Sharp HT-SB60 review

The acute treble and thin midrange just didn’t jive with our ears, especially during music playback.
The acute treble and thin midrange just didn’t jive with our ears, especially during music playback.
The acute treble and thin midrange just didn’t jive with our ears, especially during music playback.

Highs

  • Clear detail for movie content
  • Powerful low end
  • Good stereo expanse

Lows

  • Extremely sibilant treble
  • Frequency balance issues, especially with music
  • May be too big for some TV stands

DT Editors' Rating

You’ve got a dilemma. You just spent a heap of money on that huge new flat panel TV, only to discover the sound is terrible. Mo’ money, mo’ problems, right? No? Ok, sorry, back to the 21st century. Lucky for you, there is an easy and increasingly affordable solution to your problem: the sound bar.

If you’ve already begun your quest, you’ve likely found a ton of companies vying for your sound bar dollars, all of them offering similar-looking devices. So how do you make the right choice in this sea of sonic strips?

Well, Sharp is hoping you’ll subscribe to the age old “bigger is better” philosophy and choose its new HT-SB60 (available for $300). Loaded with a 6-pack of drivers, a substantial subwoofer and a nice selection of features, the SB60 appears to be a formidable choice. Oh yeah, did we mention it’s also about the length of a small car bumper? It turns out there’s a reason: This sound bar is positioned to pair up with TV’s 60-inches or larger. That makes sense, since shorter sound bars look pretty wimpy sitting below those huge TVs. But when it comes to superior audio from a sound bar, does size make a difference? We recently went hands on with the long and strong SB60 to find out. Here’s how it went down.

Out of the box

Pulling the SB60 from the box, the speaker seemed to just keep on coming, like one of those trick handkerchiefs from a clown’s sleeve. After finally removing the black slab, we were welcomed by an impressive collection of aluminum drivers and silk tweeters, six in all. We next pulled out the subwoofer, a relatively light rectangular box about the size of your average PC tower with a large port at the front and a speaker screen along its right side. Accessories in the box included an HDMI cable, a sturdy 3.5mm cable, a small remote, and a poster-sized instruction manual.

Features and design

The SB60’s mondo 55-inch width is designed to fill the space beneath the bigger and bolder available sizes in flat panel TVs, specifically a 60-inch model (which Sharp also happens to make). That’s great for creating a wide stereo image if you’ve got the space, but those with smaller TV stands may find the unit’s California condor wingspan a bit obtrusive.

Across the SB60’s two-toned front panel sits a six pack of drivers, spread into groups of three on each side. The total set includes four 2-inch aluminum cones, and two 1-inch silk tweeters, all of which are set in sleek, brushed metal divots. The glossed strip at the top of the bar harbors a collection of onboard controls keys including source, power, volume, pairing, and sound mode, flanking a small digital display screen at the center of the unit.

At the back panel are recessed port chambers which house two HDMI inputs, an HDMI output (with an optional TV ARC connection), a 3.5mm Aux input, and a digital optical input. There are also chambers at the back for wall mounting the speaker. The SB60 is Bluetooth-equipped, but unfortunately that’s only for wireless connection to the subwoofer. If you want to play music from your smartphone or tablet, you’ll have to go old school and plug into its extra-long 3.5mm cable.

The SB60’s mondo 55-inch width is designed to fill the space beneath the bigger and bolder available sizes in flat panel TVs…

The subwoofer harbors an 8-inch driver, which is cut into the right side of its rectangular frame. A glossed port sits handsomely at the front panel, below an LED which glows blue when the speaker is properly connected to the sound bar. The full system is amply powered with 310 watts of total output, and is setup for stereo sources, as well as Dolby Digital, and DTS decoding.

The layout of the system’s small remote is a bit confusing at first, but the wealth of keys provides a substantial level of control for all of the SB60’s options and digital features (which definitely comes in handy). At the top of the panel are quick keys for each of the six digital presets from Cinema to News. There’s also a 3D key to enable the SB60’s two levels of virtual surround sound, bass and treble controls, and a 4-key diamond at the bottom that handles volume for the main bar, as well as the sub level. The device also includes a set of keys to control TV volume and channel selection.

Setup

The optical digital connection is the easiest one to use, provided your TV supports it. However, if that’s not an option, you can also connect via HDMI by connecting components such as Blu-Ray players and game consoles directly into the SB60’s dual HDMI inputs, and routing the output to your TV. While an HDMI connection may provide marginally better sound quality, the drawback is that you can’t use connected components independently of the sound bar; and there’s a bit of delay to get things going at startup, not to mention the cartel of remotes you’ll have to keep track of whenever you want to watch (see universal remotes). The final option is to go analog, using the sound bar’s 3.5mm input.

