Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar Review

Immersive audio with added spatial processing

SRP: £1,199.00
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar Review

The Sony HT-A7000 soundbar delivers an impressive sonic experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio thanks to no less than 11 built-in drivers and advanced spatial processing. It's also very well specified, with HDMI 2.1 connections that support 8K/60, 4K/120, Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+), and eARC. There's support for Hi-Res Audio, 360 Reality Audio, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and the ability to work with various smart assistants. The HT-A7000 is also well-made – although the glossy top is a design misstep. The Sound Field Optimiser provides automated room correction, and the sophisticated speaker technology delivers a degree of immersion. However, the soundstage is front-heavy, and the bass is lacking – resulting in an absence of real surround envelopment and no low-end depth. To address these issues you can add wireless rears and a sub, but that makes an already decidedly pricey prospect even more expensive, and there are better and cheaper alternatives available.

The good

  • Impressive sonic performance
  • Extensive set of features
  • Easy to install and set-up
  • Good connectivity
  • Great build quality

The not so good

  • Soundstage is front-heavy
  • Bass extension is lacking
  • Glossy top is a disaster
  • Expensive

What is the Sony HT-A7000?

The Sony HT-A7000 is a single-unit soundbar designed to deliver an immersive experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio using a combination of 11 custom-designed built-in drivers and advanced spatial processing. It's the flagship soundbar in Sony's current line-up, and includes HDMI 2.1 connections, support for 360 Reality Audio, Hi-Res Audio, Chromecast, and AirPlay 2, along with the ability to work with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

The HT-A7000 uses upward-firing speakers, beam tweeters and two built-in woofers, while S-Force Pro Front Surround and Vertical Surround Engine processing produce a multi-dimensional sound experience. There's also Sound Field Optimisation for easier set-up, and Immersive Audio Enhancement to add overhead sounds to conventional surround soundtracks and even stereo audio. Sony claims this can deliver 7.1.2-channels from a single soundbar.

All this cutting edge tech certainly doesn't come cheap, with the HT-A7000 costing £1,199 as at the time of writing (December 2021). That's an expensive proposition for a single soundbar with no rear speakers or separate active subwoofer – so does the Sony do enough to justify its hefty price tag? Let's find out...

Design, Connections and Control

The Sony HT-A7000 doesn't break the rule book when it comes to soundbar design, and uses a well-engineered and rectangular cabinet that's finished in black. There's a mesh grille along the front, where the five forward-firing speakers and two beam tweeters are housed, along with fabric grilles covering the upward-firing speakers on the left- and right-hand sides. There are also bass ports at either end for the two built-in woofers.

Sony HT-A7000

Between the two upward-firing speakers is a gloss black top plate that unfortunately acts like a giant mirror. It's a disastrous design choice that reflects the TV image right below the screen. It's annoying during the day and particularly noticeable at night, which really detracts from whatever you're trying to watch and essentially ruins the deep blacks of an OLED TV. The cabinet is also quite high at 80mm, and in the case of our LG 65C1, it blocked the bottom of the screen. Of course, there's also the option to wall mount, and Sony includes brackets for this purpose.

The build quality is excellent, but the gloss black top is serious design misstep, creating a mirror below the TV that reflects what's on the screen

There are some basic controls on the right-hand side, and there's a display located on the front right that's actually quite useful. It shows basic information such as the selected source and audio format, and while there is an on-screen display, the front display is useful for quickly checking an key information. The HT-A7000 measures 1300 x 80 x 142mm (WxHxD), which makes it better suited to TVs with a screen size of 65 inches or bigger, and it weighs in at 8.7kg.

Sony HT-A7000

The connections are housed in a recessed area at the rear, and here you'll find two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output with eARC (enhanced audio return channel). All these connections are HDMI 2.1, which means they support 8K/60, 4K/120, HDCP 2.2, CEC, Bravia Sync, HDR10, HLG (hybrid log-gamma), and Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+).

There's a solid set of connections that includes two HDMI 2.1 inputs and an output with eARC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast, and AirPlay 2

In terms of other connections, there's an optical digital input, and analogue stereo input using a 3.5mm jack, a USB port, and an S-Center Out jack for using your compatible Sony TV as an additional centre speaker. The wireless connections are composed of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0, along with support for Chromecast and AirPlay 2.

