Inputs and Features8.2/10
Price / Quality8.6/10
- Simple to use
- Compact size
- Good performance for its size
- Slim factor subwoofer
- Not very expansive soundstage
- Surround sound non existent
- Bass could be more punchy
- No HDMI port
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It seems that with soundbars being so popular nowadays manufacturers are hard at work in providing models that can perform closer to a fully fledged surround system. This means becoming bigger, with more speakers, more options and in general more functionality that would bring them closer in offering an experience equal to a real home theater system. But not everyone can afford such a unit and simply want something that would make their sound experience a bit better than what the average TV audio system can offer. And this is where Sony comes into play as today in our Sony HT-MT300 review we will be looking at a soundbar that puts its compact size at the forefront of its strengths.
This unit must be one of the shortest soundbars we have seen to this day and Sony was smart at creating a design that would fit in almost all spaces and under any kind of TV size. But they have not stopped there as creating such a small soundbar would mean that a similar design would have to be made for the included subwoofer also. And indeed they have as the one that comes with this model is one of the smaller sized subwoofers we have seen, in fact it’s so small that Sony even advertises it as capable at fitting under your sofa for extra space saving.
The Sony HT-MT300 is the simpler of the two HT-MT models, with the MT500 being the more advanced of the two, and is basically a 2.1 channels soundbar with it’s compact design being its most notable and strong characteristic, it uses S-Force PRO Front Surround technology, it is NFC-enabled for easy connection with your mobile device and uses Bluetooth for streaming music.
It seems that compact design and simplicity is the two major strengths of the HT-MT300 and so we are curious how its size really affects its performance. So without further delay let’s start our review.
Design, Inputs and Features
The Sony HT-MT300 certainly impresses with its overall compact design but in general we are talking about a low cost, budget friendly soundbar and as such in terms of overall design quality and materials used we get the standard you should expect in this category. Sony paid a lot of attention at keeping its footprint as small as possible and this is the main focus here.
The MT300 is definitely the shortest soundbar we have reviewed to this day and measures just 19.69 x 2.13 x 4.06″ (500 mm × 54 mm × 103 mm) which makes it ideal for any TV of any size. And with a weight of just 3.09 lb (1.4 kg) it is as easy to handle as any soundbar could ever be. And with such a small size it’s not only ideal for small sized TVs but it can also fit in relatively small cabinets which is definitely a plus for many that have small furniture under their TVs. And if you add the fact that its missing any kind of side or up-firing drivers the MT300 gives you plenty of placement flexibility.
The main material used here is obviously plastic but at least Sony put the effort in making it look a bit more interesting. Overall the soundbar has very rounded corners and nice modern lines while the entire front side is covered in a metal perforated grille that wraps slightly to the sides. Looks overall is very minimal and never attracts attention.
The top side is covered in plastic but what is interesting is that Sony instead of using a simple plastic shell decided to go for a fake looking leather texture plastic. On the one hand from a distance this can fool you into believing this is real leather and definitely ups the overall quality feel of the unit but when you actually touch it, this fake leather plastic feels cheaper than having a simple smooth surface. So you gain something and you loose something else. Also on the right side of the top face we find the built-in buttons that are touch sensitive and while they may look better than physical buttons they can be a real pain to use in a dark environment.
Also at the center of the top side we find the NFC symbol where you place your mobile device in order to connect to the soundbar automatically while at the front center corner we get some function LED indicators that act as the display of the unit. There are six LEDs available for TV, Bluetooth, USB, Analog, Movie and Music. But these LEDs not only indicate a specific function by themselves as there are combinations of them that indicate different status of the device. We are not very fond of this type of display as many times you will have to look at the manual to find out what the unit is doing and we would prefer a full front display instead.
