In all honesty, I was disappointed with my Sony HT-XT2 soundbar, not because of the sound quality - the built-in subwoofer produces amazing, punchy base - but because of the lack of an open sound-stage.
So in my quest for that cinematic sound for my 13' x 11' bedroom, I purchased a pair of ZR-5 bluetooth speakers to use with the XT2 as surrounds. Even though the sound was vastly improved, there was still a lack of left-right width to the sound. That was when I decided to look at other options. A trip to Best Buy led me to examine two models: the Sony HTNT5, and the HTCT800. The CT800 was not connected to surround speakers but still produced an open sound stage with the in-store Pacific Rim demo. The NT5 was hooked up to a pair of Z-R5 bluetooth surrounds and sounded outstanding!
The NT5, however was outside of my budget at $799, so I took home the HT-CT800. There is still a part of me that wished I had gotten the NT5 because of the greater number of drivers built into the unit which is sure to produce a more audiophile sound quality. The HT-CT800 however is no slouch. Its subwoofer is nothing short of powerful. The open soundstage even without my ZR5's connected still produces a very immersive soundstage - although I do find that the SoundForce virtual surround is no substitute for a pair of rear surrounds. Without my ZR5's there is a bubble of sound that does not seem to extend behind my viewing area the way other two-speaker SRS (sound retrieval systems) and virtual surround systems do. Used in conjunction with the ZR5's however, this soundbar transforms my room into a convincing movie theatre. Movies on Itunes and Blu-ray and shows on HBO transport you, and immerse you in the onscreen environment with crisp ambient sounds, and vocals - whether they are in front or behind. Battle scenes surround you in explosions, the swish of bullets, crakling fire, and shouts. Urban environments produce cars honking, distant sirens, overhead helicopters, distant music and everything you would expect to hear around you.
I did learn that not all was smooth out of the box, however. The Soundbar itself works great, but there are times when there is no sound being poduced until you turn off the wireless surround, and then turn it back on again. The Songpal Music Center app needs to be seriously updated as your speaker combo setups will sometimes disappear from your mobile device - forcing you to repeat the setup process if you want to use just your surrounds to listen to music, for instance. The output of the surrounds was initially disappointing until I set the level to twice the decibel count of the soundbar and the subwoofer. Which leads to the very functional interface of the soundbar itself.
The remote-accessible input-switching, and individual sound level adjustments for the soundbar, the subwoofer, and the wireless surrounds make this soundbar behave like a high-end surround receiver. There is even automatic input switching depending on which device is turned on first.
Overall, I am thoroughly pleased with this soundbar, and despite a couple of annoyances related to wireless surround and the Songpal app, I readily give the Sony HT-CT800 five stars.