Sony HT-A7000

As mentioned, there are some basic controls on the HT-A7000 itself, with touch-sensitive buttons for power on/off, cycling through the sources, Bluetooth, Music Service, and volume up/down. There's also a useful and well-designed remote app that provides full control of the soundbar, along with access to the settings menus, the streaming apps, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.

Sony HT-A7000

The included remote is actually pretty good for a soundbar, with a decent size that fits comfortably in the palm and is easy to use with one hand. All the necessary buttons are present and correct, including the various sources – TV, HDMI 1, HDMI 2, USB, Analogue, Bluetooth, and Music Service. There are four sound modes, along with Voice, Night, and Immersive AE options. There are buttons for bringing up the display on the front of the soundbar, and for dimming it, along with playback controls. There are also buttons for bring up the onscreen menu and navigating it, along with controls for setting the wireless subwoofer and rear speakers if they have been added.

Features and Specs

The Sony HT-A7000 is a 7.1.2-channel soundbar that uses two up-firing speakers for the overhead channels, two beam tweeters, five front-firing speakers, and two built-in woofers. Sony employs its Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround virtual surround technology to create the illusion of added width by bouncing the sounds from the beam tweeters off the side walls, and the sounds from the up-firing speakers off the ceiling.

Sony HT-A7000

The speakers themselves use Sony's X-Balanced Speaker driver with a rectangular shape that maximises the diaphragm area for more punchy bass. It also reduces driver excursion while maintaining sound pressure, resulting in less distortion and greater vocal clarity. There are also bass ports at either end to give the built-in woofers added low-end extension. There are 11 speakers in total, all of which are driven by a total of 500W of Class D power.

Sony HT-A7000

The HT-A7000 supports Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD High Resolution, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X, and LPCM. The USB port can handle DSD, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, HE AAC, AAC, MP3, Monkey Audio, WMA, OGG, and Vorbis.

More: Audio Formats

Sony also includes its DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) Extreme feature that uses Edge-AI (Artificial Intelligence) processing to upscale compressed digital music files in real time.

There's an extensive selection of features that includes support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersion, plus 360 Reality Audio

There are four sound modes – Auto (which analyses the audio and changes the mode on-the-fly), Standard, Music and Cinema. There's also a Night Mode, Voice Mode, and Immersive Audio Enhancement that uses the S-Force Pro and Vertical Surround Engine, along with Dolby Speaker Virtual, Dolby Surround, and DTS Neural:X. Sony has included its Sound Field Optimisation feature, which uses built-in microphones to intelligently measure the position of each speaker, vertically and horizontally, and optimise the sound for your room.

Sony HT-A7000

The network functionality includes Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Music Service, and the ability to stream from your home network, along with the capability to work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, thus providing a degree of voice control. There's also support for Hi-Res Audio and 360 Reality Audio, which is available on Amazon Music and Tidal. If you own a Sony TV with Acoustic Centre Sync, both the soundbar and TV become the centre speaker, ensuring dialogue emanates from the action on screen.

There is the option to add wireless rear speakers for genuine surround, and a wireless sub for deeper bass, but this starts to get very expensive

If you want to turn the HT-A7000 into a genuinely immersive surround sound system, you can add the SA-RS3S wireless surround speakers (£449), and the SA-SW3 (£449) or SA-SW5 (£699) wireless subwoofer. Of course this does take the cost of the total system to either £2,097 or £2,347, depending on the subwoofer you choose, and you still won't have rear overhead channels.

Set-up and Operation

The Sony HT-A7000 is very easy to set-up, and all you really need to do is decide where to locate the soundbar, connect any sources and then connect it to the HDMI-ARC input on the TV. You can connect two HDMI sources directly to the Sony, and then send the audio from any other devices back via ARC (depending on the number of HDMI inputs on your TV). If your TV also supports eARC, you can send lossless audio back from any devices connected to the TV.

