A solid low to mid-range home theatre setup, Sharp's HT-M700H is a great option for users looking for a small surround sound system. A stylish, modern design and a balanced range of sound quality impressed us, although there are a few key omissions which really detract from the overall package, especially regarding connection options.
- Stylish design, Easy to setup, Balanced sound range
- No digital video output, Several omitted features, Design a little fragile
Ideal for smaller environments, the Sharp HT-M700H delivers impressive (and inexpensive) 5.1 audio, however the lack of digital video output and a sparse feature-set make it unsuitable for DVD playback
Price$ 519.00 (AUD)
The first thing that caught our eye when unpacking and setting up the M700H was the design. The main unit has a very minimalist front panel, with only two buttons and a volume knob, complete with neon blue backlighting (which annoyingly, couldn't be disabled). One of the buttons is an on/off switch, while the other controls the motorised front panel, which opens to reveal the DVD tray, an LED display, and a few other buttons. A novel and interesting feature, it nonetheless seems a little too fragile, and we could envision a child snapping it within a few minutes.
Setup was a breeze, thanks to Sharp's clever colour coding. We had all five satellite speakers and the sub plugged in and working within ten minutes. Adjusting and fine tuning positioning took another couple of minutes, and we were ready to go. Unfortunately, it was here that we noticed the connection options on the back panel. Despite boasting optical digital audio, as well as S/PDIF, the HT-M700H video outputs were limited to SCART, S-Video, and composite - not a single digital video output could be found. Even on a system as low budget as this, we would have expected to find component, at least. This is a rather serious flaw, and we found that image quality on DVDs suffered noticeably because of it, even on high quality displays.
This trend continued in the interface which also suffers from a lack of options. A very minimal four DTS soundfield presets are available, titles cannot be skipped through (only chapters), and fast forward and rewind are only present at 2x, 8x and 30x. There seemed to be a lot of features and functions, but none were really fleshed out to our satisfaction.
Still, all this became pretty irrelevant once we settled in to watch a movie. The opening scenes of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King brought back memories of the cinema to our minds. The deep drum beats rumbled heartily, without affecting the clarity and sharpness of the high, orchestral score. Battle scenes were vivid and three dimensional, with the crunch of each sword swing being almost palpable. Within the confines of the small room in which we had setup the Sharp, even the 50W subwoofer was able to create some respectable booms and rumbles, although we couldn't help feeling that it would be a little more underwhelming within a large and spacious living room.
Despite creating a decent vibration though, the bass doesn't overpower the rest of the sound, and we experienced very pleasant mid-range and treble performance from the HT-M700H. It should be noted that this is not a unit that boasts excellent sound quality, but for its price it certainly delivers a clear and balanced sound, without any single element overwhelming the others.
In the end, the Sharp is a very viable audio system, but its numerous omissions and slight foibles make it less than suitable as a fully fledged home theatre setup.
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