6

The Vizio V Series V51x-J6 is better than the Sony HT-S400. Unlike the Sony, the Vizio is a 5.1 setup with discrete satellites, so it has a better surround sound performance. It reproduces more low-bass to add more punch to action-packed scenes. There are more sound enhancement features and DTS support, which the Sony soundbar lacks. You can get a lot more from the Vizio model for a similar price.

Samsung HW-Q600A

The Samsung HW-Q600A is better than the Sony HT-S400. The Samsung is a more versatile 3.1.2 bar, with a discrete center channel to help improve vocal clarity compared to the Sony. Unlike the Sony soundbar, it has Atmos support, meaning you can take advantage of object-based formats found on many different streaming platforms. There are more sound enhancement features, too.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Sony HT-S400 is a simple black soundbar that's mostly made of plastic. The plastic looks good, but it feels a little cheap when you touch it. There's a metal grille that wraps around the sides as well.

Design
Style - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Locked
Enclosure
Locked

The subwoofer is plain and is built of a mix of wood and plastic. The port is on the front, and a metal grille protects the speaker above it.

Design
Style - Satellites
Satellite Wireless
Locked
Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width Lock" (Lock cm)
Height Lock" (Lock cm)
Depth Lock" (Lock cm)

The bar is a bit wide, so it doesn't fit between the legs of many 55" TVs. It isn't very tall, so it doesn't obscure your TV screen.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width Lock" (Lock cm)
Height Lock" (Lock cm)
Depth Lock" (Lock cm)

The sub is about the size of an average desktop computer. It connects to the bar wirelessly, so you just need to plug it into a power outlet to use it.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Mounting
Mountable Bar
Locked
Bar Brackets Included
Locked
Mountable Satellites
Locked
Satellite Brackets Included
Locked

You can mount the bar to your wall, but you'll have to buy the brackets separately.

N/A
Design
Build Quality

This setup has a decent build quality. The bar's mostly made of plastic, which feels a bit cheap, especially compared to more premium soundbars, but that's expected for the price. The metal grille on the sides helps protect the drivers inside, which is a nice touch. The sub feels pretty solid, too.

Design
In The Box

  • Manuals
  • Remote with 2x AAA batteries
  • 2x power cables (4.9 ft / 1.5m)
  • Optical cable (4.9 ft / 1.5m)

Sound
N/A
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
Channels
2.1
Low-Frequency Extension
Lock Hz
High-Frequency Extension
Lock kHz

The Sony HT-S400 has a decent stereo frequency response. The overall sound is pleasing with stereo content, with balanced mids that reproduce vocals and lead instruments with clarity. There's extra emphasis in the mid-to-high bass range, adding extra boom to the mix. The subwoofer is pretty one-note, thoughโ€”you notice the lack of rumble in the low-bass, especially with bass-centric tracks like EDM.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Locked
Suggested Bass Setting
Lock
Suggested Treble Setting
N/A
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
Low-Frequency Extension
Lock Hz
High-Frequency Extension
Lock kHz

The Sony HT-S400 gets the closest to a neutral sound profile with its default settings. It is a bit bassy, so you can always use its subwoofer level adjustment feature if you prefer a different sound.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
Lock dB

The bar has a decent stereo soundstage. It comes with Sony's always-on surround mode called S-Force Pro Front Surround, which uses psychoacoustics principles to expand the soundstage like similar features from other manufacturers. Sound seems wider than the bar itself, which is good, but it doesn't stretch to the walls of your room. The focus is decent, too, so sound effects seem to come from a more general region than an accurate, pinpoint location in the soundstage.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
Lock dB

This soundbar gets loud enough to fill a large room with sound, and there isn't a lot of compression when you push it to max volume. As a result, audio reproduction remains clean and pure, even when you crank up the volume.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

This soundbar has a good stereo THD performance. Distortion falls within good limits at a normal listening volume, so audio reproduction is clean and pure. As with most bars, there's a slight jump when you push the bar to max volume. Distortion is pretty hard to hear with real-life content, especially if you're a more casual listener, so it's not a huge deal.

N/A
Sound
Center
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

Since it's a 2.1 bar, this soundbar doesn't have a discrete center channel to improve vocal clarity. Instead, it uses its left and right stereo channels to simulate a 'phantom' center channel. The resulting sound isn't as clear or as real. Overall, voices are still fairly clear and accurate, though a little muddy due to the extra emphasis in the bass range.

N/A
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock
7.1 Rears
Locked

This 2.1 setup doesn't shine with surround sound, which is by design. It has to downmix 5.1 content like Dolby Digital into stereo in order to play it. As a result, you don't get a very clear or real sound. Audio seems like it's coming from a speaker placed in front of you, rather than from all around your room. The frequency response on these channels is also quite bass-heavy, which adds a boomy, muddy quality to the sound.

