Devialet Dione initial review: It sounds as good as it looks

Devialet makes premium audio devices; we’ve been hugely impressed with the Devialet Phantom in the past, the company’s Bluetooth speaker.

Devialet is known for creative design and excellent performance and this French company is now turning it sights onto home cinema, with the launch of its first soundbar, the Devialet Dione.

We sat down with the new soundbar prior to launch to get some first impressions.

Design and build
Anodised aluminium, acoustic fabric
1200 x 77 x 165mm, 12kg
Surface or wall mounting
Much of what the Dione represents is a fresh take on design. Soundbars by nature aren’t the most interesting of things and there’s only so much you can do with a black rectangle. We’ve seen round soundbars, hexagonal, the ubiquitous oval – and some who try to slim it down to make the soundbar less noticeable.

Devialet, however, is all about statement design. In some ways, it reminds us of the approach that Sonos took with its Playbar, offering something that could sit flat or be wall mounted within its rectangular design.

The Devialet Dione is substantial, weighing 12kg because the core is anodised aluminium. This gives it strength to ensure that those powerful speakers and do their work without distortion from the construction.

In the centre of the Dione is the detail that makes it stand out – a wave in the surface to accommodate a spherical Orb. This houses the centre channel speaker and can be rotated so whether you place the Dione on a surface, or mount it flat on the wall, that centre channel can fire straight towards the listener.

The soundbar is wrapped in acoustic fabric, with touch controls on the surface so you can control the soundbar when you’re standing next to it.

The Devialet Dione is substantial, weighing 12kg because the core is anodised aluminium. This gives it strength to ensure that those powerful speakers and do their work without distortion from the construction.

In the centre of the Dione is the detail that makes it stand out – a wave in the surface to accommodate a spherical Orb. This houses the centre channel speaker and can be rotated so whether you place the Dione on a surface, or mount it flat on the wall, that centre channel can fire straight towards the listener.

The soundbar is wrapped in acoustic fabric, with touch controls on the surface so you can control the soundbar when you’re standing next to it.

But the wireless offering is also good. There’s Bluetooth, so you can directly connect from a phone for example to play music, but also Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, opening up the possibilities. That means you’ll be able to control the Dione from your Spotify app on your phone really easily.

On top of offering those services, the Dione also sits in the same ecosystem as the Devialet Phantom, supported by the same Devialet smartphone app and able to use Devialet’s separate remote.

There’s no passthrough or additional HDMI connections.

Speakers and performance
5.1.2 multichannel
9 full-range drivers; 8 long-throw subwoofers
950W RMS
24bit/96kHz support
Dolby Atmos support
There’s a 5.1.2 arrangement in the Dione, with a total of 17 speakers. These are split into nine aluminium full-range drivers, making up the left, centre and right channels, but also used for height and width, with drivers on the ends of the soundbar firing outwards.

That’s why the soundbar needs to be all mounted with the Orb at the top, because there’s drivers in that leading or top edge which switch from being the left or right channel into the height channels for Dolby Atmos and would be firing down if you didn’t mount the soundbar correctly.

Then there are eight long-throw woofers and these are arranged on both sides of the soundbar and give it substantial bass power – that’s why there’s no subwoofer for the Dione – it’s been built to work without one.

The arrangement of the speakers means that all the channels are covered, with the ability to fire up and to the sides to create that immersive surround sound. (The Orb isn’t detachable, it just rotates in place, but Devialet showed us what it looked like out of the soundbar.)

The centre channel we mentioned previously is within the Orb, meaning it can fire that directly at you, so the speech in a movie, for example, comes from where you expect it to.

We’ve sampled a range of different content on the Dione, but haven’t fully tested it. First impressions are really solid. This is a great sounding soundbar, with plenty of power and distortion-free volume.

The bass also delivers and we think that most users will be perfectly happy that there’s no need for a separate subwoofer, meaning you can have a cleaner installation.

Stereo performance for music listing is also great, with plenty if separation from a wide soundstage.

Working through a number of Dolby Atmos demos, the performance from a single unit is good – there’s no provision of satellite speakers here, but we found the left and right distinction to be really wide. The height isn’t as obvious as you’d get from a larger Atmos installation and the same applies to anything that’s supposed to happen in the sound field to your rear.

That’s often the situation with soundbars where all the audio is coming from the front, but for the majority of TV watching, you’ll experience great fidelity at high volumes and enough immersion to really pull you along.

First Impressions
We’ve always been impressed with Devialet’s speakers, that sense of drama with unique designs and impressive performance. The same applies for the Dione and it’s great to see this French company branching out in a new direction.

The premium soundbar market has a few contenders like the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar or the Sony HT-A7000, both of which are single box solutions and neither that look as good as the Devialet Dione. Other premium Atmos bars like those from Samsung or LG often have additional subwoofers and rear speakers, making for a larger installation.

The Dione won’t appeal to everyone. It’s priced at a premium, but it offers great performance for those who want something that sounds as amazing as it looks.

Devialet Crammed 17 Speakers and a Rotating Orb Into Its First Sound Bar

The Devialet Dione promises to free users from having to set up satellite speakers around a room or attempt to hide a dedicated woofer through the use of eight subwoofer neodymium drivers and nine full-range speakers squeezed into the sound bar’s relatively thin three-inch tall profile. It’s designed to be installed underneath a TV and project sound from the front of a room to the back.

