In order to maintain their sleek profiles, some soundbars take the idea of simplicity in home theater audio too far: They strip out all the extras that an audio-video receiver offers, such as a way to consolidate your HDMI connections or stream music via Bluetooth. Sony's HT-CT370 preserves those features and yet packs them in a streamlined design. Thanks in part to its wireless subwoofer, this soundbar also delivers improved sound for movies and TV.
The Sony HT-CT370 differentiates itself from other rectangular soundbars by opting for a diamond shape, thickest in the middle and thinner at the top and bottom. This means you can see and hear both the front and the top when you place the soundbar on a surface. The slim, 35.5 x 4.5 x 2-inch soundbar, wrapped in back fabric, looked great with a 42-inch TV, but it appeared a bit undersized when placed on a shelf below my 55-inch Panasonic P55ST60. You can also mount the soundbar on the wall above or below the TV.
Sony placed three HDMI inputs on the back of the soundbar, along with an HDMI output to connect to your TV. If you don't have HDMI, you can connect to your TV through an optical digital audio or a 3.5mm analog audio input. You select your input source using the button on top of the soundbar, via the remote control or Sony's free SongPal app for Android and iOS.
The display on the front, beneath the fabric but still easily readable, indicates which input is active. The readout is a big improvement over the limited feedback provided by other soundbars, such as the JBL Cinema SB100. You also rely on the display if you're using the remote control to adjust tone and level.
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Unfortunately, even if you've connected the soundbar to your TV by HDMI, the HT-CT370 doesn't offer an onscreen display, something JBL's Cinema SB400 does offer. If you find the display limiting, the SongPal app provides a more visual approach to tweaking the settings, via Bluetooth.
Remote and Subwoofer
The bundled remote offers plenty of functions. In addition to power and volume, you can switch quickly among sound modes to help improve the sound quality. The remote can be programmed to turn your TV on or off and change channels, and can control music playback on a device you've connected to the soundbar through Bluetooth.
To boost low-end frequencies, Sony includes a narrow wireless subwoofer. At just 15.6 inches tall x 14.3 inches deep x 5.4 inches wide, it's easy to hide in a corner. The subwoofer doesn't have any controls; you manage the volume through the remote control.
Setup and Use
You can use the Sony HT-CT370 as a hub for three HDMI devices. For example, I plugged in my cable box, Blu-ray player and Roku into the soundbar, then connected the soundbar to my TV.
To pair with the wireless subwoofer, press "amp menu" on the remote, toggle to the "WS" setting and start the link process. On the back of the subwoofer, press the "link" button, and the two should connect.
The HT-CT370 can pair with a mobile device or computer via Bluetooth for music playback. I quickly paired it with both Android and iOS devices. An NFC-equipped Android device offers the fastest pairing option; just place the mobile device on top of the speaker to initiate the process. To pair with an iOS device, press "pairing" on the remote and find SONY:HT-CT370 in your Bluetooth menu under Other Devices.
Once I connected everything, I needed to adjust the tone settings to get the best sound from the system. The defaults produced sound that was too bright and didn't take advantage of the extra bass the subwoofer could provide. I increased the volume of the subwoofer to 10 out of a max 13 and reduced the treble to -3. I also found that the ClearAudio+ sound field worked best for most TV shows, movies and music, even though the unit offers separate settings for movies, music, sports and more.
Once I made some adjustments, the HT-CT370 delivered very good sound, with one quirk. The soundbar boosts dialogue well, making it easy to understand people speaking on screen. But, dialogue lacks resonance that other systems with subwoofers like Vizio's S4251wB4 add. For example, Peter Coyote's narration to Ken Burns' The Roosevelts: An Intimate Story sounded tinny instead of robust.
In action scenes during Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the subwoofer kicked in to fill the room with depth and vibration. The problem likely lies in the crossover setting between the main soundbar and the subwoofer, but the unit doesn't feature an adjustment for that.
When the subwoofer engaged, the system delivered solid bass and low-end effects as well as crisp treble tones, especially during action sequences. As Barbossa's cursed pirates marched underwater to attack the British in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, the background music swelled as swords clanked crisply, creating an engaging audio accompaniment to the visuals.
Though the system doesn't have rear speakers, it imitated surround sound well enough that I could hear the subtle clicking foreshadowing the arrival of the spiders of Murkwood in The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug.
The HT-CT370 also performs well for music listening. The two channels in the main soundbar created excellent stereo separation on Jimmy Page's swirling guitar during Led Zeppelin’s "What Is and What Should Never Be," while the subwoofer boomed out the beat on Aphex Twins' "CIRCLONT6A[141.98][syrobonkus mix]."
With 300 total watts of power, the Sony unit gets loud; compare that to the 60 watts delivered by Vizio's S4251wB4. I found that half-volume was more than loud enough to fill my living room with sound.
Sony's HT-CT370 delivers what you want from a soundbar: It improves the sound quality of movies, TV and music without requiring the space of a dedicated home theater system. With its integrated HDMI inputs and Bluetooth, if offers more connectivity options than most soundbars, especially at this price. If you don't need HDMI, Vizio's $300 S4251wB4 may be a better choice. Sony's soundbar delivers marginally better sound than the Vizio, but the latter offers true 5.1 surround sound for less money. Still, if you're looking to stay under $400, the Sony HT-CT370 is a solid choice.