N/A
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Locked
Slope
N/A
Std. Err.
N/A
SPL @ Max Volume
N/A
Weighted THD @ 80dB
N/A
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
N/A
N/A
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
Locked
Dialogue Enhancement
Locked
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Locked
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Locked
Bass Adjustment
Locked
Treble Adjustment
Locked
EQ
Locked
Surround Level Adjustment
Locked
Rear Level Adjustment
Locked
Height Level Adjustment
Locked
Virtual Surround
Locked

It's a simple soundbar without a lot of sound enhancement features. You can adjust its subwoofer levels through the button on the remote that reads 'Bass', but this feature only controls the amount of bass reproduced by the sub, not the bar. The remote also gives you access to its dialogue enhancement mode (called 'Voice') and its night mode, which balances the volume level in your programs. You can't adjust the amount of bass reproduced by the bar, and you can't control the treble. The S-Force Pro Front Surround feature doesn't turn off, either.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Inputs/Outputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
Locked
HDMI Out
Locked
HDMI 2.1 Class Bandwidth
Locked
Full HDMI In
Locked
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
Locked
RCA In
Locked
USB for Files
Locked
Ethernet
Locked
Subwoofer Output
Locked

This bar has a limited selection of physical inputs. You can connect the bar to your TV over Optical or HDMI, which is nice. However, there's no Full HDMI In for video passthrough, and you can't wire other devices like smartphones with an AUX port.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: ARC/eARC
Dolby Atmos
Locked
Dolby Digital
Locked
Dolby Digital Plus
Locked
Dolby TrueHD
Locked
DTS
Locked
DTS:X
Locked
DTS-HD MA
Locked
PCM Channels
Locked

This soundbar supports Dolby Digital over ARC. Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format, so you're likely to come across it on most streaming platforms and some Blu-ray discs. However, there's no support for lossless or object-based formats like Dolby Atmos.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Locked
Dolby Digital
Locked
Dolby Digital Plus
Locked
Dolby TrueHD
Locked
DTS
Locked
DTS:X
Locked
DTS-HD MA
Locked
PCM Channels
Locked
N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: Optical
Dolby Digital
Locked
DTS
Locked
PCM Channels
Locked

Over optical, this soundbar supports Dolby Digital. It's the most commonly-used surround sound format, but since it's a 2.1 bar, it has to downmix it to stereo to play it.

N/A
Connectivity
Latency
- SAMPLE -
Get Insider Access for videos & test results
Sony HT-S400 Latency Video Sample
ARC
Lock ms
Optical
Lock ms
Full HDMI In
N/A

The bar has a decent latency performance, and the audio you hear is mostly in sync with the video you see. During our testing, we initially obtained higher-than-expected results with a Samsung Q80T TV, so we retried the bar with several other TVs to see how it performed. The results above represent the bar's performance with an LG NANO90 2021, which aligns more with what we see on the screen. Latency drops further when you pair the bar with a compatible BRAVIA TV over Bluetooth. Some apps and TVs compensate for latency differently, which is why these results seem so different across TV brands.

N/A
Connectivity
Video Passthrough To TV
1080p Max Refresh Rate
Locked
1080p @ 4:4:4 Max Refresh Rate
Locked
4k Max Refresh Rate
Locked
4k @ 120Hz @ 10-Bit
Locked
4k @ 4:4:4 Max Refresh Rate
Locked
8k Max Refresh Rate
Locked
HDR10 Passthrough
Locked
HDR10+ Passthrough
Locked
Dolby Vision Passthrough
Locked
HDMI Forum VRR Passthrough
Locked
FreeSync Passthrough
Locked
G-SYNC Passthrough
Locked
ALLM Passthrough
Locked

Without a Full HDMI In port, this bar can't serve as a hub between your TV and other devices for video passthrough.

N/A
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Locked
Wi-Fi Playback
Locked
Chromecast built-in
Locked
Apple AirPlay
Locked
Spotify Connect
Locked

You can wirelessly stream audio to the bar via Bluetooth. If you're an avid Apple or Google user, there's no Chromecast or AirPlay compatibility.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Locked

There's a small display screen on the front of the bar. It reads out the settings as you change them.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

There are some physical controls on top of the bar to let you control its basic features. You can power the bar on/off, change the input, pair it with a Bluetooth device, and adjust the volume.

Additional Features
Remote

The remote is fairly simple and lets you control all the bar's features. For example, you can turn it on and off, adjust the volume, and access different enhancement features like night mode and dialogue enhancement. There's no companion app to control the bar from your phone, though.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
Locked
Google Assistant
Locked
Apple Siri
Locked
Microphone Mute
Locked