Devialet might not be a household name, but it has managed to win the approval of diehard audio enthusiasts over the past 15 years with pricey speakers and headphones that boast fantastic, high fidelity sound.

Like Devialet’s wireless speakers and headphones, the new Dione doesn’t come cheap. Those looking to pre-order one today (or buy one from a Devialet dealer in person in April) can expect to spend just over $2,600 (£1,990). That’s almost $1,000 more expensive than the excellent Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2 channel Dolby Atmos soundbar, which itself was an expensive option back in November. But given how impressed we’ve been with the company’s past offerings, it just might be worth the splurge.

The Dione offers several other features promise an immersive sound experience. A feature called SPACE “actively upscales any content into Devialet Dione 5.1.2 audio channels creating an enveloping spatialization effect” while Advanced Dimensional Experience, or ADE, is promised to be a “new digital signal processing technology, that uses beamforming to reinforce 3D immersion,” the company said in a press release.

Stare into the orb too long and it will stare right back at you.

Anyone who’s tested a true surround sound speaker setup versus an all-in-one sound bar knows that, while these alternatives do an impressive job at tricking the brain into hearing sounds all around it, the experience isn’t equal. For many users it can be good enough, though,especially since installing the Devialet Dione is easy. It doesn’t require cables hidden throughout a room, or routed through walls. The Dione can either be placed on an entertainment center below a wall-mounted TV, or directly mounted to the same wall. The distinct sphere in its center rotates to direct sound in different directions, while a built-in gyroscope allows the soundbar to detect its position and automatically optimize its output using the aforementioned ADE beamforming technology.

Using a mobile app, the Devialet Dione can be calibrated for any room size, and it offers four different listening modes depending on the content being consumed. Movie and Spatial modes offer the stereo-to-surround sound conversions, Voice boosts the intelligibility of voices when watching news broadcasts or listening to podcasts, and Music mode disables all the spatialization effects for a true stereo listening experience. Connectivity includes HDMI 2.1 eARC with CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), optical link, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, wi-fi UPnP, and Bluetooth 5.0.

Polk Audio Release 15-Inch Dolby Atmos Soundbar

The MagniFi Mini AX is the latest Dolby Atmos soundbar from San Diego based audio manufacturer Polk Audio.

It seems with the new soundbar, size really doesn’t matter, as the company claims that their latest release can deliver an immersive audio experience despite is small 15-inch length.

The MagniFi Mini AX looks to be designed to take on the Sonos Beam Gen 2, which is a comparably gigantic 26-inches. Similarly, it also has five front-facing speakers that use [psychoacoustic processing that create a virtual 3D audio environment.

While both soundbars support Dolby Atmos, only the MagniFi Mini AX supports the rival audio format DTX:X. Polk have also fitted their new soundbar with their very own SDA 3D Audio Technology, which is apparently able to up-mix stereo sound into 360-degree surround.

The small yet powerful main unit of the MagniFi Mini AX contains three mid-range LCR 5cm drivers alongside a pair of 2cm tweeters. Included in the purchase of the soundbar is an external wireless sub which is much less subtle or small than the MagniFi Mini AX, with an 18cm downward-facing woofer.

The MagniFi Mini AX is the latest Dolby Atmos soundbar from San Diego based audio manufacturer Polk Audio.

It seems with the new soundbar, size really doesn’t matter, as the company claims that their latest release can deliver an immersive audio experience despite is small 15-inch length.

The MagniFi Mini AX looks to be designed to take on the Sonos Beam Gen 2, which is a comparably gigantic 26-inches. Similarly, it also has five front-facing speakers that use [psychoacoustic processing that create a virtual 3D audio environment.

While both soundbars support Dolby Atmos, only the MagniFi Mini AX supports the rival audio format DTX:X. Polk have also fitted their new soundbar with their very own SDA 3D Audio Technology, which is apparently able to up-mix stereo sound into 360-degree surround.

The small yet powerful main unit of the MagniFi Mini AX contains three mid-range LCR 5cm drivers alongside a pair of 2cm tweeters. Included in the purchase of the soundbar is an external wireless sub which is much less subtle or small than the MagniFi Mini AX, with an 18cm downward-facing woofer.

Unfortunately, the MagniFi Mini AX is only currently available in the US and UK. It is currently priced at the equivalent of $774 AUD.

 

Sony HT-A7000 sound bar review:

It’s a sad fact of modern life that the speakers built into all these ultrathin TVs suck. You can grab a decent sound bar for a couple hundred bucks, but if you want something more powerful without going full home theater, premium sound bars exist to fill the gap. At an MSRP of $1,400 before add-ons like rear speakers and or a subwoofer, Sony’s HT-A7000 is premium in the extreme, and it sounds every bit as expensive as it is. I just wish it wasn’t such a chore to use.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Integrations: Google Cast, Apple AirPlay, Spotify ConnectAma
  • Ports: 2x HDMI in, 1x HDMI eARC, optical, 3.5 mm, USB
  • Audio Format: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Dual Mono, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS 96/24, DTS ES, DTS HD High Resolution, DTS HD Master, DTS:X, LPCM
  • Power: 500W
PROS

  • Full, robust sound
  • Supports all the audio formats and features you could ask for
  • Easy on the eyes
CONS

  • Requires troubleshooting too frequently
  • Juggling your TV’s HDMI inputs and the sound bar’s is a pain
  • Very pricey

Design, hardware, what’s in the box(es)
The HT-A7000 is enormous. The bar is more than four feet long and tips the scale at an impressive 19 pounds. It’s a hair wider than my 55” TV. It’s so wide, it actually hangs off either edge of my TV stand half an inch or so. It’s even a bit tall; in front of a smaller TV, it might obscure the bottom of the screen. This is probably obvious, but in a small space, it feels like overkill.

