Sony HT-A7000 review: a next-gen Atmos soundbar that’s (almost) perfect for gaming

For a $1,300 soundbar, there’s not much room to compromise. You can spend some of that on a perfectly capable Vizio soundbar, and premium options like the Sonos Arc are also hundreds of dollars cheaper. There will always be people who are hesitant about the concept of spending a lot of money and not investing in an existing surround sound system. Especially when it comes to this price point. So, when Sony designed their latest flagship 7.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar, the HT-A7000, they knew it couldn’t be satisfied and had to throw the entire kitchen sink to justify the huge investment. And that’s exactly what the company tried. Starting shipping in September, the HT-A7000 will house gamers with two HDMI 2.1 pass-through inputs capable of 8K, 4K (120Hz) and Dolby Vision HDR. There are few soundbars on the market yet that are optimized for next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Connect both Sony and Microsoft consoles to the HT-A7000 to enjoy full visual fidelity. One unfortunate exception will be discussed later. If your TV only has one HDMI 2.1/eARC port, Sony’s new soundbar provides an additional port. That’s something an Arc or a cheap soundbar can’t do. Sony has also filled this soundbar with almost every way users can stream the music they want. Bluetooth and a 3.5mm aux port aren’t really good enough for this, so there’s also the option to integrate Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and the HT-A7000 with Google Home or Amazon Alexa systems. You can pair a set of Bluetooth headphones to your soundbar and listen like that without disturbing others. It has a USB port if you want to connect a FLAC collection or a drive with 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. Verge Score 8.5 out of 10 Good Stuff Fantastic sound as a standalone unit Two HDMI 2.1 pass-through inputs Extensive support for codecs and 3rd party features Bad Stuff does not pass VRR or ALLM Add a subwoofer and rear surround Expensive when done No fine-grained EQ tuning The HT-A7000 is future-proof and packed with technology that a soundbar has to offer. Not for home theater enthusiasts who want to carefully consider and combine all the individual components of an ideal surround system. This is for anyone showing off their Sony A90J OLED with enough disposable income to add Sony’s top-of-the-line soundbar to their shopping cart already. But to get the most out of the HT-A7000, you’ll eventually also need an optional set of wireless rear speakers ($349.99) and a standalone subwoofer ($399.99 for 200W or $699.99 for 300W). All in all, the bundle price of the products I reviewed is $2,349.97 excluding tax. It’s almost like buying one of the high-end Sony OLED TVs I mentioned. So while testing the HT-A7000, I tested it in two different configurations. Some buyers have used the soundbar itself a lot because they will just stop there. But I also came up with a kit-out, outrageously priced system through its speed. HT-A7000 When installed alone, the HT-A7000 is a 7.1.2 soundbar. It consists of 5 front speakers and 2 beam tweeters (7), a built-in subwoofer (1), and a pair of upward-firing Atmos speakers (2). For comparison, the Sonos Arc is a 5.0.2 speaker (adding Sub to the equation gives 5.1.2). Sony’s HT-A7000 is an Atmos 7.1.2 soundbar. It certainly looks like part of a premium soundbar, but it’s up to you to decide whether the glass top surface and the combination of textures and materials are right for the price. At the top are capacitive touch buttons for power, input, volume, Bluetooth, and more. And behind the front grill of the HT-A7000 is a small display that shows which input (HDMI 1, 2 or TV) is playing and shows the volume or sound mode when adjusting. When watching something via either of the two pass-through HDMI ports, press the “Display” button on the remote control to summarize the current audio signal and details about whether the vertical speakers are active or not on the TV screen. When the soundbar outputs TV audio, you can see these details on the small front display. On the back are two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, inputs for analog and optical audio, a USB Type-A port, and various ports such as power. In addition to the bundled remote control and HDMI cable, Sony includes brackets and screws in the box if you plan to wall mount the HT-A7000. I can’t find any faults with the remote. very sony But there’s at least an HDMI input and individual buttons for every sound mode you’ll be using most often. The glass surface of the soundbar has touch controls. Setting up the soundbar was very simple thanks to Sony’s on-screen instructions. Just plug in the device you want to run through the soundbar, plug it into the LG CX’s eARC port, and you’re ready to go. In terms of sound performance, the HT-A7000 ranks alongside the best Atmos soundbars. I felt it was my duty to rent an F9 and pay $20 to experience the big action of a Hollywood blockbuster, and I was not disappointed. The car chases and action sequences are captivating when you step out of this 7.1.2 bar, giving you a distinct feeling of being sweeping around you. I also spent some time watching the Blu-rays used as demos more than once in Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City – Audio Briefing. Both acoustic guitars are finished with warmth, great detail, and just the right kind of iron. Vocals were kept crisp and distinct