Sony HT-A7000 evaluation: A completely loaded soundbar expertise

MSRP $1,300.00

“Nice sound, ease of use, and a giant checklist of options make it arduous to beat.”

Execs

  • Superior music and film sound
  • Straightforward on-screen setup
  • AirPlay 2, Chromecast
  • Hello-res audio, 360 Actuality Audio
  • 2 HDMI inputs
  • Upscaling of audio to 3D encompass sound

Cons

  • Costly
  • No handbook EQ settings
  • Subwoofer not included

Soundbars are available in all sizes, costs, and configurations. Some excel at offering two-channel stereo, whereas others go for 3.1, 5.1, and even 7.1 encompass sound. Essentially the most succesful fashions characteristic Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and infrequently present some type of multiroom streaming capabilities. Sony’s new $1,300 HT-A7000 7.1.2 soundbar does all of that, and far, way more, together with wi-fi hi-res audio, Sony 360 Actuality Audio, clever upscaling of a wide range of audio sources, plus compatibility with house automation platforms from Apple, Google, and Amazon.

Sony additionally provides you two fashions of wi-fi subwoofers, and a pair of wi-fi encompass audio system to select from, however these are non-obligatory upgrades that may bump the soundbar’s worth effectively north of $2,000.

Do all of those high-flying capabilities justify its equally lofty price ticket? We put it to the check.

What’s within the field?

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar box contentsSimon Cohen / Digital Traits

The HT-A7000 (which we’ll name the A7000 from right here on in) comes packed in a good quantity of styrofoam, which is nice for defense, however difficult to recycle in some places. Inside, you’ll discover the soundbar, a distant with two AA batteries, an HDMI cable, a particular analog cable for connecting the bar to a suitable Sony Bravia TV (extra on that later), an influence wire, two wall-mount brackets, a wall-mounting template, and a quick-start information.

Design

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar close-up of top panel.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

At simply over 51 inches vast, 3.25 inches tall, and 5.5 inches deep, there’s no getting round the truth that the A7000 is a giant (and at 19 kilos, heavy) speaker. It’s virtually as vast as a 65-inch TV, and satirically, it’s so tall it can obscure a few of the bottoms of Sony’s personal TVs, even when their stands are positioned of their so-called soundbar place. Except your TV is already wall-mounted otherwise you plan to take action, greatest take some measurements earlier than you hit that purchase button.

Having two HDMI inputs is nice — with many soundbars, you’re fortunate to get even one.

One other consideration: Even when the A7000 suits underneath your TV between the legs, you don’t wish to push it too far again — its upward-firing drivers (key to getting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound) shouldn’t be obscured by some other objects.

However regardless of its measurement, Sony has finished job of minimizing the A7000’s look. The upward-firing drivers are hid behind black cloth panels which wrap across the sides. The rest of the bar’s high floor is manufactured from black glass. It’s a fingerprint magnet, however when cleaned of blemishes, it appears to be like actually sharp. The glass homes a couple of contact controls that offer you entry to energy, quantity, supply, Bluetooth, and a shortcut to Spotify Join. A non-removable perforated metallic grille completes the image.

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar close-up of display.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Behind that grille sits an array of drivers. They’re fairly seen in these images, however don’t fear — until you shine studio lights on the A7000 as I did, you gained’t see them in any respect. What you will note is a scrolling-text show that provides you key data like which supply you’re at the moment enjoying from, quantity degree, audio format, and numerous different useful messages. I’m not a giant fan of those sorts of shows — I discover the restricted actual property and the scrolling textual content a bit annoying, nevertheless it’s method higher than a collection of color-coded LEDs that you simply’re compelled to decipher (ahem, Vizio).

The nice information is that Sony is likely one of the few soundbar corporations that make full use of the A7000’s HDMI connection to a TV, providing you with on-screen entry to the entire speaker’s settings and modes.