It’s pretty, though, with a metal grille showing off the bar’s drivers along the front and an uninterrupted glass panel along most of the top. There’s also a rudimentary display on the front to show things like the volume level and which input the bar is switched to.

There are touch-sensitive buttons on the top of the bar, toward the right side — power, input, a shortcut each to Bluetooth and streaming sources, and volume up and down. That they’re capacitive buttons rather than, well, button buttons is definitely slick, but the touch areas are impossible to find in the dark. I’d love it if they were backlit.

Around back, there are three HDMI ports (two 4K/HDR inputs and one for eARC), one optical input, and a 3.5-millimeter jack.

The SW5 subwoofer Sony sells to compliment its high-end soundbars is equally giant. At 17 inches tall and a hefty 29 pounds, it reminds me a lot of a mini fridge. I had my old TV subwoofer tucked neatly under a nearby table; that is not an option with the SW5. You’re probably not going to be able to hide this thing very effectively, if at all. Thankfully, the RS3S rear speakers Sony included for my testing aren’t quite as overt; they’re reasonably sized and pretty plain.

All told, the hardware looks very handsome, as far as ostentatious home AV gear goes. There’s not much included aside from the speakers themselves — some instructional literature and the required power cables. (The rear speakers also come with brackets for mounting them on the wall.)

Audio and features
I’m not pretending to be an audiophile by any means, but I am generally picky — and to my ear, the HT-A7000 sounds great. Moving from my entry-level Vizio soundbar to the A7000 feels like a similar leap in quality as the move from my TV’s built-in speakers to that

On its own, the soundbar is an Atmos-enabled 7.1.2 setup, which means it bounces sound off the walls and ceiling to approximate surround sound. The A7000 definitely has a large soundstage, and the directional audio does create some perception of height. But to say that the HT-A7000’s tricks produce convincing surround sound is a stretch; I never noticed feeling like sound was coming from above me. It won’t fool you into thinking there are speakers embedded in the ceiling, that’s for sure.

Movies, TV, games, and music all sound fantastic on the HT-A7000. Even without the discrete subwoofer and rear speakers, sound from my TV is fuller and clearer than ever. Bass is deep and full-throated, and mids and highs are clear as a bell. The bar also supports all the features you could possibly ask for, including AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and Google Cast — you can even add it to speaker groups in the Google Home app.

Over an HDMI connection, the bar supports every audio format you could hope for: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD High Resolution, DTS HD Master, DTS:X, and more. If you’re using an optical connection, your options are limited to just Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual Mono, DTS, and two-channel LPCM.

Sony’s optional SW5 subwoofer does offer even deeper, rumbling, movie theater-like bass, and the RS3S rear speakers add, well, rear speakers. They bring a lot to the package, and wirelessly pairing them with the AT-H7000 is surprisingly simple — but they add substantially to the already high price tag of the bar itself.

Actually using the A7000 is… kind of a pain in the ass. If your TV doesn’t support eARC, you’ll have to plug any sources you want to output Atmos sound directly into the bar’s two HDMI inputs (the HT-A7000 will still output sound from HDMI inputs connected to your TV, but Atmos passthrough requires eARC). In my experience, that means you’ll need to use both your TV’s remote and the sound bar’s remote to finagle your sources: TV remote to switch the TV to the sound bar’s HDMI input, then the sound bar’s remote to pick between the bar’s two inputs. If you split your inputs this way, you’ll also have to manually juggle the audio source on the sound bar — it won’t detect which input is playing audio and switch to it on its own

If your TV does support eARC, you just need to run an HDMI cable from the bar’s eARC port to your TV’s, which circumvents all the input-switching shenanigans. Thankfully, my TV has eARC, and it’s got four HDMI ports that I was only using three of. The A7000 slots neatly into the fourth, and I don’t have to deal with the sound bar’s input settings at all. Chances are you’ll be juggling multiple remotes to use this thing, though.

My biggest frustration with the HT-A7000 is that, every once in a while, it’ll stop producing sound altogether, and the only remedy I’ve found for this is to disconnect the power and plug it back in to reboot it, a process that takes several minutes (and always seems to happen when I only want to use my TV for a minute or two). Also annoying, but much less so: since setting the sound bar up over HDMI, every time I shut off my TV, the screen momentarily powers back on before turning off and staying off — and the sound bar’s display flashes MUTING for about a minute.

