Sony has solved my biggest problem with the Budget 5.1 setup and it works really well

One thing we learned during the epidemic is that no matter how good your TV is, if you don’t have an equally great sound system, you’ll miss going to the theater. For premium users, we have devices like Sennheiser Ambeo (Review), Samsung Q950A (Review) and even Sony HT-Z9F (Review). But not everyone wants to spend a premium on soundbars, especially when there are so many options available on a budget. With a budget of Rs 30,000, we have the choice of Sony HT-RT3, JBL Bar 2.1 and many more. Some of the soundbars mentioned here are the 2.1 setup, some a 5.1 setup whose back speakers connect to the system via physical cable (for budget offers). While I’m looking for a better 5.1 setup like the Sony HT-S20R (review), just managing for the speakers around the back can be a bit of a hassle. It looks like Sony has agreed and done something unique with the S40R – rear-rear speakers. Although wireless rear speakers are common in high-end soundbars, this is the first time I’ve seen them in a sub 30K soundbar. Their implementation, performance and gaps will be touched on in this review. Has Sony made it easy to set up a 5.1 home theater for more people without the hassle of cable management? Does this soundbar bring the theater home? Read on and find out!

Sony HT-S40R: Specification at a glance

Total maximum power: 600W
Soundbar weight: 2 kg
Subwoofer weight: 7.8 kg
Audio input: optical-audio input, analog audio input (stereo mini), USB type A, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC.
Soundbar dimensions: 900 x 52 x 74.5 mm
Dimensions of the subwoofer: 192 x 385 x 362 mm
HDMI input: 0
HDMI output (audio return channel): 1
HDMI input support: Dolby Digital, LPCM 2ch, Dolby Dual mono
Optical audio support: Dolby Digital, LPCM 2ch

Sony HT-S40R: Build and design

Just like we saw with Sony HT-S20R and Sony HT-S500RF (review) which we reviewed earlier, Sony has right, left and center channels in front of a single bar. The bar is wide and fits the length of a 43-inch TV We’re using this soundbar with a 43-inch Redmi TV and it flushes down the bottom of the TV to fit into my entertainment setup. The bar itself has a very traditional Sony look to it and it’s not a bad thing. In front of you is a grille up that covers the driver and has separate borders for the front right, left and center channels. The soundbar curves around the edges but it doesn’t have too many rounded edges which is nice. The grills covering the speakers are not wrapped around the bar as we have seen with the S20R. The soundbar is fairly thin and is designed for tight space under the TV. You can also wall-mount it.

Sony HT-S40R Soundbar Side

Just like the Sony Soundbar mentioned above, the main bar of the S40R connects to the subwoofer via a proprietary cable. As for the subwoofer, it’s similar in appearance and design to the one found in the S20R but heavier. In front of you is a subwoofer duct and above, we have a display. Next to the display is a USB port for music playback. At the top of your subwoofer and there are touch-sensitive controls All connection options are on the back of the subwoofer. The cable connecting the soundbar to the subwoofer is rather long. You’ll get a decently long HDMI cable in the box with the soundbar, but if your TV is mounted quite high, you might want to consider a longer cable. I still want the connectivity options to be behind the main soundbar like other bars, but considering the minimal design and compact form factor of the main bar, I think I’m getting used to the connectivity options on the subwoofer. Although it may not be the best way to hide the popping wires from the back of the TV.

Moving to the satellite speaker, this is where the story becomes very interesting. Gone are the days of just running the speakers under the carpet or hiding them under the sofa! The rear satellite speakers are connected to a wireless amplifier. All you have to do is connect the two satellite speakers to the wireless amplifier, connect the amplifier to a power source and you can go. The length of the cable connected to the satellite speaker is fairly long, so you don’t have to pull an extension cord near the speaker’s position.

Sony HT-S40R subwoofer.

In terms of design, the wireless amplifier is a bit heavy but you can wall-mount it if you want. It has only one power port, port for speaker, power and link buttons. It also has an LED light to indicate connection status.

The rear satellite speakers themselves are small and compact. The driver is covered by a mesh grille that doesn’t wrap around the speakers and they can feel light and faint, they’re actually decently built. You can wall-mount the satellite speakers if you wish.

Front of the Sony HT-S40R wireless amplifier.

Sony HT-S40R: Setup and connectivity options 7

For connectivity, the Sony HT-S40R has optical-audio input, analog audio input (stereo mini), USB Type A, HDMI ARC, optical port and Bluetooth 5.0.

For setup, attach the front soundbar to the back of the subwoofer. The wires and ports are color-coded. Keep the rear speakers in a comfortable position, especially at the height of your front ear. Connect the satellite speakers to the wireless amplifier and the amp to a power outlet. The amp will have a red light when you turn it on. If it turns green, don’t panic. Just power up the soundbar and you will see a steady green light which will let you know that the connection is stable. Or, you can just call the Sony Helpline number and request an installation!

Sony HT-S40R connectivity options.

