Initial impressions suggest the Sony HT-A7000 is one of the most immersive standalone soundbars around
I recently got the opportunity to go hands-on with Sony’s new flagship soundbar, the HT-A7000, at a press event held at London’s swanky Soho Hotel.
Though my time with it was limited, I got a strong sense of what it’s capable of, and if initial impressions are anything to go by, it’s going to be a hit with those seeking high-quality, immersive audio from a standalone soundbar.
Sony HT-A7000 hands-on review: Price and availability
It’s sold as a standalone soundbar but those wanting to further expand their audio experience by pairing additional speakers can add either the SA-SW3 and SA-SW5 wireless subwoofers, which cost £449 and £699, respectively, and/or a pair of SA-RS3S wireless rear speakers for true surround. These will set you back £450.
Sony HT-A7000 hands-on review: Design, connections and features
The HT-A7000 is big, both in terms of physical size and audio performance. It measures 1.3m wide and weighs over 8kg, meaning you’re going to need a hefty TV cabinet to incorporate it into your home theatre setup.
Considering the money Sony is asking for the HT-A7000, you’d expect the latest audio technology and connection standards, and in this regard, it doesn’t disappoint.
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It houses two HDMI 2.1 ports that support passthrough for Dolby Vision, 4K and 8K HDR and 4K at 120Hz, which is great news for gamers owning either a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X.
There’s also an optical input, analogue input and another 3.5mm specifically to connect the bar to a compatible Sony Bravia XR TV and make use of what Sony calls “Acoustic Centre Sync”. When enabled, this allows the television to play audio from the centre channel through its speakers while the soundbar handles the other channels. The other benefit to pairing the HT-A7000 with a Bravia XR TV is that you’ll be able to control it via your TV, with core functions and settings integrated directly into the TV’s UI.
In addition to that comprehensive range of physical connections, the Sony HT-A7000 supports wireless streaming via Bluetooth 5.0. There’s also support for Spotify Connect, Chromecast audio and, for the first time on a Sony soundbar, Apple AirPlay 2.
There’s no smart assistant built into the bar, but the HT-A7000 can be voice-controlled when linked to a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa smart speaker.
Sony HT-A7000 hands-on review: How does it sound?
I was very impressed by the sonic prowess of the Sony HT-A7000 during my brief time with it.
Without being pushed anywhere near its 500W maximum output, the soundbar comfortably filled a large hotel room with immersive sound, characterised by a wide soundstage and engaging height channels.
All of this is made possible through the combination of Sony digital signal processing technologies and a 7.1.2 channel setup with five forward-facing speakers, two beam tweeters that project sound sideways, two subwoofers and a pair of upwards-firing drivers.
With the exception of the beam tweeters, the speakers use Sony’s “X-Balanced”, non-circular diaphragm design. The company says this produces punchier bass while minimising distortion and, judging by my brief time with the HT-A7000, bass is handled expertly.
The soundbar’s design only tells half the story, however, with Sony’s S-Force Front Surround and Vertical Surround Engine (VSE) playing key roles in creating an enveloping soundstage.
Sony says the first of these digital signal processing technologies, S-Force Front Surround, widens and deepens the soundstage, while VSE creates virtual channels above you to give audio a believable sense of height.
These processes are tweaked to suit the space the HT-A7000 is in via Sound Field Optimisation (SFO) when setting up the bar. SFO uses microphones built into the bar to measure the distance between the bar and walls and ceilings and optimal dispersion of sound around the room.
Sony has a long-standing relationship with Dolby, so it should come as no surprise that the HT-A7000 supports Dolby Atmos; however, there’s also support for its big rival DTS:X.
To demonstrate the bar’s Atmos credentials, I was shown a short scene from the Dolby Atmos mix of Blade Runner. Deckard is sat in his vehicle with rain pouring down outside and the HT-A7000 did an excellent job of positioning the rain and balancing ambient effects with dialogue as Deckard speaks to Pris over the comms unit.
A little later in the scene, the loud whirring of a police vehicle illustrated the bar’s ability to handle lower, more impactful frequencies and, when it whooshed overhead, the upfiring speakers successfully made me feel as if I was positioned under the vehicle.
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If you’re watching regular stereo content, the HT-A7000 is able to upscale it to create a virtual surround-sound experience as well, via Sony’s Immersive Audio Enhancement algorithm, accessible via a button on the remote.
When it comes to music, the HT-A7000 has Hi-res audio certification and can upscale lower-resolution content using Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) Extreme algorithm. There’s also support for the company’s spatial audio technology – 360 Reality Audio – which is available on Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Music, so your immersive listening experience is by no means limited to when you’re watching TV.
I was played a 24bit/96kHz WAV file studio recording of “Georgia on my Mind” via a USB stick plugged into the bar and it sounded fantastic; the unnamed artist’s vocals were articulated with outstanding clarity.
Sony HT-A7000 hands-on review: Early verdict
I didn’t get to spend all that long with the HT-A7000 but, during my limited listening time, I couldn’t fail to be impressed by what it delivers.
It’s a serious soundbar with a serious price to match. Many people will only be able to dream of being able to afford and accommodate one in their homes, but those who can are unlikely to be disappointed by the audio experience it provides.