Does any of that really matter? To me, yeah. This is a very expensive product, and using it should ideally never be a hassle. I’m mostly able to get by with a single remote control, but I frequently have to dig the HT-A7000’s clunky remote out of the side table to deal with some quirk or another — and the exercise too often ends in giving up and cycling the sound bar’s power. I know high-end home audio is always finicky, but this really isn’t the seamless user experience I’d want for over a grand. I almost think it’s not worth the boost in audio quality coming from my much less capable (and much less expensive) Vizio sound bar. Almost.

Should you buy it?
If you’ve got the cash and want a sound bar with superb audio, sure. The HT-A7000 sounds fantastic and supports all the AV standards you can shake a remote at. It’s also positioned to age gracefully with support for protocols like Google Cast and Apple’s AirPlay.

But boy, is it expensive. For $1,400, I’d expect great sound and an immaculate user experience, and the HT-A7000 does not deliver on the latter; there’s way more friction in daily use than I expected. And while the RS3S rear speakers I’ve been using with it do add that extra layer of immersion, they’ll run you a cool $350 at retail, which is more than some entire, lesser TV audio solutions cost. Sony’s SW5 subwoofer is also great (and I’m sure my neighbors have loved my testing it), but it costs a staggering $700.

If you’re thinking about diving into this setup, I’d recommend starting with the bar on its own. It sounds fantastic by itself, and you can always order the add-ons later. Go into it expecting a headache or two — but also know that, if you value uncompromising sound, it’ll be worth it.

Buy it if…
You value great sound, price and convenience be damned.
Your TV supports all of the sound bar’s many bells and whistles.
Don’t buy it if…
Fiddly electronics drive you crazy. The HT-A7000 requires semi-regular troubleshooting.
You expect realistic surround sound. A sound bar isn’t gonna cut it for you

Nakamichi unveils Shockwafe Dolby Atmos soundbar with eARC and aptX HD

If, like us, you’re of a certain vintage, you will remember Japanese audio specialist Nakamichi for its tape decks and in-car stereo systems. Although the company struggled to compete in the era of CDs and went into administration in 2002, Nakamichi has been back in business for a few years now and, since 2016, has quietly been producing a range of Shockwafe soundbars – no, that isn’t a typo.

Quick history lesson: the first model, the Shockwafe Pro 7.1 soundbar, was the first ever soundbar to include seven discrete surround channels. Cut to 2018 and four more models were added to Nakamichi’s Shockwafe lineup, incorporating dual subwoofers, quad modular surround speaker technology and DTS:X compatibility – spearheaded by the flagship Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 DTS:X. In 2019, the company updated this range-topping model with the Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 SSE Soundbar System, which was named a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree.

Quick history lesson: the first model, the Shockwafe Pro 7.1 soundbar, was the first ever soundbar to include seven discrete surround channels. Cut to 2018 and four more models were added to Nakamichi’s Shockwafe lineup, incorporating dual subwoofers, quad modular surround speaker technology and DTS:X compatibility – spearheaded by the flagship Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 DTS:X. In 2019, the company updated this range-topping model with the Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 SSE Soundbar System, which was named a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree.

The Nakamichi Shockwafe 9.2 eARC (2022) flagship soundbar system will be available from select retailers in March, with a MSRP of $1900.

Sony HT-A7000

In this Sony HT-A7000 review, we’re taking a long, hard listen to a truly impressive Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar. The ‘entire Dolby Atmos audio system in a single enclosure’ concept is not a new one – Sony’s done this sort of thing before, and so have its most obvious rivals.

The Sony HT-A7000’s real trick, though, is to do it properly. It’s one thing to fill one of the best soundbars with multiple drivers and a lot of amplification, it’s quite another to extract the sense of width, height and low-end wallop that your typical Dolby Atmos soundtrack thrives on. Sennheiser can do it (for far more money than this, admittedly). LG, Samsung, Sonos and Yamaha have all had successes to a lesser or greater extent, too.

You’ll need space beneath your TV, because this Sony soundbar is relatively tall. And you’ll need a biggish TV too, because this soundbar is almost ostentatiously wide. But if you can accommodate it, and afford the not-inconsiderable asking price, the Sony HT-A7000 is incredibly hard to resist, in sonic terms at least. In aesthetic terms, maybe not quite so much.

Sony HT-A7000 review: price & release date
The Sony HT-A7000 is on sale now, and costs £1,299/$1,399/AU$1,699. That’s serious money by soundbar standards – even Sony itself makes bars with Dolby Atmos enabled for under £400/$400/AU$600.

And it’s not like the Sony is the only game in town. We’re big fans of the Sonos Arc, a very capable Atmos soundbar that comes in below the four-figures mark, and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is no slouch either. Add in the always-competitive likes of LG, Samsung and Yamaha, and the HT-A7000 is going to have to do a bit more than show up to earn its stars.

But there’s some great feature support here that could make it worth the price for you – as well as excellent sound quality.

Sony HT-A7000 review: features & what’s new
The Sony HT-A7000 is a single-box soundbar – meaning that it does everything from the bar itself. No wireless sub, no wireless rear speakers.