in the center channel in all songs. Sony’s S-Force Pro Surround and Vertical Surround Engine technology distributes sound well throughout the room when watching anything with a surround mix. The HT-A7000 is considerably larger than the Sonos Arc. For scale, both have 55″ TVs behind them. The immersive element was even more impressive when watching Atmos content via Netflix or the Movies Anywhere library. Sony offers a “sound field optimization” process to help you adjust your soundbar to fit your room. It plays some loud noises (like Sonos’ TruePlay tuning system) to help the device detect how far away the left and right walls are, and it also detects ceiling distance. (You can measure yourself and enter this number manually to make sure it’s perfect.) As more drivers become available, Sony has outdone my Sonos Arc. $500 price difference. The effect of the height channel was very similar for both speakers. Sony includes several sound modes such as auto, standard, and film, as well as other sound modes such as “voice” to emphasize dialogue or “night” to limit the boom when watching at night. A small display shows you how to adjust the volume, which mode the soundbar is in, and more. The HT-A7000 comes with a Sony remote control. Surprisingly, there are no preset audio modes for games. But nonetheless, the HT-A7000 output robust audio without any noticeable audio and video sync issues when playing Ratchet and Clnk: Rift Apart on PS5. When I switched to my Xbox Series X, the story was the same. Passthrough worked mostly flawlessly, with the soundbar correctly detecting the various audio codecs sent from the gaming and streaming apps on the game console. But only then did I realize that something was wrong. One of the areas where the HT-A7000 wobbles when gaming is the variable refresh rate, an area familiar to Sony. Currently the soundbar cannot pass for both VRR and ALLM (auto low latency mode). This is a serious drawback for Xbox Series X or Series S owners. Both consoles can mitigate the drop in frame rate when playing using VRR. Microsoft Flight Simulator felt noticeably choppy when played through the soundbar without VRR. Sony said it recommends that Xbox owners connect directly to their TV’s HDMI 2.1 port. The PS5 still doesn’t offer support for VRR, so you won’t lose much right now if it’s your console of choice. Either way, the HDMI port the HT-A7000 runs on should have the ideal setup for gaming. This is because the TV does not automatically change without ALLM pass-through. The omission of VRR and ALLM pass-through is enough to prevent the HT-A7000 from being the perfect soundbar for the next-gen gaming I was hoping for. This is unfortunate. For now, it goes well with the PS5, but losing VRR on Xbox is hard to swallow for this amount of money. The optional subwoofer and surround back HT-A7000 provide solitary performance, so for home theater, more speakers are always better. Adding a wireless soundbar and back surround wasn’t difficult. The soundbar will automatically detect this and immediately start feeding audio. (The soundbar’s remote also has buttons for additional functions.) All the virtualization tech in the world still can’t compete with the individual speakers placed behind it, and the added rigs are what we get the most from Sony’s new system. . Sony’s optional surround back speakers and subwoofer unleash the full potential of the HT-A7000. It would be nice to have a powerful Atmos driver in the back surround, like the back that comes with Vizio’s Elevate bar, but it doesn’t. They are just traditional stereo speakers. Sony’s 300W subwoofer can really push out the roaring and roaring bass. Frankly, it costs too much for my Brooklyn apartment, but it’s a thrill you can play as long as you don’t risk annoying your neighbours. A full bodily system is the enjoyment of movies and TV shows, but it also makes a noticeable difference to the latest wave of 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos music. You can really feel the unique placement and detail when listening to a proper surround system. Spatial audio in Apple Music feels less gullible than listening through headphones in this context. Other features of the HT-A7000 such as Chromecast and AirPlay 2 worked fine, but keep in mind that this feature is only for audio playback on this device, not video. Sony’s HT-A7000 is a great and powerful soundbar, but comes at a huge premium that many people wouldn’t take seriously when options like the Sonos Arc and Vizio Elevate offer superior performance at a much lower cost. I can’t help but think Sony should have included a rear speaker or subwoofer in the box with this product. Having to attach everything individually makes the whole offer more difficult when you cross the $2,000 mark. The level of future-readiness here is impressive. However, my LG CX has four HDMI 2.1 ports, so I already have everything I need for an Arc, Xbox Series X and PS5. The pass-through side of the HT-A7000 works as advertised except for VRR situations, but it’s not a big selling point for me. If it weren’t for that star, it would be more convenient to label the HT-A7000 with a price-worthy label for those who want a simple way to wield the HT-A7000 and sublime their home theater audio. If you’re not an Xbox gamer, it’s probably still worth the title. This is truly a soundbar that does it all. But imperfections are a reason to pause and scrutinize other options. Photo: Chris Welch / The Verge


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