Sony HT-A7000 Review: The Next Generation Atmos Soundbar That’s (Almost) Perfect for Gaming

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The $ 1,300 soundbar doesn’t have much room for compromise. You can use a fraction of this with a fully qualified Vizio sound bar, and even premium options like Sonos Arc cost hundreds less. There are always people who doubt the idea of ​​spending so much money and not putting it towards a traditional surround sound system – and this is especially true (and a fair argument) when you reach this price level. So when Sony designed its latest flagship 7.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos sound bar, the HT-A7000, Sony knew it couldn’t settle down and had to throw the entire kitchen sink to justify a drastic investment.

And that’s exactly what the company was trying to do. The HT-A7000, which will begin shipping in September, includes gamers two HDMI 2.1 feed-in inputs capable of 8K, 4K at 120 Hz and Dolby Vision HDR. There are still very few soundbars on the market that are optimized so well for next-generation consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S. both Sony and Microsoft consoles for the HT-A7000 and enjoy their visual loyalty — with one unfortunate exception, which I’ll explain later. If your TV brutally has only one HDMI 2.1 / eARC port, Sony’s new soundbar offers you one extra. This is not what Arc or cheaper soundbars can do.

Sony has also filled this soundbar with virtually every possible way to stream music. Bluetooth and a 3.5mm aux port really don’t cut this much scratches, so you also get Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and the ability to integrate the HT-A7000 with Google Home or Amazon Alexa systems. You can connect a Bluetooth headset to the soundbar and listen in this way so as not to disturb anyone. It has a USB port if you want to connect a drive that contains your FLAC collection or any local audio you want to play. The Soundbar also supports almost all home theater audio codecs under the sun, including Dolby Atmos and DTS: X.

The HT-A7000 is about as future-proof and full of technology as the soundbars come from. It is not intended for home theater enthusiasts who want to carefully consider and put together all the components of an ideal surround system. This is for someone who needs to enjoy the Sony A90J OLED and has enough disposable income to add Sony’s top-of-the-line soundbar to their shopping cart. But to really get the most out of the HT-A7000, you’ll eventually also need an optional set of wireless rear speakers ($ 349.99) and a separate subwoofer ($ 399.99 for 200W or $ 699.99 for 300W). Overall, the product package I reviewed would cost $ 2,349.97 before taxes. It’s about the same thing as buying one of the high-end Sony OLED TVs I mentioned.

So when I test the HT-A7000, I’ve done it in two different configurations: I’ve used the soundbar alone because some buyers just stop at it. But I’ve also put a kitted out, unreasonably priced system through its pace.

HT-A7000 alone

By itself, the HT-A7000 has a 7.1.2 soundbar. This breaks down into five front speakers as well as two radiation tweeters (7), a built-in subwoofer (1), and upward-facing Atmos speakers (2). For comparison, the Sonos Arc is a 5.0.2 speaker (and it becomes 5.1.2 if you add Sub to the equation).

The Sony HT-A7000 has an Atmos 7.1.2 soundbar.

That for sure show part of the premium soundbar, but I’ll let you decide if the top surface of the glass and the combination of textures and materials fit the price. There is a capacitive touch button on power, input, volume, Bluetooth and so on. And behind the HT-A7000’s front grill is a small screen that shows what output it is playing (HDMI 1, 2 or TV) and shows the volume or sound mode when you make adjustments. When watching something through another HDMI port, you can press the “display” button on the remote control to get a summary on the TV screen that tells you the current audio signal and whether the vertical speakers are in use. When the soundbar transmits TV sound, you will see these details on the small front panel display.

At the back is an arsenal of ports: two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, analog and optical audio inputs, a Type A USB port, and power. In addition to the included remote control and HDMI cable, Sony includes the HT-A7000 brackets and screws in the package if you want to mount it on a wall. I really don’t find faults with the remote: it’s very Sony, but at least there are individual buttons for both the HDMI inputs and all the most commonly used audio modes.

The glass surface of the soundbar has touch controls.

Installing the soundbar was fairly simple thanks to the instructions on the Sony display. I connected the devices I wanted to drive through the soundbar, plugged it into the eARC port on the LG CX and was ready to go. In terms of sound performance, the HT-A7000 is there with the best Atmos sound bars. I felt obligated to pay $ 20 for rent F9 and to experience the great success of Hollywood, and I was not disappointed. The car’s yachts and operating cycles are fascinating as they come out of this 7.1.2 bar, and it manages to provide a clear sense of the extensive surround effects.

I also spent some time watching Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live on Radio City -Blu-ray, which I’ve seen as a demo at audio events more than once. Both acoustic guitars had warm, great detail and just the right sound. The song remained crisp and clear on the center channel during each song. Sony’s S-Force Pro Surround and Vertical Surround Engine technologies spread the sound well around the room when you’re watching any surround mix.