Just like the Sonos Arc (which is its biggest rival as a single-box soundbar), the Sony HT-A7000 can optionally be partnered with a subwoofer and wireless speakers to create a true surround-sound audio system. But just as with the Sonos Arc, that’s rather beside the point – after all, if you wanted a complete system, you could just buy something like the Samsung HW-Q950A that’s designed around that, wouldn’t you? And besides, the HT-A7000 is as thoroughly specified as a full-on home cinema audio system as many multi-box rivals – more so, in some ways.

The Sony intends to deliver a 7.1.2 multichannel audio effect – that’s seven front-and-side channels, a subwoofer channel and two height channels. To this end it features an integrated subwoofer, two upward-firing ‘racetrack’ drivers to produce the crucial sense of height, and seven drivers across the front of the bar. The three in the centre handle – hey! – centre-channel information, while the pair of tweeters at either end have their sound channelled out to the sides of the soundbar in order to give a sensation of width to the sound. A total of eleven channels of Class D amplification, packing an all-in total of 500 watts, provide the necessary oomph.

It’s worth noting that some Sony Bravia TVs can form part of the HT-7000’s centre channel by connecting the soundbar’s Acoustic Centre Sync output to the TV. Other physical inputs and outputs include a pair of HDMI 2.1 passthrough sockets (they’re not fully 2.1-compliant just yet, though – while 4K 120Hz passthrough is support (which is the really important one), ALLM and VRR will come via an update), an eARC-enabled HDMI output, analogue and digital optical inputs, and a USB-A input. Naturally there’s Wi-Fi on board too, and wireless options are provided by Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.

This HDMI connectivity is a real crowning glory here – the Sonos Arc doesn’t have any HDMI passthrough option, let alone support for HDMI 2.1 (which is still rare in soundbars). If you have a TV with a limited number of HDMI 2.1 ports and you’re a gaming fan, it instantly makes the Sony HT-A7000 much more tempting.

As set-up and room calibration go, they’re swift, painless and commendably accurate. And once they’re done, the HT-A7000 supports all the headline audio formats, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as LPCM and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial algorithm. This last will make the most of the object-based audio mixes available on Amazon Music HD, Deezer and TIDAL.

Sony HT-A7000 review: performance
Let’s get to the goods, shall we? With the HT-A700, Sony has combined physical driver placement with digital sound processing to very successful effect.

Fire up a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and it doesn’t take long for this soundbar to establish its credentials. The Sony’s not a magician, of course, so the sound it makes can only come from in front of you – but even though the A7000 is a very wide soundbar, the sound it delivers is considerably wider. If you have surfaces reasonably close to the ends of the soundbar (where its acoustic chambers terminate) you might even be fooled into thinking there are drivers almost alongside your seated position.

The sonic height the Sony generates is, if anything, even more impressive. Again, you’re not about to be tricked into thinking there are speakers above you, but the sound the A7000 makes escapes both its physical confines and that of the screen you’re watching to an almost comical degree. There’s a strong sense of verticality to the sound – and it’s in no way equivocal. The Sony generates a soundstage of frankly unlikely height and width, and manages to position and isolate specific effects really convincingly as it does so.

And it’s equally cinematic elsewhere. There’s really dynamic potency on display, so when the going switches from ‘very quiet’ to ‘very loud indeed’ (as it surely must in any modern movie soundtrack at some point) the A7000 breathes deeply enough to make the difference explicit.

It’s very detailed in general, and especially through the midrange/centre channel – so dialogue is plain, easy to follow and packed with character. The integrated subwoofer generates eye-widening levels of bass response for a one-box soundbar. Yes, this is a big unit, but it doesn’t automatically follow that it should have this degree of low-frequency extension and control.

And despite all its very many tweeters, the Sony shows expert judgement where treble sounds are concerned – there’s bite and crunch to the top end, but it’s properly controlled and never impolite.

It’s a similarly civilised device where music is concerned, too, with just a few caveats regarding Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format. Broadly speaking, there’s good integration of the frequency range (despite the A7000’s numerous drivers), proper spaciousness and impressive dynamism to the presentation, and better timing and unity than our experience with soundbars as music speakers has primed us to expect. It’s a coherent and enjoyable listen.

Or, at least, it is with stereo information. Sony’s spatial audio format is rather more hit-and-miss – music can sound overly processed and artificial, and in extremis the low frequencies gain a lot of ill-deserved confidence. But let’s face it, no £1K+ soundbar ever stood or fell on its ability to deliver music – the movie part is impeccable, and that’s what care about most.

Sony HT-A7000 review: design & usability
This is a fairly hefty soundbar. It’s 130x14x8cm, which means it’s a) quite tall, so won’t automatically sit below any old TV (check the height of your stand, people!); and b) so wide that it looks a bit daft and overgrown if it’s accompanying TVs any smaller than 55 inches.

And those proportions aren’t mitigated in the slightest by Sony’s decision to use a number of different materials – perforated metal for the front grille, acoustic cloth covering the top corners and side-panels, glass across the rest of the top surface – in the HT-A7000’s construction. Not only does it look a bit like one soundbar has crashed into another, but if you position the ‘bar directly beneath your TV the glass proves reflective.

The HT-A7000 is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Home too – and if those voice-control options aren’t enough to get you what you want, there’s a reasonably thorough remote control handset and compatibility with Sony’s Music Center app too. The glass portion of the top surface features a few capacitive touch-controls, and there’s a brief-but-distinct scrolling display on the front panel.