Turning the unit around, the back is also pretty simple with all the connections being grouped together towards the center of the unit. There are no IR repeaters here but most probably you will not need them as the soundbar is already too small to obstruct your TVs sensor but as this is aimed for even small sized TVs you should make sure that you will not have such a problem later on. We like that the power connector is close together with the rest of the connectors as this helps with cable management while to the right of them there is a small grille, probably as a cooling solution.
Lastly we should not forget to mention about the subwoofer which definitely has a unique size. If the MT300 was the smallest soundbar we had seen to date the subwoofer that comes with it is definitely the slimmest design we have tested also and there is a reason for that. Sony wanted to create a sub that can be placed almost everywhere and this means even under your sofa!
The subwoofer is very slim and uses a similar fake leather exterior texture for its plastic shell. At the front there is a big air port while the included driver is looking sideways (or upwards depending how you place it) and is covered by a perforated fabric grille. The dimensions of the subwoofer are 3.74 x 15.08 x 14.37″ (95 mm × 383 mm × 365 mm) and with a weight of 10.80 lb (4.9 kg) it couldn’t be any easier to handle and place it in your room.
The HT-MT300 was not designed to look premium but to fit almost everywhere and we think that Sony had a real success in creating such a unit. With such a short soundbar and slim subwoofer it’s almost impossible not to find some spot to place them both and if there is one downside when it comes to its placement flexibility is the fact that the MT300 cannot be wall mounted so placing it on a furniture is your only option.
The MT300 is a simple 2.1 channels soundbar with the main unit supporting the two main channels and the subwoofer to assist on the low frequencies. There are no side firing or upwards Atmos speakers here so what you get is the absolute basics. The MT300 is rated at 100 watts (reference) of total power with the main unit and subwoofer coming at 50 watts each. The 50 watts of the main unit are spread equally across the two main channels at 25 W per channel at 4 ohms, 1 kHz.
With such a simple unit you should not have high expectations of the hardware being used. The MT300, due to it’s low profile, opts for two 40 x 100mm oval drivers in order to be able to keep good performance in a smaller factor. These two drivers have the responsibility for all mid-range and high end as there are no dedicated high frequency tweeters here.
As for the subwoofer, that one uses a 120 mm (4 3/4 in) cone type woofer responsible for all the low end action. Using such a small driver in a subwoofer is not usual but keep in mind that what we have here is not your typical subwoofer either. So it will be interesting to see how this one can do on the lower end.
Not much to comment on here as the soundbar is using some very basic hardware for its very basic audio configuration. What matters is how all these translate into real performance.
The MT300 aims for simplicity and as such connectivity options were bound to be extremely limited. From left to right the MT300 includes a USB port that can be used for USB streaming, a stereo analog audio input, a digital optical input and a rounded power connector.
Obviously the main means of connection here is the optical port. The soundbar lacks the ability to decode anything else other than simple Dolby Digital so it seems that Sony felt that the optical port would suffice. And while this may be true from a pure capabilities point of view, HDMI has become such a prevalent port nowadays that one would greatly benefit the system. And with the lack of a HDMI port we also miss the included ARC functionality that could be of such a great use in a soundbar.
As for its wireless capabilities the MT300 has built-in Bluetooth functionality that supports SBC, AVRCP and A2DP(SINK) but no WiFi as it lacks any kind of online capabilities.
A very basic setup for a very basic soundbar. The lack of a HDMI definitely hurts the unit as it is widely used nowadays and thus limits the connectivity options available a lot.
Let’s see next what means of controlling this unit are there. Keep in mind that the low cost nature of the MT300 does not allow for much and with Sony’s intention to keep things as simple as possible it means that certain, more advanced, features would be left out.
The included remote is using a simple design with its long cubic design and its quality seems to be on par with the soundbar itself. Nothing that will impress you but to be honest we have seen much worse in this category so the one that Sony provides is adequate and gets the job done.
Plastic is the main material used here while it features circular rubber buttons. Their size could be slightly bigger as we feel they are a bit small for the available space but they have good distance between them to avoid accidental commands. Obviously the remote lacks any kind of backlight functionality so using it in the dark can be a bit troublesome.