Across the again of the soundbar, you’ll discover a number of ports and connections together with two full HDMI inputs with 4K/8K/Dolby Imaginative and prescient passthrough, a devoted HDMI ARC/eARC output, an optical enter, an analog enter, a USB port for music playback, and port for that Bravia middle channel connection I discussed earlier.

Having two HDMI inputs is nice — with many soundbars, you’re fortunate to get even one — however Sony doesn’t precisely make it simple to plug all of these cables in. The ports are buried inside a small cavity and packed very carefully collectively.

Except you’re going to be plugging/unplugging cables rather a lot, this isn’t a giant deal, however I proceed to be amazed that soundbar designers suppose that it is sensible for a USB port to be so inaccessible. I’d choose on Sony, however I’ve seen the identical alternative made by different manufacturers too.

Inasmuch because the A7000 is a totally decked-out, trendy soundbar, Sony’s distant management design is mainly unchanged for the reason that mid-Nineteen Nineties. Whereas very useful, it’s festooned with buttons, a few of which solely work in case you purchase Sony’s non-obligatory wi-fi encompass audio system. I really like having all of these buttons provided that the A7000 can partially exchange an A/V receiver, however the absence of backlighting is disappointing at this worth.

Connections, setup, and configuration

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar close-up of input ports.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

In case your TV helps HDMI ARC/eARC, which most fashions from the previous seven years do, you may join the A7000 to your TV by way of a single HDMI cable. In case your TV doesn’t have this characteristic, you’ll nonetheless use an HDMI cable, however this may should be joined by an optical cable too.

Sadly, in case your TV can join by way of HDMI ARC/eARC, there’s no method to make use of the optical port as a supply for one more gadget like a CD participant — if it’s not getting used to obtain a TV audio sign, it’s primarily superfluous.

When you’re linked, you may start Sony’s very good on-screen setup process.

Those that use an optical TV connection gained’t be capable of get superior sound codecs like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X from their TVs, however given the A7000’s two HDMI inputs, there’s nonetheless loads of alternatives to get these codecs from Blu-ray gamers, streaming media gadgets, or different third-party packing containers.

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar on-screen room calibration.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

When you’re linked, you may start Sony’s very good on-screen setup process.

After lower than 5 minutes, the step-by-step course of guides you thru placement, automated calibration, organising Spotify Join, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Alexa integration — all without having to make use of an app in your phone or that small, scrolling show.

Not that you simply’re with out an app in case you want it: The Sony Music Heart app for Android and iOS provides you one more interface for controlling the A7000, together with the flexibility to group the soundbar with different Sony audio system.

I’ve struggled with voice intelligibility with different soundbars, however the A7000 is obvious as a bell.

However due to Sony’s help of all three main house automation platforms (Apple HomeKit, Google House, Amazon Alexa) you may add the A7000 to nearly any multiroom situation, whether or not your different audio system are Sony items or not.

Shortly after I printed this evaluation of the A7000, Chris Welch at The Verge printed his evaluation of the soundbar, and he identified one thing that’s value realizing, particularly in case you’re a gamer: These two HDMI 2.1 inputs would possibly be capable of go by means of 4K/120Hz, 8K/60Hz, and Dolby Imaginative and prescient, however they don’t go by means of variable refresh price (VRR) or auto low-latency mode (ALLM) alerts.

Is that this a difficulty? I don’t suppose so. There’s just one very particular situation by which this might trigger you some ache:

  • You personal an Xbox Sequence X or S, or a gaming PC.
  • Your TV is VRR and ALLM suitable.
  • Your TV solely has one VRR/ALLM-compatible HDMI enter, and…
  • That enter is similar enter that gives HDMI eARC.

If all of this stuff had been true, then sure, the absence of VRR/ALLM passthrough may very well be a little bit of a nuisance.