Sony HT-A7000 review: verdict
There’s no question this produces stunning home cinema sound for a one-box soundbar. Meaningful bass without a subwoofer, scale and direction without rear speakers.

Really, your biggest considerations are size: of the soundbar itself and of the price-tag attached to it. If neither of these things is an obstacle, then there’s nothing to prevent you giving the Sony HT-A7000 some serious consideration – it’s a hugely capable and endlessly listenable addition to your home setup.

And gamers should give it special consideration, because its support for HDMI 2.1 features means it really future-proofs you for having multiple next-gen consoles.

Sony HT-A7000 review: Also consider
The Sonos Arc is really the major competition here. It’s less expensive (by enough money to buy a couple of Sonos One units to use as wireless rear speakers), and lacks a few operational niceties that the Sony HT-A7000 offers (the Arc’s lack of HDMI pass-through is straight-up bizarre) but has nothing to apologise for where performance is concerned. And if you’re already in the Sonos ecosystem, Arc goes from ‘definite option’ to ‘more-or-less compulsory’. Here’s our full Sonos Arc review.

The other one-box soundbar in the same price range as the Sony HT-A7000 we like is the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage. It’s very stylish, and sounds wonderful with movies or music. It’s possibly even harder to accommodate than the Sony, but especially if you’ll wall-mount, it offers a great combination of looks and performance.

SONY HT-A7000 SOUNDBAR REVIEW

PROS
Immersive sound output for movies, music and games
Very good channel separation
Decent Dolby Atmos height effects
eARC support with two HDMI 2.1 passthrough ports with 4K 120hz support
Supports Alexa and Chromecast built-in
Support for Dolby Atmos, DTS-X and 360 Reality Audio
Settings of the soundbar can be navigated on the TV
Easy to use remote control
CONS
Though very good, Dolby Atmos height simulation isn’t perfect yet
Would have preferred slightly longer power cables for the rear surround speakers

VERDICT
The Sony HT-A7000 is a fantastic soundbar for the home theatre enthusiast who doesn’t want to run cables through his house. It has a simple plug and play setup and the soundbar can auto-calibrate itself to your room. It supports all popular formats including Dolby Atmos and Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio. It has two HDMI 2.1 ports for a 4K 120Hz pass-through. The soundbar is yet to receive an update to support VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) but the two HDMI 2.1 ports make this device futureproof. It has excellent build quality. The overall sound quality is absolutely immersive with a decent representation of Dolby Atmos height channels via its up-firing drivers. The only downside is that the soundbar is very premium priced. As of writing this review, the Sony HT-A7000, paired with the SW3 subwoofer is priced at Rs 1,50,980. The variant we got for review – the HT-A7000 paired with the more powerful SW5 subwoofer is priced at Rs 1,77,980. The SA-RS3S surround speakers are an additional Rs 30,990. It does deliver some breathtaking sound with some impressive surround effects when you get the complete package.

SONY HT-A7000 SOUNDBAR DETAILED REVIEW
The value of a home theatre has increased tremendously over the past 2 years – and rightly so. While a lot of movies have been released in the theatre only, it hasn’t taken them long to transition to streaming services online. Streaming service providers like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and more have cashed in on people spending more time at home by offering quality content in high fidelity formats like 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. To enjoy the content in its fullest fidelity, one needs to invest in a TV capable of doing justice to these formats. But the TV is just one half of the entertainment story. To truly immerse yourself, you need to invest in a quality home theatre as well. While the debate for soundbar vs home theatre is a never-ending one, we can safely say that soundbars have started offering a very immersive experience especially when you consider their plug and play setup. Today we have with us Sony’s flagship modular soundbar – the HT-A7000. You can purchase the soundbar separately with the option of two different wireless subwoofers and can invest in rear surround speakers later if you like. The soundbar boasts of support for Dolby Atmos along with Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio.

While you can get the bar, sub and satellite speakers separately, for the purpose of this review we have used them all together as a package and will touch upon what it’s like using the system as a whole or just the individual components.

SONY HT-A7000 WHAT’S IN THE BOX
In the box, you get the soundbar itself along with an HDMI cable, power cable remote control, and audio cable. The HDMI cable that comes in the box is identical to the one you get with the PS5. It is an HDMI 2.1 cable and the soundbar has two HDMI 2.1 passthrough ports. In the subwoofer box, we get just the subwoofer and the power cable. In the satellite speakers’ box, we get two satellite speakers and two power cables.

SONY HT-A7000 CONNECTIVITY OPTIONS
When it comes to connectivity options, the Sony HT-A7000 has an HDMI port for eARC and two HDMI pass-through ports that support HDMI 2.1 along with 4K/120Hz and Dolby Vision passthrough. The soundbar also has an optical port, aux port, Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi. The speaker also boasts support for DTS-X, Dolby Atmos and Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio. The soundbar has upward-firing drivers along with side-firing beam tweeters, five front-firing drivers and built-in dual subwoofers. These dual-subwoofers are active when you aren’t using the dedicated subwoofer. But when the wireless sub is paired with the bar, the low frequencies are transferred to the sub. When it comes to smart features, the speaker supports Amazon Alexa along with Chromecast.

