Within each mode, you can also change the Dialog setting and enable a Night preset. Dialog is a feature that pumps up the midrange to make movie and TV dialogue come across more clearly. Night limits the system's dynamic range for late-night listening so that low frequencies don't travel through the walls and bother your neighbors. I found that the Night preset managed to reduce the soundbar's punch without muddling its overall sound.
Despite its name, the Surround Sound System doesn't offer much in the way of surround. Sony's S-Force technology produces simulated 5.1 sound, but the result doesn't compare to a system with five dedicated speakers. Like some other sound processing tricks, S-Force depends on your room's layout to produce a surround effect. Since my home theater is located in a room that's wider than it is deep, the soundbar's simulated 5.1 proved largely ineffective.
Sony's soundbar was designed primarily to connect to a PlayStation 3, and as a video game sound system it works very well. In Dynamic mode with Dialog set to High, Mafia 2 sounded excellent: Guns and cars packed plenty of oomph, and both voices and the 1950's pop music soundtrack came through clearly. The downloadable arcade-style beat-em-up Castle Crashers with its bombastic musical tracks and copious sword clashes sounded similarly great .
High-bitrate soundtracks on Blu-ray Disc lost a lot of detail when played through the soundbar, but comparatively low-fidelity audio like the soundtracks from digital cable channels and of shows streamed from Netflix sounded satisfying enough. Unfortunately, the system didn't fare nearly as well with music. For instance, when I popped the Deep Purple: Live At Montreux 2006 Blu-ray into my PS3, both the opening piano and signature electric guitar riffs in "Smoke On The Water" sounded flat. The notes were all there, but they didn't sound particularly deep or distinct. The soundbar also managed to make the concert seem very loud, with strong (albeit ill-defined) bass.
The midrange-boosting Dialog setting proved very useful when watching television shows and movies. I watched the first season of Stargate: Universe through Netflix's Watch Instantly service on the PS3, and every last spoken word sounded clear. As with video games, this show's tense, atmospheric music and sci-fi sound effects were also well-served by the Dynamic mode. Similarly, the Leverage season finale on TNT sounded quite good when heard via my cable box's stereo analog audio connection.
Unfortunately, Sony' Surround Sound System couldn't play nearly as loud with the movie and TV content I watched as it did with the Deep Purple Blu-ray. Even with the volume cranked to max, Stargate: Universe and Leverage just barely managed to fill my apartment with sound. So, if your aim is to blow a dozen friends away during a movie or football game, this system isn't for you.
With its simple feature set and limited connectivity, Sony's Surround Sound System for PS3 isn't so much a "sound system" as a supplementary speaker for your HDTV. It will likely be an improvement over your set's speakers, but only just. If you want to add more punch to your gaming and TV-watching, this sub-$200 soundbar is a decent choice. But if you're really serious about getting quality sound in your home theater, take a pass.
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