As the soundbar lacks a lot of functions the available buttons on the remote are enough to include almost everything you need with the press of a button. This ups the simplicity the MT300 provides even more which is good if this is what you are looking for. Except from the volume controls all other buttons feature the same circular design so it takes a bit of use to figure out what each button does.
Overall the remote is nothing impressive but it’s functional, responsive and sturdy enough.
Except from the remote there are also the usual built-in buttons that you can use for some basic functions. These buttons are located at the right side of the top face and they are touch sensitive which is a bit surprising in this price category. Having touch sensitive buttons is a doubled edged sword as they may look nice during the day and make the unit have a slightly more premium feel but trying to find them in the dark will leave you more in frustration than anything else.
The buttons available on the main unit include an input selector, Bluetooth functionality, volume controls and a power button on the far right.
The unit can also be controlled through an available mobile app called Sony Music Center (SongPal). The app will connect to the soundbar through the Bluetooth connection as there is no WiFi available and lets you control various functions of the unit like managing sound settings and listening music through the USB port.
The soundbar lacks any kind of voice control functionality and there is also no HDMI-CEC that you could use in combination with another device remote as the unit lacks any HDMI ports. So in essence the remote is the main and only means of control with the addition of the built-in buttons and the Music Center app for some of its functions.
Extra Features and Services
The soundbar’s simplicity is its main strength. So unlike other models when it comes to features and extra functions things looks a bit on the light side. So let’s see what is actually there.
First of all let’s see what kind of audio formats the unit can support. Obviously with the MT300 2.1 channels audio setup we couldn’t expect anything out of the ordinary and this is actually true as we get only Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual Mono and PCM support. The available optical port couldn’t allow for anything more anyway but we are disappointed to see that there is no DTS support. In this day and age both Dolby Digital and DTS should be a standard for even the most low budget units. For DTS sound you have to set your TV (or any source device) to PCM to get any audio signal.
The MT300 comes with Sony’s proprietary S-Force PRO Front Surround technology in order to give you a sense of surround audio. S-Force Front Surround is a technology that emulates a three-dimensional sound field in a way that users can enjoy 360°of full surround sound with only two front speakers. Basically, in simple terms, this is Sony’s virtual audio technology and is widely used in cheaper solutions in order to give more value to a unit that doesn’t have the necessary hardware to render surround sound how it is supposed to.
Now in most cases we are not very fond of these virtual surround technologies but some people do like them and there is certain content that can slightly benefit from it so it’s good to see Sony including this one here.
The unit also comes with a few sound modes that we need to talk about. There are three basic sound modes available with a few more that can be used in certain situations. The three main include ClearAudio+ which is Sony’s recommended sound field. The sound field is automatically optimized according to playback content and function. There is also the Movie mode with which sounds are played back with surround effects, and they are realistic and powerful, making them suitable for movies. And lastly there is Music mode with which sound effects are optimized for listening to music.
But that’s not all there is to it. We also get a Night mode where sound is output at low volume with minimum loss of fidelity and clarity of dialogue and is ideal for late night viewing, Voice mode which makes dialogue clearer and a Dolby DRC (Dynamic Range Control) mode. This mode works only when a Dolby Digital signal is detected through the optical port and when you set Dolby DRC (Dynamic Range Control) to on, dynamic range of the audio signal (range between the maximum and minimum volume) is compressed and sound with low volume is easy to hear.
Lastly we shouldn’t forget to mention the Sofa mode which essentially tells the soundbar in which position you have set the subwoofer, standing or lay-down.
A couple of extra features that are worthy of mention is the ability to stream music through a Bluetooth connection but Sony took this a step further by including NFC One-touch connectivity. This means that pairing your mobile device with the Sony soundbar is as easy as touching your device on the top of the MT300 and the pairing is done. Obviously your mobile device must also support NFC connectivity for that to work.
