SOME SOUNDBARS PRIORITISE convenience and price, while others prioritise sound quality, features and versatility. Sony’s new HT-A7000 is very much one of the latter. Read our Sony HT-A7000 Review.
You know it means business as soon as you clock its size: 1.3m wide and 14cm deep. This immediately raises hopes of a big, authentic audio performance, although bear in mind that it could present a positioning challenge if used with a desktop-mounted TV.
Inside the A7000’s lengthy and elegantly styled chassis are drivers delivering a 7.1.2 channel count. There are five of Sony’s rectangular X-Balanced units (size unspecified) along the front, which are joined by a pair of side-firing beam tweeters. There are then two upfirers in the top edge, plus an integrated subwoofer. Total rated power for this spread is 500W, via digital amplification.
Some rival ‘bars in this price bracket come with an outboard subwoofer and wireless rears, which you don’t get here. You can add them as optional extras, though: £ for Sony’s SA-RS3S rear speaker pack, and either £ or £ for the ‘entry level’ SA-SW3 or premium SA-SW5 subwoofers respectively. And I know what you’re thinking: that’s a serious chunk of cash on top of the basic HT-A7000’s already significant £ cost.
Other than its lack of native rears and standalone sub, this soundbar has an uncompromising feature list. Naturally there’s support for DTS:X and Dolby Atmos immersive formats, and you can also play 360 Reality Audio tracks from Amazon Music HD, Deezer and Tidal, as well as high-resolution audio files, including DSD via USB connection. Streaming is through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast or Apple AirPlay 2.
A ‘Sound Field Optimization’ system uses built-in microphones to optimise the HT-A7000’s frequency response to your room acoustics, while an ‘Immersive Audio Enhancement’ processing option is provided for adding an overhead sound effect to conventional surround and stereo sources.
The soundbar’s physical connections, in addition to that USB, are a 2-in, 1-out HDMI loopthrough supporting 4K/120Hz video passthrough, eARC, and HDR10 and Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+). An update enabling automatic tone mapping optimisation and auto-genre mode switching with the PlayStation 5 console is due in spring 2022. Optical digital is a fallback input for legacy TVs.
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A final hookup allows you to try out the Acoustic Centre Sync feature, where the soundbar join forces with a Sony TV’s speakers to deliver more accurate detail placement. I enjoyed this with Sony’s XR-65X90J TV (reviewed p48).
Up and running, the HT-A7000 quickly establishes itself as a member of the soundbar elite, and its sonic prowess applies to both music and movies.
2. Compact handset has keys for sound presets and Immersive Audio Enhancement
With movies, you get a gloriously detailed, vivid, and energetic soundstage. There’s no detail, no matter how subtle, that the A7000 isn’t sensitive enough to deliver. What’s more, with Atmos and DTS:X mixes it places these within a finely honed 3D soundspace. Dialogue is lifted to better integrate with the onscreen visuals, and Sony’s upfirers create some genuine overhead effects, rather than just building a ‘wall of sound’ before you.
Impossible to ignore is the HT-A7000’s inherent power. There’s an expansive dynamic range here, coupled to lightning-fast reactions, that drives aggressive movie moments into your room with a weight and potency you feel in your gut as well as your ears.
Even the most colossal of soundtrack elements, such as the build up to the huge mixture of score and crashing wave effects in Blade Runner 2049 when K rescues Deckard from the downed spinner, don’t seem to faze it. Impact sounds are clear, lifted from the background maelstrom, although some marginal harshness can creep into its high frequencies if you’re really driving it.
Occasionally I’d have liked to hear bass move down to that whole other gear that one of the optional subwoofers could presumably add. But that’s more a ‘perfect world’ observation than a criticism of a one-box soundbar.
Be quiet back there!
A more real issue is the lack of included rears. For while the HT-A7000 delivers an extraordinary front hemisphere, it stops pretty abruptly at the side of you. Something which, ironically, the quality of the front soundstage makes you keenly aware of.
It’s impossible not to think here of Samsung’s HWQ950A (HCC #324), which features a subwoofer and wireless rears equipped with forward-, side- and up-firing drivers, and is now available for just £.
But before you run off to grab that Samsung, don’t forget I said the HT-A7000 was a master of music as well as movies. It delivers your two-channel library with gorgeous timing and staging, a brilliant progression through the audioband, and a general ‘Hi-Fi’ sensibility that Samsung’s more movie-minded package doesn’t share.
‘An expansive dynamic range, and lightning-fast reactions, drives aggressive movie moments into your room’
It’s curious, though, that Sony’s dedicated Music preset sounds marginally anaemic and trebly at times, leaving Cinema and Standard Surround as better options. Plus beware the Immersive Audio Enhancement mode, which is sometimes fantastic, adding blissful extra scale and immersion to big musical moments, but at other times (even within a single song) can suddenly sound slightly processed and forced.
Thankfully, these are just processing flaws. At its heart the HT-A7000 is a beast of a single-box soundbar that’s ready for whatever you throw at it. It’s also a less cluttersome proposition than most of its premium rivals, but with the option to expand its soundfield if you wish. All things considered, this Sony is pretty special
PRODUCT: 7.1.2-channel Atmos soundbar with wireless sub and rear speaker options
POSITION: Sony’s premium conventional soundbar, below the four-box HT-A9
DRIVE UNITS: 5 x X-Balanced front-facing drive units; 2 x beam tweeters; 2 x upfirers; 1 x woofer ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): 500W total CONNECTIONS: 2 x HDMI in, 1 x HDMI out (all v2.1); optical digital audio input; USB; analogue audio input; S-Center Out DOLBY ATMOS/DTS:X: Yes/Yes SEPARATE SUB: No. Two wireless models optional REMOTE CONTROL: Yes DIMENSIONS: 1,300(w) x 80(h) x 142(d)mm WEIGHT: 8.7kg
FEATURES: Immersive Audio Enhancement mode; wireless rear options; HDR10 and Dolby Vision passthrough; 4K/120Hz passthrough; 360 Reality Audio support; DSEE Extreme compression restoration; Sound Field Optimisation; Bluetooth; Chromecast; Apple AirPlay 2; Wi-Fi; voice control
BLADE RUNNER 2049: A real peach of ‘serious’ sci-fifrom director Denis Villeneuve, and a worthy follow-up to the original. The 4K Blu-ray’s Atmos audio is astonishing, and while the image takes an intentionally subdued approach to HDR, it majors in sharpness and sublime colours. There’s still talk of a sequel.
Powerful and muscular room-filling Dolby Atmos from a single soundbar
- Robust low-end
- Excellent Atmos performance
- No VRR or ALLM at launch
- EQ controls would be nice
- Slightly confused styling