Sony HT-A7000 overview: A completely-loaded soundbar expertise

MSRP $1,300.00

“Nice sound, ease of use, and an enormous listing of options make it onerous to beat.”

Professionals

Superior music and film sound

Simple 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 guide 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 three.1, 5.1, and even 7.1 encompass sound. Probably the most succesful fashions characteristic Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and sometimes 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 residence 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-compulsory 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?

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

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 cover, however tough to recycle in some areas. 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 appropriate Sony Bravia TV (extra on that later), an influence twine, two wall-mount brackets, a wall-mounting template, and a quick-start information.

Design

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At simply over 51 inches vast, three.25 inches tall, and 5.5 inches deep, there’s no getting round the truth that the A7000 is an enormous (and at 19 kilos, heavy) speaker. It’s virtually as vast as a 65-inch TV, and satirically, it’s so tall it’s going to obscure among 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, finest take some measurement 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 beneath 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 another objects.

However regardless of its measurement, Sony has achieved an excellent 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 prime floor is fabricated from black glass. It’s a fingerprint magnet, however when cleaned of blemishes, it seems to be actually sharp. The glass homes a number 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.

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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 received’t see them in any respect. What you will note is a scrolling-text show that offers you key data like which supply you’re at present taking part in from, quantity degree, audio format, and varied different useful messages. I’m not an enormous fan of those sorts of shows — I discover the restricted actual property and the scrolling textual content a bit annoying, however it’s manner higher than a collection of color-coded LEDs that you simply’re compelled to decipher (ahem, Vizio).

The good 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 heart 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 lots, this isn’t an enormous deal, however I proceed to be amazed that soundbar designers assume that it is sensible for a USB port to be so inaccessible. I’d choose on Sony, however I’ve seen the identical selection made by different manufacturers too.

Inasmuch because the A7000 is a completely decked-out, fashionable soundbar, Sony’s distant management design is principally unchanged for the reason that mid-1990s. Whereas very useful, it’s festooned with buttons, a few of which solely work in the event you purchase Sony’s non-compulsory wi-fi encompass audio system. I truly like having all of these buttons provided that the A7000 can partially substitute an A/V receiver, however the absence of backlighting is disappointing at this worth.

Connections, setup, and configuration

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In case your TV helps HDMI ARC/eARC, which most fashions from the previous seven years do, you possibly can 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 manner 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 related, you possibly can start Sony’s very good on-screen setup process.

Those that use an optical TV connection received’t have the ability to 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 containers.

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

When you’re related, you possibly can start Sony’s very good on-screen setup process.

After lower than 5 minutes, the step-by-step course of guides you thru placement, computerized calibration, establishing Spotify Join, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Alexa integration — all while not having to make use of an app in your cellphone or that small, scrolling show.

Not that you simply’re with out an app in the event you want it: The Sony Music Middle app for Android and iOS provides you yet one more interface for controlling the A7000, together with the power 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 residence automation platforms (Apple HomeKit, Google Residence, Amazon Alexa) you possibly can add the A7000 to nearly any multiroom state of affairs, whether or not your different audio system are Sony items or not.

Sound high quality

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As a single speaker, the A7000 does a superior job of dealing with each films and music. For those who’re questioning if Sony’s claims of a built-in subwoofer are the actual 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 the event 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 relation to 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 taking part in, I’ve two suggestions that I feel will assist in the event you discover the audio underwhelming. First, Sony’s computerized room calibration appears to take a conservative method to speaker ranges. In my media room, the ceilings are low and the TV is manner nearer to the left wall than to the fitting. Heading into the superior settings and adjusting parameters like the extent of the peak and aspect channels and their calculated distances to your listening place could make an enormous distinction to total efficiency in addition to immersive codecs like Dolby Atmos.

Second, the A7000 is a beast in relation 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.

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

In relation to Dolby Atmos materials, the A7000 actually delivers — particularly in the event you make the tweaks I described above. The side-firing tweeters assist to undertaking a large soundstage, whereas the up-firing peak drivers create that particular dome-of-sound impact that makes films like Mad Max Fury Highway 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 know-how. So whether or not you’re watching 2-channel stereo TV exhibits, listening to streaming music, and even taking part in Dolby 5.1 encompass content material, will probably be rendered as if it had been mastered as a 7.1.2 supply. Purists might discover it overly processed, particularly in the event 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 selection of three specialised sound modes: Cinema, Music, or Normal. Because the names recommend, they supply some digital processing designed to boost particular sorts of content material. As with every kind of EQ presets, you could 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 method to take management of the equalizer instantly. No frequency-specific changes, no controls for bass, treble, or midrange — there isn’t even a loudness toggle that I might discover.

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

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. For those who’re severe sufficient about your own home theater sound to make this degree of funding, it’s best to have the ability to get beneath the hood in the event you select to take action.

The A7000 actually brings Sony 360 Actuality Audio to life.

The A7000 may 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 strong. Usually, there’s an enormous high quality bounce if 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 DSEEE Excessive upscaling tech, which is designed to revive lossy, compressed digital audio to an approximation of lossless audio.

I additionally did a quick tour via some Sony 360 Actuality Audio (360 RA) tracks by way of Tidal HiFi to see how the A7000 dealt with it. This bolstered 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 latest Invisible by Duran Duran don’t wow in any manner, 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 position you inside a stay music surroundings.

Is it value including one among 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 manner.

Extras

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

You possibly can join a set of Bluetooth headphones for personal listening. A variety of TVs help this, but when yours doesn’t, it’s actually helpful. Bose additionally gives 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, helps you to use any Bluetooth headphones.

By the Sony Music Middle app, you possibly can instantly 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 the event you personal a appropriate Sony Bravia TV, you possibly can join the A7000 by way of a devoted cable and use the TV’s complete built-in speaker system as your heart channel. I didn’t have a Bravia TV obtainable, however I’m guessing the sound — particularly for dialog and different on-screen sounds — will likely 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-compulsory wi-fi subwoofers and encompass audio system. With an easy-to-use on-screen interface, making the most of the speaker’s full potential is way more intuitive than with among the competitors.

Is there a greater different?

I’m undecided there are any soundbars at this worth or decrease which can 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 glorious audio efficiency for each films and music, and the power so as to add wi-fi encompass audio system later, it’s a wonderful different to the HT-A7000. Nonetheless, it solely has a single HDMI enter, it lacks Sony’s elegant on-screen menus, and also you received’t have the ability to stream 360 Actuality Audio. Some may discover its hard-wired energy twine tough to work with relying on the set up.

Vizio’s Elevate soundbar additionally prices $1,000 and contains wired encompass audio system along with its wi-fi subwoofer, which suggests it’s a real all-in-one system. It has two HDMI inputs, however like many Vizio merchandise, its main 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 superb.

How lengthy will it final?

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

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