Sony HT-S40R: Remote control

In the case of the remote control, this is exactly the same remote control that you get with the Sony HT-S20R. Plastic, minimal and compact which comes to mind when we hold it. The buttons are rubberized which makes them easy to press. The power and input buttons are at the top to make it easier to reach The remote gives you access to 5 different sound modes – Standard, Movie, Music, Voice and Night. There is also an auto sound mode. For a more immersive viewing experience there is a dimmer button that blurs the subwoofer’s display. There are other controls like playback and subwoofer controls.

Sony HT-S40R remote control.

Sony HT-S40R: Performance

To test the performance of the Sony HT-S40R, I have divided it into music, movies and gaming. We’ve played content from the Blu-ray movie to the streaming service, gaming via PS5, and more. Before we dive in, make sure I don’t notice any gaps in the surrounding speakers. Performance was just as good as a wired connection and when I used the HT-S40R, I didn’t notice any drop from the rear speakers either.

Sony HT-S40R: Music Performance

Sony is well known for making headphones, earphones and Bluetooth speakers, and translates the same legacy into its soundbars. You’ll find some extra bass from the soundbar that will appeal to most. I reduced the subwoofer settings a few points to remove the over current bass. Overall, the music from the soundbar and clever Sony can be described as good, which is a good thing. We’ve heard a lot of songs this time around like Wicked Games, Bad Habits, Asylum for the Feeling by Silent Poets and more. The instruments are clean, the voice is audible and the soundbar works well. If you’re the one who likes to listen to music from all the speakers, know that the audio comes from the surrounding speakers as well as the front left and right, which gives you quite an overall sound. For music, my personal favorite soundbar is the Yamaha YAS 209 But then again, that soundbar costs around 35K and it’s only 1 2.1 setup

Sony HT-S40R bar connection.

Sony HT-S40R: Movie Performance

I connected the Sony HT-S40R to the recently launched 43-inch Redmi TV that has an HDMI ARC port. I attached a PS5 (review) to the TV and used the console as my main media device. In the past, especially with budget soundbars, I’ve noticed that content from all speakers runs all the time and doesn’t give it an immersive experience, especially for the content mastered in 5.1. I am happy to say that this is not the case here. Considering the price of the soundbar, its performance is quite good. The separation of the channel from the surrounding speakers is obvious, although the separation of the channel from the front seems more narrow. I recommend placing the rear satellite speakers at a 45-degree angle behind you, with the driver facing you at ear height for the best experience around you. I bumped the rear satellite speaker to +6 (which is the highest) so I didn’t miss any details. The speakers were about 3-4 feet away from my listening position.

Ready Player One is a great example of good channel separation and the same thing happens here. Although the dialogs were a bit softer than I’d like in this sequence, you can’t manually bump the center channel alone. You can use voice mode in the soundbar to improve the sound, but at the cost of the rest of the effects. Although the soundbar has a bunch of presets like movie, standard, music etc. I found that it did a good job of judging the content placed in the auto preset and presenting it at its best. In the case of Ready Player One, the auto preset gave the same experience as the movie. The effects of flying cars around you are very obvious and jumping from left to right around gives a good experience.

Speakers around Sony HT-S40R.

The same is true for many action sequences on converted carbon in Netflix. When the bullets fly around the house, you can feel them. Another good example of a submerged channel breakup is when Batman enters the Dark Knight Rises motorcycle chase sequence. The change of sound of the motorcycle can be felt from your back to your front. Although the liquidity of the channel split is not as good as that of the Samsung Q950A, there is no comparison considering the price of the Samsung bar is Rs.1,00,000. But for comparison, considering the price of this soundbar, it is quite good.

Sony HT-S40R: Gaming Performance

When it comes to gaming, I played some games on the PS5 and the experience was a lot of fun. The soundbar can be loud and when it is kept at about 60-65 percent volume it fills the whole room. In a game like Ghost of Sushima, when you bring in the guiding air, it flows quite clearly from the surrounding speakers before hitting the front speakers. Even the archers who are shooting arrows jump on you. The only downside is that you have to keep the level of the surrounding speakers at +6 and keep them a little farther than the length of one arm to enjoy the surroundings. The more speakers you place around, the less likely they are to be present. Even on Dart 5 (review), you get quite a immersive experience with the cars moving around you. If you upgrade this soundbar from your TV speakers, you will definitely get a more immersive experience.

Sony HT-S40R Wireless Amplifier Connection.

Sony HT-S40R: Bottom line

On paper, the Sony HT-S40R looks like a successor to the Sony HT-RT3. The biggest advantage of this is the setup of the surrounding speakers. They connect to a wireless amplifier that connects wirelessly to the subwoofer, which we’ve seen in the Sony HT-S20R eliminates the need to physically connect the surrounding speakers to the subwoofer. Although the setup is not really wireless, it is very convenient. Very good considering the overall sound output price point from the soundbar. It can make punchy sound for movies, also good for gaming and music lovers. Its build may seem a bit plastic, but it doesn’t look cheap at all. It is convenient and easy to set up and comes with a 6ft HDMI cable in the box for ARC connection. The front channel separation can be a bit weak, the overall surround sound effects are good. If you have a Sony HT-RT3, you do not need to upgrade to it However, if you are looking for a good 5.1 soundbar below 30K to bring home the theater, then you must consider Sony HT-S40R.

Sony HT-S40R front of the soundbar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.