Sony HT-A7000 evaluation: A totally-loaded soundbar expertise
“Nice sound, ease of use, and an enormous listing of options make it onerous to beat.”
- 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
- 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 3.1, 5.1, and even 7.1 encompass sound. Essentially 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 dwelling automation platforms from Apple, Google, and Amazon.
Sony additionally offers 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 value 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?
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 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 suitable Sony Bravia TV (extra on that later), an influence twine, two wall-mount brackets, a wall-mounting template, and a quick-start information.
At simply over 51 inches broad, 3.25 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 broad as a 65-inch TV, and mockingly, 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. Until your TV is already wall-mounted otherwise you plan to take action, greatest 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 matches underneath your TV between the legs, you don’t need to push it too far again — its upward-firing drivers (key to getting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound) shouldn’t be obscured by every other objects.
However regardless of its dimension, Sony has performed a superb job of minimizing the A7000’s look. The upward-firing drivers are hid behind black material panels which wrap across the sides. The rest of the bar’s high floor is product of black glass. It’s a fingerprint magnet, however when cleaned of blemishes, it seems actually sharp. The glass homes just a few contact controls that offer you entry to energy, quantity, supply, Bluetooth, and a shortcut to Spotify Join. A non-removable perforated steel grille completes the image.
Behind that grille sits an array of drivers. They’re fairly seen in these photographs, 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 notice is a scrolling-text show that offers you key information like which supply you’re presently taking part in from, quantity stage, audio format, and numerous 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 pressured to decipher (ahem, Vizio).
The good information is that Sony is among the few soundbar corporations that make full use of the A7000’s HDMI connection to a TV, supplying 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 intently collectively.
Until you’re going to be plugging/unplugging cables rather a lot, this isn’t an enormous deal, however I proceed to be amazed that soundbar designers assume that it is smart for a USB port to be so inaccessible. I’d decide on Sony, however I’ve seen the identical alternative made by different manufacturers too.
Inasmuch because the A7000 is a totally decked-out, fashionable soundbar, Sony’s distant management design is principally unchanged for the reason that mid-Nineteen Nineties. Whereas very practical, it’s festooned with buttons, a few of which solely work when you purchase Sony’s non-compulsory wi-fi encompass audio system. I really like having all of these buttons on condition that the A7000 can partially change an A/V receiver, however the absence of backlighting is disappointing at this value.
Connections, setup, and configuration
In case your TV helps HDMI ARC/eARC, which most fashions from the previous seven years do, you’ll be able to join the A7000 to your TV through 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 through HDMI ARC/eARC, there’s no manner to make use of the optical port as a supply for one more machine 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’ll be able to start Sony’s excellent on-screen setup process.
Those that use an optical TV connection received’t be capable 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.
When you’re related, you’ll be able to start Sony’s excellent on-screen setup process.
After lower than 5 minutes, the step-by-step course of guides you thru placement, computerized calibration, organising Spotify Join, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Alexa integration — all with no need to make use of an app in your cellphone or that small, scrolling show.
Not that you simply’re with out an app when you want it: The Sony Music Heart app for Android and iOS offers 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 assist of all three main dwelling automation platforms (Apple HomeKit, Google Dwelling, Amazon Alexa) you’ll be able to add the A7000 to just about any multiroom state of affairs, whether or not your different audio system are Sony items or not.
Sound high quality
As a single speaker, the A7000 does a superior job of dealing with each motion pictures and music. If you happen to’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 when 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 the case 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 taking part in, I’ve two ideas that I believe will assist when 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 best. 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 in terms of 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% stage the place the sound goes from good to nice. I encourage you to discover all of those choices in an effort to unmask the soundbar’s full potential.
In the case of Dolby Atmos materials, the A7000 actually delivers — particularly when you make the tweaks I described above. The side-firing tweeters assist to challenge a large soundstage, whereas the up-firing peak drivers create that particular dome-of-sound impact that makes motion pictures like Mad Max Fury Highway and Ford v. Ferrari so satisfying.
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 taking part in Dolby 5.1 encompass content material, it is going to be rendered as if it had been mastered as a 7.1.2 supply. Purists might discover it overly processed, particularly when you apply it to stereo tracks, however I discovered it addictive.
When listening to Dolby Atmos or whereas utilizing IAE mode, Sony offers you a alternative of three specialised sound modes: Cinema, Music, or Customary. Because the names counsel, they supply some digital processing designed to boost particular sorts of content material. As with every kind of EQ presets, it’s possible you’ll discover they enhance or detract out of your listening expertise — I didn’t discover them almost as attention-grabbing 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 instantly. No frequency-specific changes, no controls for bass, treble, or midrange — there isn’t even a loudness toggle that I might discover.
Not that I’d make a bunch of heavy-handed modifications 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. If you happen to’re severe sufficient about your property theater sound to make this stage of funding, it is best to be capable to get underneath the hood when 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 stable. Usually, there’s an enormous high quality bounce once you swap from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi streaming e.g. Chromecast or AirPlay, however with the A7000, they’re remarkably related. 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 by means of some Sony 360 Actuality Audio (360 RA) tracks through 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 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 capacity to put you inside a reside music atmosphere.
Is it price including considered one of Sony’s wi-fi subwoofers and wi-fi surrounds? If in case you have the means, it’s completely one thing I’d advocate. 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.
Sadly, my allotted time with the A7000 didn’t give me a chance to check out each single considered one of its many options, however they’re completely price 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. Numerous TVs assist 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’s going to 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’ll be able to instantly entry Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal, TuneIn Radio, in addition to any music on your property community e.g. on a network-attached storage (NAS) drive.
As talked about earlier, when you personal a suitable Sony Bravia TV, you’ll be able to join the A7000 through a devoted cable and use the TV’s total built-in speaker system as your heart channel. I didn’t have a Bravia TV out there, however I’m guessing the sound — particularly for dialog and different on-screen sounds — shall be fairly good.
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 a few of the competitors.
Is there a greater different?
I’m unsure there are any soundbars at this value 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:
will prevent $300 and it comes with its personal wi-fi subwoofer. Contemplating its glorious audio efficiency for each motion pictures and music, and the power 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 received’t be capable to stream 360 Actuality Audio. Some might also discover its hard-wired energy twine troublesome to work with relying on the set up.
additionally prices $1,000 and contains 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 main focus is on being a TV companion, not a full different to an A/V receiver-based system. As such, it doesn’t assist 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 a superb monitor 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 assist for each audio format underneath the solar, it is going to be a very long time earlier than it’s thought of out of date.
Do you have to purchase it?
Sure. At $1,300, it’s an funding, however given its appreciable capabilities and superior sound high quality, the payback shall be a few years of audio and video enjoyment.