Lastly there is USB streaming available although a bit limited to what kind of audio files can be used. According to Sony only MP3 , WMA and WAV (LPCM) files are supported and going through some of our files this seems to be the case. This is not HiFi equipment by any means so most users will use low quality MP3 files the most and in this case the MT300 had no problems reproducing them.
Not a whole lot to say here. The unit is obviously thin in extra features and it is obvious that Sony went for almost the basics in order to keep things as simple as possible.
A soundbar is meant for simplicity and the MT300 was designed to provide you just that. The unit is so small so unpacking and placing both the main bar along with the subwoofer could not be easier. After we powered both of them the subwoofer will connect with the main unit through a wireless connection but even in the case of interference Sony has provided another stronger way of connection called Secure Link which is a neat option to have as there are many consumers that have trouble with their wireless subwoofers in general.
As for connecting the soundbar we used the optical port of our Panasonic UHD player which basically is the only way in order to get a surround signal into the soundbar. After all connections were made there is nothing else you have to do other than choosing the appropriate sound mode. Keep in mind that there is no any audio calibration system here so any adjustments have to be made manually. So after all is said and done we were ready to proceed with our movie testing.
First in line for testing is no other than the 4K UHD version of Saving Private Ryan with its amazing Dolby Atmos mix. In our case all we get is the core Dolby Digital track and this is what we will judge the MT300 with.
Let’s start with the front soundstage first. The unit can become pretty loud when a scene asks for it and this is impressive for the size of the unit. The audio came out pretty clear with no obvious distortion at normal levels but the sound felt pretty confined at the center which lowers the overall immersion. The size of the unit did not help with stereo separation as the two front channels were too close to give you a wider sound wall and good distinction between the channels.
This was very evident when the Allied soldiers landed on Omaha beach and bullets started flying around from the German machine guns. You couldn’t feel very clearly the sound travelling from one channel to the other. The effect was there but it was far less pronounced than other soundbars we had previously reviewed.
Channel separation was ok but nothing exciting. Again the proximity of the two channels does not help and there were times you get the feeling that everything originates from a single position.
When it comes to surround activity the unit lacks any real surround speakers so it only has to settle with Sony’s virtual technology called S-Force PRO Front Surround that we talked about above. How this fared? We were not surprised to see that this had little effect in creating any kind of immersive atmosphere. The soundbar tried to give more volume and make audio sound more directional but in reality we only got a very tiny improvement over very specific scenes so don’t expect any major surprises here.
On the low end the subwoofer did a good job by providing satisfying bass even if it was not the most thunderous performance we have heard. When the German artillery was pounding the beach each explosion had a nice thump and good weight to it even if overall the sound didn’t come as raw and menacing as we would like.
As for the rest of the frequencies we cannot say that the MT300 managed to impress us but it didn’t disappoint either. Everything felt in good balance with the unit hitting some very obvious limitations due to its quality and price category which is obviously normal.
For our second test we went with Transformers: The Last Knight in its 4K UHD version. While may will argue about the actual quality of the film none can say anything about how spectacular its Dolby Atmos mix is. Once again we only get the core Dolby Digital mix here but this is completely fine by us.
Now this is Transformers so there is plenty of action to go around and the MT300 is capable at producing much noise for its size. The front soundstage filled with explosions and laser fire. Dialogue was pretty distinct even through all these audio cacophony while overall clarity and resolution were at good levels. Once again we found the front a bit narrow and stereo separation a bit problematic. The movies has a lot of panning effects but the MT300 had trouble rendering all of them with great precision in order to actually make you sense how these effects travel across the room.
Surround activity was not there and all action was focused at the front. In some rare cases some effects could be felt a bit closer to the viewing position but there was no clear over the shoulder activity at all. The virtual technology that the MT300 comes with unfortunately is not capable at creating a convincing three dimensional bubble. Maybe in a narrower room with more close walls it could fare better but this depends a lot on your room acoustics so the results are not guaranteed no matter what.