 

SETTING UP THE SONY HT-A7000
Setting up the Sony HT-A7000 is plug and play. Place the soundbar under the TV and connect it to the TV via the provided HDMI cable. Since the soundbar has three HDMI ports two are inputs and one is the output. Connect the soundbar and the TV by plugging the HDMI cable in the soundbar’s output port and the eARC port of your TV. Plug the subwoofer and rear satellite speakers into a power outlet. All the speakers sync to the soundbar automatically. If they don’t, you can simply press the ‘link’ button behind the speaker when prompted and the little red light on the front of each speaker will turn green.

When you power on the soundbar for the first time, switch the HDMI source to the eARC port. One of the best features of the HT-A7000 is that just like the HT-Z9F (review), you get onscreen instructions for setup and settings which is a boon, especially when compared to other soundbars.

SONY HT-A7000 BUILD AND DESIGN
The Sony HT-A7000 has a very commanding presence when placed below your TV. Unlike the Samsung Q950A (review), the Sony has a traditional flat rectangular design. Whether you prefer the sharp edges of the Samsung or the traditional design of the Sony is up to you. What I will give Sony the extra point for is putting the display upfront (unlike the Samsung, which has it on top) so it is readable by the user. And yes, the Sony soundbar does give you the option to dim the display and switch it off completely in case it is hampering your experience.

The front of the HT-A7000 has a grill with a premium finish behind which we have five drivers. Unlike the HT-Z9F, this grill is not removable. We also have two beam tweeters for the surround effects. There are two upward-firing drivers as well on the soundbar for height and Dolby Atmos. The left and the right of the soundbar have two ducts that house the dual built-in subwoofers. The upward-firing speakers and the subwoofer duct have a fabric covering similar to what we saw on the Samsung Q950A. The rest of the top has a premium glass finish. You may want to be careful as it is possible in the long term this glass can get prone to scratches. You also have touch controls on the top right corner of the soundbar and while I am one that prefers physical buttons to touch controls, it is just a personal preference. All the connectivity ports are neatly housed at the back with some space for simple cable management.

 

The soundbar is not as deep as say the Sennheiser Ambeo (review), but it will occupy considerable space below your TV. Its length is just right to fit below a 55-inch or even 65-inch TV.

The subwoofer on the other hand has a unique design reminding me of the subwoofer found on the Sony HT-ST5000. The one we have with us is the SA-SW5 subwoofer. It has a textured finish all around with a fabric front. The down-firing driver is slightly elevated for better bass response. It has quite a unique design and is a lot bigger than the Samsung Q950A subwoofer.

The rear satellite speakers are quite unassuming and remind me a lot of the ones you got with the HT-Z9F. Unlike the Samsung Q950A surround speakers that have 3 drivers facing front, side and up, the Sony has a single driver and a single tweeter facing one direction. I was sceptical about the surround performance of these speakers, but more on that in the performance section. The surround satellite speakers are well built and have a good amount of heft to them. They also have a premium grill covering the drivers, just like the main bar.

All in all, the soundbar is extremely well built and while it may appear minimal when the lights are down for movie night, in the day, this beast will command attention below your TV and that’s a very good thing.

SONY HT-A7000 PERFORMANCE
For the course of the review, we paired the Sony HT-A7000 with an LG B9 OLED TV. If you have a compatible Sony BRAVIA TV, then you can use the TV as the centre channel. This wasn’t the case for us. However, the LG B9 does support HDMI 2.1 along with eARC, so we were able to exploit Dolby Atmos on this soundbar.

I would recommend that once you connect the soundbar to the TV, during the setup process you will be asked if you want to optimise the soundbar for the room. You should do this as it calibrates the soundbar and speakers to the room. You can do this again from the settings menu if you move the speakers around. You can find this under Setup- Advanced Settings – Speaker Settings – Sound Field Optimization. It really helps increase the surround effects of the soundbar.

For the duration of the test, we consumed content from the TV built-in OTT apps, played some games on a PS5 (Review) and Xbox Series X (review) and also connected an Apple TV 4K to the soundbars HDMI port to test the pass-through capabilities.

SONY HT-A7000 MOVIE PERFORMANCE
Before we get into the details of the performance, I have always had one problem with soundbars boasting of Dolby Atmos sound – you never feel like the sound is coming from exactly above you. This feeling is amplified when you play Dolby Atmos content and expect the rain to fall from above you. With the Sony HT-A7000, I am happy to say that there were moments when I looked up at my ceiling, wondering if I heard the sound from above me or was my mind playing tricks on me. Considering the lack of height performance on the HT-Z9F a mere two years ago is a testament to how far virtual surround sound technology has advanced in Sony’s library of premium soundbars.

While streaming services have a large catalogue of Dolby Atmos content, we played some of our Dolby Atmos content via a Dolby Atmos demo disc, some content on the Apple TV 4K with moves we’ve purchased and of course, content off streaming services.

