I listened to a £200 Dolby Atmos soundbar and it could be a real bargain

The Sharp HT-SB700 soundbar photographed on a desk in front of a Sharp TV
(Image credit: Future)

Remember Sharp? You could be forgiven for answering “no” – the once hugely influential and hugely popular Japanese brand has faded over the last couple of decades and is now, from a consumer tech point of view, a relative bit-part player that is focused on budget TV and AV products (and microwaves, air fryers and… erm... e-scooters).

That said, at the UK launch event for its new range, the Sharp Consumer Electronics team gave every impression of genuinely caring about picture and sound quality despite the value-oriented arena in which it’s competing. It also demoed a couple of rather compelling products, and the one that I liked the most was the cheapest – a £200 Dolby Atmos soundbar.

At 7.2 x 52 x 11cm (hwd), the HT-SB700 is very dinky, yet it has two dedicated up-firing drivers to compliment its two forward-firers. Most soundbars costing more than twice as much produce their Dolby Atmos sound from only front-firing speakers, so these up-firers are a nice surprise.

And because this is a Dolby Atmos soundbar, the HT-SB700 features HDMI eARC. Consider that the cheapest Sonos soundbar, the Ray, costs nearly £300 and has neither Dolby Atmos support nor an HDMI port of any kind, and the upstart Sharp looks impressively feature-packed.

And you know what? It didn’t sound bad. Bass was lacking, which is no great surprise given the compact dimensions and lack of a dedicated subwoofer, and there was a slightly shouty and sibilant quality to trebly sounds, but the degree to which the little ‘bar was able to throw effects around the room took me by surprise and was engaging and enveloping in a way that a simple stereo bar won’t match. Clarity seemed decent, too, and there was certainly plenty of pep to the delivery.

There are caveats galore here, of course. For starters, this was a brief demo over which I had no control, and one can never draw firm conclusions from such conditions. The room was exceedingly small, too, which might have helped the little soundbar’s efforts in providing that Atmos effect.

Besides, I’m not saying this is even close to a Sonos-beating gift to the gods of bargain home cinema. It’s a cheap soundbar and in most regards it sounded like one. But, during my demo, it also delivered Atmos content in a way that was really unexpected considering the super-low price.

We will do a full test and review of the Sharp HT-SB700 in due course, and I would advise waiting until our full verdict before spending your money, but I can see this being a popular choice for those looking to spend as little as possible on an Atmos solution for a very small room or desktop gaming setup – especially as I hear it's regularly available for just £149.


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Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons has been writing about TV, AV and hi-fi products (not to mention plenty of other 'gadgets' and even cars) for over 15 years. He began his career as What Hi-Fi?'s Staff Writer and is now the TV and AV Editor. In between, he worked as Reviews Editor and then Deputy Editor at Stuff, and over the years has had his work featured in publications such as T3, The Telegraph and Louder. He's also appeared on BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and Sky Swipe. In his spare time Tom is a runner and gamer.