On the low end the experience was pretty satisfying. You will get the necessary shaking when the moment asks for it but the subwoofer lacks the necessary power that would keep you on the edge of your seat. For the casual viewer it will be just fine but for the demanding moviegoer it will feel like it lacks in overall punch and authority.
The Sony HT-MT300 may not be as impressive as someone may expect from a soundbar but if you consider the size that Sony had to work with then certainly reconsider. There is obvious improvement over your TV audio but ultimately the soundbar cannot provide any meaningful surround experience. But if you don’t care much about that and you just want something better than the TV audio then this unit will give you more than its size dictates.
Let’s move on to our music tests now. Now since there is no High Resolution Audio support here we are limited into using some old plain MP3 files in the best quality possible and stream them through the USB port available.
The first impression you get from the MT300 is that it’s like hearing music from a good quality music speaker instead of a soundbar. By that we mean that the MT300 fails to expand the soundstage in front of us in any meaningful way but it manages to provide a better acoustic result from what the TV speakers can do. The size of the soundbar is not helping into expanding the sound more than the actual physical limits of the unit and everything feels confined at the center or wherever you have placed it.
What we actually get is clear sound even at higher volume levels but the unit was lacking much in dynamics and details. If you are not particularly picky, and with such a unit you shouldn’t, then there is nothing wrong with it and it will provide you the necessary music enjoyment. You just need to keep your expectations at check.
Sound imaging was average while stereo panning effects were not as pronounced or had this wow effect that bigger soundbars can provide. It’s size may be its most major characteristic but is also one of its major weaknesses when it comes to the kind of immersion it can create.
As for the actual music quality we cannot say that there was some part that the MT300 failed miserably. The mids were ok, the highs were average and the low end had some volume but was lacking in depth and aggression. That’s why we said in the beginning of this section that it feels like listening to a good music speaker instead of a soundbar. If you close your eyes you wouldn’t be able to tell this is actually a soundbar.
We tried different kind of songs from pop, rock, classical, jazz and even heavy metal and the MT300 did a valiant effort to render them all satisfactory. If you are looking for the smallest soundbar available and you are not particularly picky about the quality of your music then the MT300 will serve you just fine.
In their try to reach the quality of full surround systems many soundbars became bigger and more complex. On the other hand the HT-MT300 goes the opposite route and provide you with the absolute smallest design possible which is an excellent choice for those that seek something better than the average TV performance but have practically almost no space for a bigger soundbar. But does this size limitation comes at a cost?
One of the major strengths of the unit is obviously its size, both for the main bar and the subwoofer. It can practically fit anywhere and with the subwoofer’s ability to be placed either standing or lay-down gives you even more options and flexibility. Also the unit’s simplicity is amazing and even those that have no clue can have everything set and ready in no time. In terms of actual performance the MT300 will provide a nice boost over what your TV can give you and the smaller the room you have the more pronounced this difference will be.
On the downsides the most obvious is the inability of the unit to provide a meaningful surround experience. It lacks the size to provide sound extension at the front while surround activity is missing in action as there are no surround speakers available and the built-in virtual technology can do so much for that. And if you add to the fact that the MT300 is not a cheap soundbar it makes things even worse. Lastly there is no HDMI port to use which is a shame as this kind has become the prevalent means of connection nowadays.
Practically the price you pay is for the ability of the unit to be placed almost everywhere. We have seen some fully fledged soundbars cost the same and provide much more in terms of actual audio performance, but these cannot fit in as many places as the MT300 can. So what we can say is that if you are extremely tight on space and you need the absolute smallest soundbar you can get without going overboard with the price the Sony HT-MT300 is the ideal solution as it can provide you with a meaningful audio performance boost in an extremely small package.
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