Sound high quality

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

As a single speaker, the A7000 does a superior job of dealing with each motion pictures and music. When you’re questioning if Sony’s claims of a built-in subwoofer are the true deal or simply advertising and marketing hype, I can guarantee you it’s highly effective sufficient that you’ll really feel these low-frequency results in case you pump up the quantity. Even higher, the middle channel renders dialog with such readability and precision, I doubt you’ll ever have to make use of the included voice enhancement characteristic. I’ve struggled with voice intelligibility with different soundbars, however the A7000 is obvious as a bell.

In terms of Dolby Atmos, the A7000 actually delivers. However the speaker’s secret weapon is its Immersive AE (IAE) mode.

However whatever the content material you’re enjoying, I’ve two ideas that I believe will assist in case you discover the audio underwhelming. First, Sony’s automated room calibration appears to take a conservative strategy to speaker ranges. In my media room, the ceilings are low and the TV is method nearer to the left wall than to the proper. Heading into the superior settings and adjusting parameters like the extent of the peak and facet channels and their calculated distances to your listening place could make an enormous distinction to general efficiency in addition to immersive codecs like Dolby Atmos.

Second, the A7000 is a beast with regards to quantity. At 75% of its vary, I used to be already effectively past what I might comfortably tolerate in my room. However I discovered that there’s a actual candy spot across the 45-50% degree the place the sound goes from good to nice. I encourage you to discover all of those choices with a purpose to unmask the soundbar’s full potential.

Sony SA-SW5 wireless subwoofer.

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Sony SA-RS3S wireless surround speakers.

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar close-up of top speaker.

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

In terms of Dolby Atmos materials, the A7000 actually delivers — particularly in case you make the tweaks I described above. The side-firing tweeters assist to mission a large soundstage, whereas the up-firing top drivers create that particular dome-of-sound impact that makes motion pictures like Mad Max Fury Street and Ford v. Ferrari so pleasing.

However the speaker’s secret weapon is its Immersive AE (IAE) mode. Accessible on the press of a button on the distant, it engages Sony’s 3D upscaling expertise. So whether or not you’re watching 2-channel stereo TV reveals, listening to streaming music, and even enjoying Dolby 5.1 encompass content material, it will likely be rendered as if it had been mastered as a 7.1.2 supply. Purists might discover it overly processed, particularly in case you apply it to stereo tracks, however I discovered it addictive.

When listening to Dolby Atmos or whereas utilizing IAE mode, Sony provides you a alternative of three specialised sound modes: Cinema, Music, or Commonplace. Because the names recommend, they supply some digital processing designed to reinforce particular sorts of content material. As with all types of EQ presets, you might discover they enhance or detract out of your listening expertise — I didn’t discover them practically as fascinating because the Immersive AE characteristic itself.

However this brings us to my solely actual critique of the A7000: There’s no solution to take management of the equalizer straight. No frequency-specific changes, no controls for bass, treble, or midrange — there isn’t even a loudness toggle that I might discover.

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Not that I might make a bunch of heavy-handed adjustments to the soundbar’s signature — it’s already pleasingly balanced to my ears — however the omission of those controls in a $1,300 system feels indefensible. When you’re severe sufficient about your own home theater sound to make this degree of funding, you need to be capable of get underneath the hood in case you select to take action.

The A7000 actually brings Sony 360 Actuality Audio to life.

The A7000 would possibly simply be the primary soundbar I’ve auditioned that doesn’t make me wince when utilizing Bluetooth. Utilizing a Google Pixel 5, I streamed a wide range of music tracks utilizing Sony’s wi-fi hi-res audio LDAC codec in addition to the backyard selection AAC codec and each sounded actually stable. Usually, there’s a giant high quality soar while you change from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi streaming e.g. Chromecast or AirPlay, however with the A7000, they’re remarkably comparable. I chalk this as much as Sony’s DSEE Excessive upscaling tech, which is designed to revive lossy, compressed digital audio to an approximation of lossless audio.

