Tech Review: Sony HT-MT300 Soundbar: Phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space

For a company like Sony to release a soundbar isn’t terribly surprising — every electronics maker and their Google Assistant speaker’s got one these days. What is surprising is the amount of forethought, of user consideration that has gone into Sony’s HT-MT300 soundbar. It’s thought about space, its thought about features, its thought about potential setup expansion.
For most people, choosing a soundbar comes down finding one that sounds great and is easy to work. For an entry level kit, Sony’s HT-MT300 ticks all the boxes. It’ll set you back around $450 AUD and for this you’ll receive an extremely compact soundbar and a wireless subwoofer designed to fit under the couch so that the bass lifts you off the damn ground.

It’s a soundbar with plenty of competition — LG and Samsung both have solid offerings in the same price range — and while Sony’s offering isn’t necessarily the best among them, this surprisingly well-rounded little speaker set gave me a lot to think about.

As stated, you get two distinct pieces of kit in the box. The first is the soundbar itself, measuring 50cm W x 5.4cm H x 10.3cm D. The second is the skinny subwoofer that you can place either an upright freestanding position or, if you have the clearance to do so, slide under your couch for maximum effect. The sub’s slender dimensions (9.3cm W x 38.3cm H x 36.8cm D) mean it should quite easily fit under most couches but measure it out ahead of time so you know for sure.

The soundbar is compact enough that you can fit it into your home theatre set up almost anywhere you want but if there’s a downside at all its that there’s no facility for wall mounting it. For most people, that’s not going to be an issue but for the five of you that are set on wall mounting everything, there you are.

The top of the soundbar features an array of capacitive touch buttons that let you set the volume, change input, power on/off and jump to Bluetooth. There are a series of orange LEDs that will tell you which input you’re currently on and which EQ (movies or music) you have active.

It’s not as pretty as some other soundbars out there — the Q Acoustics M3 still holds the crown in this regard — but its not trying to be. Rather than being eyecatching in its own right, the HT-MT300 wants nothing more than to blend quietly into your set up and go unnoticed.

Setting it up as about as easy as a home theatre build gets. Connect the soundbar to your TV using your TV’s optical audio port. Okay, part one complete. Part two: plug the subwoofer into a wall outlet for power and press the sync button to pair it to your soundbar. Part three: tell your TV to use the soundbar instead of its own internal speakers. That’s it. Setup complete.

Having the optical output is great and makes the setup hassle-free but if there’s a complaint to be made here is the lack of any HDMI ARC connection that would allow your home theatre set up to communicate better. It’s a minor omission and most consumers probably won’t think anything of it but the pickier customers out there should know that does mean an extra remote lying around in the living room. The good news is that the supplied remote is actually a proper one, not one of those pointless paper thin jobs with pea soup buttons that usually accompany kits like this.

Music streaming is easy via the Bluetooth connection and Android users can easily pair their phones with the built in NFC chip — just put your phone on top of the soundbar and agree to pair. There’s no Wi-Fi or Chromecast functionality here which is a bit of a shame but if you really want these features then you can get them in the next model up, Sony’s HT-MT500.

Alright, you’ve held out long enough. Let’s talk about how it sounds.

For watching films, the HT-MT300 really shines. Watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi on this kit was a wonderful experience, and a great showcase for the sound design work of that film. Action sequences are a riot of sound and you don’t lose anything when things die off and the sound retreats to lower levels. Cranking the sub to even 80% really put the sound proofing in my apartment to the test.

Even the most chaotic action sequences were a chance for the sub to really show off, deliver deep, booming bass. I was able to take the volume on the soundbar itself up quite a way before there was any noticeable distortion. For audiophiles and sound purists, the distortion is there but you’ll have to work it quite hard to get it to come out. In terms of immersion, I do wish the stage was a touch wider. The bar’s small size means that the pair of woofers inside are necessarily quite close together, putting in a war against physics that it simply can’t win. Ignore Sony’s blah blah about the unit’s S-Force Pro Virtual Surround Sound, it’s a gimmick. The sound stage is really narrow and they know it. Sony are far from the only audio maker pretending their 2.1 soundbar does proper surround, it’s just that others are better at maintaining the ruse. This means that the HT-MT300 makes for an excellent stereo setup but you wouldn’t get one of these to replace your traditional 5.1 set up. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it being a solid stereo offering, especially at this very reasonable price point, but pretending that it’s going to give you anything close to Dolby Atmos is hilariously optimistic at best and a brazen lie at worst.

These complaints aside, there’s so much to like about this soundbar. Its compact size lets you put it just about anywhere you like and the wireless sub allows for creative positioning and deep bass. It’s sounds great for film and for music consumption and as long as you’re going in aware that you won’t get the full surround sound effect, you’ll have a great time. For the kind of sound this unit can pump out, its priced very competitively and it’s a breeze to set up. It’s concentrating its efforts on all the right areas and it shows. An easy soundbar to recommend.

Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Great 2.1 sound; Solid subwoofer; Compact design
Lowlights: Don’t believe the marketing hype, it doesn’t actually do surround
Manufacturer: Sony
Price: $449 AUD RRP
Available: Now

Review conducted using a loaned retail review unit provided by the manufacturer. You can find out more about this product at the Sony Store.