The Sony HT-MT500 is a compact soundbar with a wireless subwoofer, which is able to present a decent sound to the listener. The package has a recommended retail price of around 500 euros.
Sony HT-MT500 – design
In terms of design, the Sony HT-MT500 seems pretty on the Sony HT-MT300. The soundbar is compact, but it is slightly wider than an average soundbar that we give the term ‘compact’. That is not bad in many cases. For example, a wider soundbar can stand nicely under a wide television. In this case we can report on the size of the bar that it is a bit in the middle. Under a 55-inch television, it is still narrow, but if you put it under a 37-inch TV, it is actually already a lot worse.
The word ‘premium’ does not really come to the fore when we look at the soundbar. The exterior reminds us a lot of the cheaper, somewhat older brother of this soundbar. However, there are some features that we often encounter on more expensive soundbars, such as a screen on the front. There you can read which source you select or have selected, how high the volume is, which input you have chosen, et cetera. All buttons of functions and possibilities have also been moved to the right.
There is a removable grid on the front of the soundbar. This is fixed to the base with magnets. When you remove it, you will see a speaker sitting on the right and left. In the middle is the screen where you can read useful information. With or without a grid – that does not matter that much. The connections are on the back. From left to right: the plug opening, Ethernet connection, HDMI out (with support for audio return channel ), analogue and the connection for the optical cable.
The included subwoofer has, just like the soundbar, a layer of artificial leather. It does not look very nice. The device is thin enough to be placed under a couch or TV cabinet, but there are some conditions attached to it. For example, the couch or cabinet must be high enough and the bank must be close to an electrical outlet nearby. Or you have to – an a bit out of sight – an extension cable can be lost, but that is not the case with us. As a result, the woofer was still standing next to the cupboard, where it actually always stands. Which is also fine.
Sony HT-MT500 – specifications
There are also few connections to be found; you can not connect your collection of game consoles, receivers and Blu-ray player directly to the Sony HT-MT500. Instead, you connect the TV and all paired devices access the soundbar via your television. There is still support for bluetooth, Spotify Connect and Chromecast, as well as hi-res audio. So there are some extra options available that make the soundbar interesting, but for a large amount of hdmi-in connections you have to look further.
Sony HT-MT500 installation
Installing the product is now a familiar story. You connect the subwoofer and the soundbar to the power, and only the soundbar to the television (via hdmi or the optical connection, but we have opted for hdmi). Both devices know each other within no time. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong, there is still a button on the back of the subwoofer, with which you can effect the link manually. But this is not necessary in 99 percent of cases.
It can be a bit more complicated if you want to pair two more wireless Sony speakers with the Sony HT-MT500. That is indeed possible. What you have to do is go to the hdmi channel that the soundbar is connected to and click on the surround sound setup. Then you will be explained through a step-by-step plan how everything works exactly and what will happen. But you have to keep paying attention; it is a bit more work than just installing the soundbar and subwoofer.
On that channel you will also find the other options that the soundbar offers. Of course you can do a lot with the remote control or an app on your smartphone, PC or tablet, but that way you can also access the music server in your network and play music right away. All other, more extensive, settings can also be found here. We do not expect you to spend a lot of time here, but it is useful to have such an overview on your TV screen.
Sony HT-MT500 – use
In addition to an easy installation process, the Sony HT-MT500 is also easy to use. The included remote control gives you quite a few options, while you can also get on with the keys on the speaker itself. During an evening of listening music you can effortlessly switch sources, allowing you, for example, from the music on a smartphone to the music on a game computer, with a few presses of the button. The soundbar can also find, recognize and store multiple Bluetooth devices.
The soundbar reacts smoothly and accurately on the remote, making it always our preferred choice during operation (not least because otherwise you have to constantly walk to the soundbar). You can pair new Bluetooth devices from the couch with each other and even control media, through all buttons at the bottom. The round button just above the middle is large enough to operate the menu, while other buttons also provide sufficient feedback and clearly show what they are meant for.