I additionally did a short tour by means of some Sony 360 Actuality Audio (360 RA) tracks by way of Tidal HiFi to see how the A7000 dealt with it. This strengthened two issues I already knew about 360 RA: Not all 360 RA tracks are created equal, and your speaker will decide a lot of the expertise. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Sony’s $700 SRS-RA5000, a speaker the corporate designed expressly to ship 360 RA audio, however the A7000 actually brings this format to life.

Tracks like Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 and even the way more current Invisible by Duran Duran don’t wow in any method, however crank up the Foo Fighters’ Everlong or The Chainsmokers and Halsey’s Nearer and you start to get a way of 360 RA’s potential to put you inside a stay music setting.

Is it value including one in every of Sony’s wi-fi subwoofers and wi-fi surrounds? When you have the means, it’s completely one thing I’d suggest. Pretty much as good because the built-in subwoofer and side-firing tweeters are, there’s merely no substitute for discrete audio system. The ensuing combo is thrilling in each method.

Extras

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar close-up of remote control.Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Sadly, my allotted time with the A7000 didn’t give me a chance to check out each single one in every of its many options, however they’re completely value mentioning as a result of they assist illustrate how considerate Sony was in designing it.

You’ll be able to join a set of Bluetooth headphones for personal listening. Lots of TVs help this, but when yours doesn’t, it’s actually useful. Bose additionally affords this characteristic on its soundbars, however the firm solely guarantees that it’ll work with Bose headphones. Sony, uncharacteristically for a corporation that has a historical past of selling its personal applied sciences and requirements, permits you to use any Bluetooth headphones.

By the Sony Music Heart app, you may straight entry Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal, TuneIn Radio, in addition to any music on your own home community e.g. on a network-attached storage (NAS) drive.

As talked about earlier, in case you personal a suitable Sony Bravia TV, you may join the A7000 by way of a devoted cable and use the TV’s total built-in speaker system as your middle channel. I didn’t have a Bravia TV obtainable, however I’m guessing the sound — particularly for dialog and different on-screen sounds — might be fairly good.

Our take

Although costly, Sony’s HT-A7000 is a feature-loaded Dolby Atmos soundbar that sounds nice by itself — and even higher when accompanied by Sony’s non-obligatory wi-fi subwoofers and encompass audio system. With an easy-to-use on-screen interface, benefiting from the speaker’s full potential is way more intuitive than with a few of the competitors.

Is there a greater different?

I’m unsure there are any soundbars at this worth or decrease which might be higher than the HT-A7000, however there are two fashions that come to thoughts that provide higher worth, relying in your wants and tastes:

LG’s $1,000 SP9YA will prevent $300 and it comes with its personal wi-fi subwoofer. Contemplating its wonderful audio efficiency for each motion pictures and music, and the flexibility so as to add wi-fi encompass audio system later, it’s a superb different to the HT-A7000. Nevertheless, it solely has a single HDMI enter, it lacks Sony’s elegant on-screen menus, and also you gained’t be capable of stream 360 Actuality Audio. Some can also discover its hard-wired energy wire tough to work with relying on the set up.

Vizio’s Elevate soundbar additionally prices $1,000 and consists of wired encompass audio system along with its wi-fi subwoofer, which implies it’s a real all-in-one system. It has two HDMI inputs, however like many Vizio merchandise, its major focus is on being a TV companion, not a full different to an A/V receiver-based system. As such, it doesn’t help hi-res audio (until it’s a Blu-ray disc soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD), Apple AirPlay 2, or Amazon Alexa, although it does have Chromecast onboard. Nonetheless, it’s a fantastically designed product that sounds wonderful.

How lengthy will it final?

Sony builds nice merchandise and has observe report of maintaining these merchandise up to date with new software program over time. I count on you’ll get many, a few years out of the HT-A7000. With help for each audio format underneath the solar, it will likely be a very long time earlier than it’s thought-about out of date.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. At $1,300, it’s an funding, however given its appreciable capabilities and superior sound high quality, the payback might be a few years of audio and video enjoyment.

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