The HT-A7000 is slightly larger than the Sonos Arc. Behind each is a 55-inch TV.

The sink rate grew more impressive when I watched Atmos content from Netflix or my Movies Anywhere library. Sony’s sound field optimization process helps the soundbar tune your room. It plays a few loud noises that help the device detect how far the walls on the left and right are (like Sonos ’TruePlay tuning system), and it also detects the ceiling distance. (You can enter these numbers manually if you’ve measured yourself and want to make sure they’re complete.) Because more drivers are available, Sony surpassed my Sonos Arc – though not nearly as much as I expected for the $ 500 price difference. The effect of the pitch channels was very similar on both speakers. Sony includes a variety of sound modes, such as auto, standard, movie theater, and others, such as “sound,” that emphasize dialogue or “night,” which limits speech when watching at night.

The small screen shows volume adjustments, soundbar status, and more.

The HT-A7000 comes with a very Sony remote control.

Surprisingly, there is no preset sound mode for gaming. Nevertheless, the HT-A7000 brought a loud sound when I played Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart On PS5, with no noticeable audio and video sync issues. When I switched to the Xbox Series X, the story was the same. Passthrough worked largely flawlessly, and the soundbar correctly detected various audio codecs transmitted from games and game console streaming applications.

But then I realized something was wrong.

Look, one area where the HT-A7000 wobbles with gaming is an area familiar to Sony: a variable refresh rate. Currently, the soundbar is unable to pass both VRR and ALLM (automatic low latency mode). This is a major drawback for Xbox Series X or S owners; Both consoles can use VRR to smooth out frame rate drops during playback. Microsoft Flight Simulator felt much more broken when played through the soundbar without VRR. Sony told me that it recommends that Xbox owners be connected directly to the TV’s HDMI 2.1 port. The PS5 still doesn’t offer support for VRR, so if it’s the console of your choice, you really won’t lose much right now. In any case, you need to make sure you use the ideal settings for gaming on any HDMI port that the HT-A7000 has come across, as the lack of ALLM pass-through prevents the TV from making these changes automatically.

Excluding the VRR and ALLM bushings is sufficient to prevent the HT-A7000 from perfect soundbar for the next generation of gaming, which I hoped it would be, which is unfortunate. It’s a great match for PS5 right now, but losing VRR on Xbox is hard to swallow with that kind of money.

With optional subwoofer and back cover

As capable as the HT-A7000 is in its solitude, more speakers is always better in a home theater. Adding a wireless soundbar and back frames was painless; the soundbar automatically detects them and starts feeding them sound immediately. (The Soundbar’s remote also has buttons for add-ons.) Not all of the world’s virtualization technology can still compete with the separate speakers on the back, and I got the most out of Sony’s new system with accessories. .

Sony’s optional rear speakers and subwoofer open up all the possibilities of the HT-A7000.

I wish there were inspiring Atmos drivers on the backs, like the backs that came with the Vizion Elevate bar, but no. They are just traditional stereo speakers. Sony’s 300 W subwoofer is capable of pushing really roaring, echoing bass. That’s frankly too much for my Brooklyn apartment, but if you’re not in danger of annoying your neighbors, it’s exciting to get free.

A fully functional system is a joy for movies and TV shows, but it also has a significant difference to 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos music, which has been popular lately. You can really feel the unique location and details when listening to the right surround system. The surround sound of Apple Music feels less temple in this situation than when listening with headphones. Other features of the HT-A7000, such as Chromecast and AirPlay 2, have worked great, but keep in mind that they are only for audio playback on this device and not video.

The Sony HT-A7000 is a great, powerful soundbar, but it’s at an expensive price that many people will never seriously consider, while the Sonos Arc and Vizio Elevate, as an option, offer excellent performance at a much lower cost. I can’t help but think that Sony should have included either rear speakers or a subwoofer in the package with this. Doing everything individually makes the whole proposal an even harder sale when you cross the $ 2,000 limit.

The level of the future is impressive here. But since the LG CX has four HDMI 2.1 ports, I already had everything I needed in the Arc, Xbox Series X, and PS5. The bushing of the HT-A7000 isn’t a big selling point for me, even though it works as advertised — except in a VRR situation. Without this star, I would be more comfortable marking the HT-A7000 as worth the price for those who can swing it and want a simple path to luxurious home theater sound. If you’re not an Xbox gamer, maybe it’s still worth this title. This is the soundbar that really does it all. But it is so high that everything that is more perfect is a reason to pause and carefully explore other options.

Photographer Chris Welch / The Verge

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