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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

three × 5 =