Straight off the bat, I’d like to tell you that for the best immersive experience, you should invest in the SW5 subwoofer and the rear speakers. In a movie like Ready Player One’s race at the 13-minute mark, you have a lot of cars whizzing by the screen. There is a ‘jump’ here where all the cars fly through the air and a subway train comes crashing into the cars. This is just one of the instances where I actually looked up wondering whether I heard the sound come from above me or not. Needless to say, all the cars whizzing on screen were very well represented in the surround speakers. To get the best from the surround speakers I increased their volume to max, which is 12. I kept the subwoofer volume at 10 which is just 2 points shy of the maximum volume to get the thumpiest bass when consuming content.

 

Even in the Dark Knight rises, the motorcycle chase where Batman appears for the first time was impressively executed by the surround speakers. There is an Immersive AE button on the remote control of the soundbar and I highly recommend you enable it as it does widen the area of surround sound.

Even the sequence in Spider-Man: Far From Home, where Mysterio tricks Spider-Man into walking in front of a train is an absolute treat to watch. The sound of the train at the end of the sequence originates from the left surround speaker before filling the room, giving you a very good surround experience.

The movie enthusiast who has access to good surround sound content will definitely enjoy the effects this soundbar has to offer. The soundbar has sound presets like Cinema, Movie and Standard, but I found that leaving it on Auto Sound yielded the best results.

We tested the soundbar in a 12-feet by 14-feet room and it was more than enough to bring the house down. For the most part, I left the soundbar at 60% volume and got a very rich experience. Going beyond 80% made the room vibrate considerably.

SONY HT-A7000 MUSIC PERFORMANCE
Before we get into music, know that the soundbar supports Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and while I couldn’t get my hands on any music mastered in 360 Reality Audio, there is a demo on the soundbar to give you a taste of the feature. Apple Music does have content in Dolby Atmos and we played music primarily by connecting the smartphone to the bar via Bluetooth and also some content from the Apple TV 4K connected to the soundbar.

We tested the soundbar in a 12-feet by 14-feet room and it was more than enough to bring the house down. For the most part, I left the soundbar at 60% volume and got a very rich experience. Going beyond 80% made the room vibrate considerably.

SONY HT-A7000 MUSIC PERFORMANCE
Before we get into music, know that the soundbar supports Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and while I couldn’t get my hands on any music mastered in 360 Reality Audio, there is a demo on the soundbar to give you a taste of the feature. Apple Music does have content in Dolby Atmos and we played music primarily by connecting the smartphone to the bar via Bluetooth and also some content from the Apple TV 4K connected to the soundbar.

For the surround output overall, I thought I’d be disappointed that the SA-RS3S surround speakers lack the up-firing and side-firing drivers we’ve seen in the Samsung Qn950A, but that wasn’t the case. While it is difficult to comment on which system is better without hearing them side by side, I think each brings its own advantage to the table. For the SA-RS3S surround speakers, I placed them equidistant at ear level 4 feet away from me and found the experience to be very good. Then I replaced them and sat in my ideal position at home which placed the left surround speaker 2 feet away from me and the right 6 feet away, both at ear level and facing me. After calibrating the home theatre, I got a very good surround experience. Without the SA-RS3S surround speakers, the soundbar tries to enhance its channel separation to mimic a surround sound experience and while this may get the job done for a small room, I think investing in the surround speakers is paramount for an immersive viewing experience.

SONY HT-A7000 REMOTE CONTROL
The Sony HT-A7000 comes with a simple remote control that’s almost identical to the one found on the HT-Z9F, with a few key features moved around. In addition to controlling the input source, you also get access to the Immersive AE (which I recommend you switch on and forget about), control for the volume, surround and subwoofer levels along with playback controls. The remote control is functional, intuitive and easy to use. Its only downside is that you need to point it directly at the soundbar to use, which can feel a little dated.

SONY HT-A7000 REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE
The Sony HT-A7000 is a fantastic soundbar for the home theatre enthusiast who doesn’t want to run cables through his house. It has a simple plug and play setup and the soundbar can auto-calibrate itself to your room. It supports all popular formats including Dolby Atmos and Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio. It has two HDMI 2.1 ports for a 4K 120Hz pass-through. The soundbar is yet to receive an update to support VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) but the two HDMI 2.1 ports make this device futureproof. It has excellent build quality. The overall sound quality is absolutely immersive with a decent representation of Dolby Atmos height channels via its up-firing drivers. The only downside is that the soundbar is very premium priced. As of writing this review, the Sony HT-A7000, paired with the SW3 subwoofer is priced at Rs 1,50,980. The variant we got for review – the HT-A7000 paired with the more powerful SW5 subwoofer is priced at Rs 1,77,980. The SA-RS3S surround speakers are an additional Rs 30,990. It does deliver some breathtaking sound with some impressive surround effects when you get the complete package, but then again so does the Samsung Q950A which is available for almost half the price. I would highly recommend you visit an offline store and experience these soundbars as you truly have to experience them to believe how sublime they sound

 

Upgrade your audio with this Phillips soundbar system for $90 off

While your TV might have good sound, if you’re looking for great, a soundbar and subwoofer set can get you there. Right now, Philips’ already well-priced $149 version is marked down to $59, making it a great time to test the more advanced audio waters if you’re curious.

This compact setup has 2.1 channels for an expanded depth and breadth of sound — think the kind of deep bass that rattles you in your seat during action movies. It’ll also connect to Bluetooth so you can use it for listening to music (there’s an audio jack if you want to port sound in that way too).