Audio performance

The SB60 is a detailed and powerful sound system that offers more than enough of both to create a dynamic home stereo experience for movies and music. Unfortunately, the quest for balance between the molten force of the bass, and a treble region that is among the sharpest and most sibilant we’ve ever encountered, often created more work and sonic displeasure than we care to tolerate.

Music

Our first introduction to the SB60 was a run-through of some random tracks from our iPhone 5 via the aux input. Immediately our ears were met with a metallic, grating attack from the treble that was startling. Snare hits were thin and flat, popping out at us like a patch from a poorly tuned electronic drum set, while cymbals flashed reams of shimmering aluminum static. Acoustic and electric guitars were brittle, and on the other end, bass was overly pronounced. But the worst offense was in the vocals, where ‘S’ and ‘Sh’ consonants bit at our ears like horseflies.

While an HDMI connection may provide marginally better sound quality, the drawback is that you can’t use connected components independently of the sound bar.

After some serious adjustment to treble and bass, as well as the subwoofer level, we were able to relieve a majority of the initial issues and get a much more balanced sound. However, the only way to cool off the treble was to pull it down to the bottom of its 10 point scale (at -5), which sucked out a good deal of detail and presence. And even then, the midrange was usually thin and edgy, without much resonance at the very meat of the music.

There was also an often-emphasized difference in frequency balance from song to song. Moving among varied genres like Rock, Reggae, and Bluegrass tended to create balance issues between the sub and the upper register, which kept us riding the remote. Also, the system’s presets aren’t alterable (aside from subwoofer level), and they were usually too sizzle-y in the treble and too overt in the bass for the majority of music we played. When we put in the work with manual adjustment, we were able to coax passable sound from the unit, but it was seldom as full or warm as we wanted it.

Movies

We had much better results when we turned the SB60 to its primary purpose: spicing up cinematic adventures. Using our own settings, we were treated to engaging, tactile detail when we called up P-Jack’s (that’s his club nickname) original epic, The Fellowship of the Ring. The fireworks scene at the entrance of the film delivered some sparkling moments, with flashing crunches from Gandalf’s cart of tricks ending in musical, low range explosions. The escape from the Wraiths on horseback offered brilliantly detailed hoof beats and we were impressed with the finer detail of subtler scenes and minute movements. When the action got more intense, the rumble of the sub was potent, bringing a dramatic subtext to the scenes.

Sharp HT SB60 Soundbar review frontStill, regardless of our adjustments, there were also moments of trees rustling, water crashing, and razor-thin elfish whispers that ran a tingle up our spine with that prickly touch of the treble. Metal on metal in sword duels clanged a little too close to home at times, and dialogue could run pale, with sibilance on the sharpest ‘S’ consonants springing up occasionally.

As for stereo spacing, the advantages of the speaker’s extreme size provided a nice spread of sound throughout our test room as we explored various pieces of content. The expansive environment in films like Predator, and 300 was better than most of the smaller sound bars we’ve investigated, for obvious reasons. Engaging the SB60’s 3D mode offered an even larger environment, but dialogue was subdued, and the difference was minimal, without any real “wow” moments from effects stretching beyond the edge of the long beam. Luckily, when you’re pushing five feet in width, you don’t need much assistance to create a grand sound stage.

Conclusion

The Sharp HT-SB60’s prowess for detail, wide stereo image, and sheer power brings a lot to the table when it comes to movies. But the severity of the metallic treble created a constant battle between dulling its raw edge, and extracting the finer detail it’s capable of reproducing. Put simply, the acute treble and thin midrange just didn’t jive with our ears, especially during music playback. That said, the system does offer a lot of punch at a reasonable price. If an ultra-bright top end doesn’t bother you, the HT-SB60’s big sound and clean detail may make it worth considering.


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Between sleek form factors, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.
Home Theater

Stranger Things season 3 predictions: Decoding the episode titles

Netflix has revealed the episode titles for season 3 of Stranger Things, and the eight titles could shed light on what we can expect to see when the hit show returns in summer 2019.
Deals

This one-day Skullcandy sale gets you wireless earbuds for under $30

Today only, you can save 40 percent on wireless earbuds, noise-canceling headphones, and classic earbuds direct from the Skullcandy website. If you're hoping to get a pair of headphones before the holidays arrive, now is the time.