Certain adages simply don't change, and it's long been the case that even surprisingly fancy televisions can actually have bafflingly average sound. It's simply not that easy to fit high-quality sound into the increasingly tiny bodies that TVs now boast a lot of the time.
That's exactly what Sharp has observed, and its new soundbars are precisely engineered to bring stunning 3D Dolby Atmos sound to your home viewing setup. The new HT-SBW800 and HT-SBW460 are beautiful, subtle soundbars that will have your home theatre absolutely singing, with the pinpoint sound that only Atmos systems can offer.
We thought we'd run you through the two new systems, giving you a few key tidbits about just what you can expect if you upgrade your TV sound with either one.
Even well-known brand labels like Dolby Atmos can sometimes sound a bit like jargon to the uninitiated ear. What does it actually mean? Well, that's why we love the above image, which gives you a sense for what an Atmos system actually entails - speakers, lots of speakers.
The HT-SBW460 is a soundbar and subwoofer combination, the latter a wireless unit to cut down on possible cable clutter around your TV, and represents an immediate upgrade on your native speakers. That blend of different speakers in the soundbar's body creates a virtual surround sound system that will have you hearing directional noise without having to invest in further rear speakers unless you want to.
With this model, the Atmos effect (vertical sound/height) is achieved through psycho-acoustics, in other words, a virtual effect achieved through advanced digital signal processing.
For just under £300, you get a comprehensive home cinema sound system, but it's also designed nicely to make sure that it slips into your decor seamlessly. After all, you're pretty likely to want a soundbar that people don't notice, rather than one which screams out for attention.
The soundbar is also a 3.1 channel audio system, which effectively means that it reserves a central channel of sound for voices - this means that even in scenes with lots going on, and explosions in the background, you'll always be able to hear dialogue nice and clearly.
If you're thinking of picking up a soundbar, then, the HT-SBW460 is a superb new option.
That said, if you want a few more features and a little bit more power, you might want to consider the HT-SBW800, Sharp's other new offering. It's a full 5.1.2 system, giving you that extra bit of range to really transport you into whatever you're watching, and also comes with a wireless sub.
One of the main differences in its design is the addition of up-firing speakers, letting it more accurately reproduce height in its sound, alongside side-firing speakers to give a wider range in other directions. This could be considered "true" Dolby Atmos in that dedicated up-firing and side-firing speakers offer both vertical height and a wider, more precise horizontal sound-stage.
However, the 800 and 460 are perhaps most noteworthy for the features they share. Both have two HDMI input ports and one HDMI output, capable of 4K-quality passthrough and ARC audio control. That basically means that you can use the soundbars as proxies for your TV's harder to reach HDMI ports.
Plus, both have a range of playback options that make them great home speakers, too. You can play music through them via Bluetooth, or through any of digital optical, aux, coax and USB cables, giving you a full range of options.
Regardless of which system catches your eye, you'll be getting into a whole new world of 3D audio for your home viewing pleasure, and we can't recommend it enough. The HT-SBW460 costs £299 and is available here, while the HT-SBW800 costs £449 and can be found here.