What is unfortunately a bit of a shame is that Sony itself does not supply hdmi cable with this package. You get an optical cable instead, but unfortunately that connection is not on my television. So I could not test this connection. However, in the past I have connected many soundbars to the TV via the optical cable and these tests often showed that the sound was delivered a bit too late in comparison with the image. Fortunately, HDMI cables are no longer that expensive; but it would have been nice if he was there.
That way you play music through Google Cast
Playing music via Google Cast, from a smart device to a suitable speaker, is very simple. If you have completed the installation process and Google Home indicates that the speaker is ready, you can start immediately. The screenshots below are made with Google Play Music, but in principle it works for all Cast apps. In the picture you see a Cast icon (in the middle, at the bottom). Tap it once. Then you choose the speaker you want to cast to. That’s it! At the bottom you now see that the speaker is connected.
Sony HT-MT500 – audio quality
You would hardly expect such a reasonably compact soundbar, but there is an impressive sound coming from the device. It is not nearly as good as the sound of, for example, the Sony HT-CT790, but it is already much better than the predecessor Sony HT-MT300. It is a kind of boosted version of that speaker. As always there are different modes available, for different situations. Movies, music, games, speech and the standard mode are in principle fine, but then we also have the well-known ClearAudio + option.
You may not immediately get the idea to sit in a cinema room when you watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, but the soundbar does succeed in improving your viewing and listening experience. The Sony HT-MT500 has a reasonable sound field, in which you can distinguish sounds well from each other and where details are not lost quickly. But do not expect the very best quality, since you still have to deal with a fairly compact soundbar and a subwoofer that should fit under a couch.
If the sound is a bit overwhelming, then you are also very good with the standard mode. This mode provides a good amplification of the sound from the television, with a nice balance between bass, treble, speech and everything in between. This is the mode that I often used when watching YouTube movies – which guests in the picture can be quite shrieking and with this speaker on standard mode you have little trouble and you can enjoy the video they have made.
As a gamer I think the sound is important. And I can say with confidence that the game mode does its job well – games get that extra bit of strength in the sound, which lifts the playing to a higher level. The game mode, just like the film mode, brings the bass slightly forward, but the conversations are still easy to follow, while the highs also have more than enough space. The music mode contains a fine balance between high and low tones, has no overwhelming bass and no sharp, high notes.
Then we have a number of other modes. The sports mode is mainly intended for football matches (or sports games that are played inside, in a large stadium) and brings a nice ambiance to the living room. The speech and evening modes are the options with which we conclude. The first one is mainly intended for films and series in which a lot is spoken; other effects effectively disappear into the background. The evening mode weakens all outliers a bit, but putting the volume down helps in our opinion enough.
Sony HT-MT500 – conclusion
It seems that Sony with the HT-MT500 tried to deliver a combination between the Sony HT-MT300 and the Sony HT-CT790. The former soundbar was a bit disappointing, while the latter is still very popular and is often suggested as an excellent alternative to sound bars in the same price range. Although the Sony HT-MT500 is not the wrong soundbar, we now want to do the same thing again and suggest that you are considering the CT790. They fall in the same price range and have many similarities.
However, not everything matches. The HT-CT790 has multiple HDMI connections, allowing your devices to connect directly to the soundbar, and offers support for, for example, 4K. That does not deliver the Sony HT-MT500, while it is, at the moment, slightly more expensive in the market. In terms of noise, the HT-MT500 is comparable to the HT-CT790, but the latter wins it anyway. It is true that the HT-MT500 performs better than the HT-MT300, but that is also allowed: the HT-MT300 is after all half cheaper (and sometimes sounds the same).
At the end of the day it is true that it is also what you are looking for. What the HT-CT790 does not have, for example, is support for Spotify and Chromecast. It is therefore just how you use or want to use the soundbar and whether one of these two products fits your wishes. Are you content with wifi and bluetooth and want a better sound, then you do well to consider the HT-CT790. If you want more convenience and your room is not big enough for that wide sound field, the HT-MT500 is a better choice.