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I got a sneak peek at the soundbars Sharp hopes will make immersive home cinema more affordable

Image of a television from a front on perspective on a stand with the Sharp Dolby Atmos soundbar

Sharp wants to make immersive Dolby Atmos audio more accessible – are these new soundbars where that starts?

Sharp recently unveiled several new home entertainment products at an exclusive event at Dolby HQ in Soho. Included among the products were 4K TVs running Google TV, TiVo OS and Roku TV, and two Dolby Atmos soundbars: the Sharp HT-SBW55121 and Sharp HT-SBW53121

The Japanese manufacturer has always been a cost-effective choice in the AV space and says its new soundbar range is designed to make immersive audio technologies more accessible than ever. It sees Dolby Atmos as the missing piece of the puzzle where affordable home cinema is concerned and its new soundbars are set to deliver it at very competitive prices when released later this year.

As you might’ve guessed from their similar model numbers, the HT-SBW55121 and HT-SBW53121 share a lot in common. They’re soundbar and subwoofer combos that support the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats, have HDMI eARC and CEC compatibility and can stream audio over Bluetooth 5.3. They’re also both tuned by the audio whizzes at Devialet, a French company with whom Sharp worked on its SumoBox portable speaker last year.

Image of a television from a right hand view on a stand with the Sharp Dolby Atmos soundbar

I got the chance to hear the HT-SBW55121 in action when connected to a 75in Sharp FQ5 – the brand’s flagship 4K Quantum Dot LED TV, which runs the Google TV operating system, and supports 144Hz refresh rates and Dolby Vision IQ HDR.

Given that the event took place at Dolby’s London headquarters, it will come as little surprise that the main focus of the demonstration was how the soundbar utilises Dolby Atmos to create full and immersive audio across a range of mediums.

Before I get into how it sounded, I want to quickly touch on a couple of neat design features. The grilles on either end of the soundbar were colour-matched to the metal on the TV to create a more cohesive look, while the soundbar’s raised feet elevated it to perfectly fit over the FQ5’s stand. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use it with other TVs, however, as a pair of shorter rubber feet are also included in the box.

Image of a television from a left hand view on a stand with the Sharp Dolby Atmos soundbar

I was shown how the HT-SBW55121 handles video and music content through demos of Dolby’s “Horizon” trailer and Metrik’s drum and bass track Universal Language. During the former, a car racing along a desert road was tracked well and matched by the side-firing drivers, while the upward-firing speakers did an impressive job of projecting the sound of spaceships flying overhead above me. During the musical demo, I was impressed by the weight of the subwoofer’s low-end reproduction but also felt that positional audio cues were located precisely.

I didn’t get to hear the HT-SBW53121 so can’t comment on the performance of its 3.1.2-channel setup, but I’d anticipate it being a narrower listen due to the absence of side-firing drivers.

While both soundbars look like they will offer a decent level of immersion, anyone looking for an even more comprehensive home cinema system will be pleased to hear that both models can be paired with HT-SPR52021 rear speakers to create a powerful surround sound system. That addition gives you 5.1.4 channels with the HT-SBW53121 and 7.1.4 channels with the HT-SBW55121.

Image of a rear speaker for the Sharp Dolby Atmos soundbar

No release date was given for the rear speakers but they’re expected to cost around £229 per pair, while a potential offer that bundles the rear speakers in with the HT-SBW55121 was given an estimated price of just £659. That’s a very appealing price for a 7.1.4-channel setup.

As this was an early sneak peek of the upcoming products, I wasn’t given a firm price or release date for either of the soundbars. Sharp did, however, give estimates, with the HT-SBW53121 due in September and likely to retail for £350, and the HT-SBW55121 set to arrive in late September or early October for somewhere in the region of £499.

These prices and dates aren’t set in stone but we shouldn’t have to wait long for final confirmation of their RRPs. We hope to have reviews of each of Sharp’s new soundbars closer to their release, so check back soon to see whether we recommend adding either to your home entertainment setup.

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