The HT-A7000 is easy to install thanks to ARC and an onscreen menu, plus there's the Sound Field Optimisation feature for room correction

When positioning the HT-A7000 make sure that the upward-firing speakers aren't blocked, and given its height, you'll also need to make sure the soundbar isn't blocking the screen. You might find that wall mounting helps with this, and it might also help mitigate that reflective glossy black top. Otherwise you might need to invest in some black velvet. To get the best out of the spatial processing, you'll need solid walls at the sides and a low reflective ceiling to bounce sounds off.

Sony HT-A7000
Sony HT-A7000

There is an onscreen menu system, with a home page that offers options to Watch (TV, HDMI 1 and HDMI 2), and Listen (Bluetooth, USB, Analogue, Spotify, Chromecast, Amazon Alexa and 360 Reality Audio). There's also the Setup menu, with an Easy Setup option, and Advanced Settings. In here you'll find the Speaker Settings, Audio Settings, HDMI Settings, Bluetooth Settings, System Settings, and Network Settings.

Sony HT-A7000
Sony HT-A7000

When you first set-up the HT-A7000 you'll be asked to run the Sound Field Optimisation feature, which takes about 10 seconds and uses test tones to optimise the soundbar for your room. In the Speaker Settings menu there are options for manually setting up the soundbar if you prefer, along with options for using your compatible Sony TV as a centre speaker, and for setting up the wireless rear speakers if you add them.

We set-up the Wi-Fi using AirPlay, although you can also use Chromecast or the Network Settings in the menu, and we connected the HT-A7000 to an LG 65C1 OLED TV via HDMI-ARC, allowing the TV to pass back audio from its internal tuner, apps, and connected devices. We also connected a Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray player and a PlayStation 5 games console directly to the soundbar, while an iPhone X was paired to test the quality of streamed music via Bluetooth and AirPlay.

Performance

The Sony HT-A7000 produces an impressive performance, with an energetic delivery and an expansive soundstage at the front of the room. The use of quality speakers and 500W of amplification power result in an accomplished level of sound quality that makes watching TV or movies, listening to music or gaming all enjoyable experiences. The overall size of the soundbar, and the sense of scale it creates, also makes it a great partner for today's larger screen sizes.

The five front speakers produce a solid soundstage, while the centre channel delivers dialogue that is clear and focused on the screen. The overall width of the soundbar ensures the left and right channels create good stereo separation with two-channel music, while the amplification can go loud without distorting or sounding brittle. The two built-in woofers with ports on either side generate some bass, but the HT-A7000 can't go as deep as a separate subwoofer, so manage your expectations.

Sony HT-A7000

The beam tweeters do a great job of expanding the front soundstage, bouncing sounds off the side walls to add greater width to the delivery. The up-firing speakers are also effective at creating the illusion of overhead channels by bouncing sounds off the ceiling, although the effectiveness will depend on how low and reflective the ceiling is. However, the reality is that in the absence of any rear speakers, the soundstage is very front-heavy, with no surround envelopment or back height channels.

The front soundstage is expansive, and the overall delivery is clean and detailed, with plenty of power, width and some nice overhead effects

The overall delivery is clean, focused and detailed in the mid-range, while the higher frequencies are free of sibilance. As a result, the HT-A7000 never feels strained and remains cohesive, even with a complex mix. The soundstage always seems balanced, with neither the highs nor the lows becoming too dominant, and the Sound Field Optimisation feature proves quite effective, adjusting for the room and bringing all the speakers together to create a system that's tight and cohesive.

Sony HT-A7000

The Dolby Atmos decoding and delivery is generally very good, with the object-based audio being rendered effectively, and the sound effects placed in three dimensional space at the front of the room. The localisation of effects is quite precise, and there are some well-defined overhead effects, but as mentioned, in the absence of rear speakers, there's an acoustic hole behind you that the HT-A7000 can't fill. As a result, the soundstage is very front heavy and lacks a sense of full immersion.

The Atmos and DTS:X decoding is good, and there's some nice immersion, but the lack of surround and deep bass is apparent

The Sony does give Dolby Atmos soundtracks a sense of scale thanks to the width and height of the delivery, and watching shows like Cowboy Bebop on Netflix and Hawkeye on Disney+ does produce some fun Dolby Atmos effects. There are some nice object-based moments in a film like 1917 on 4K disc, but the highly directional nature of the sound design does reveal the soundbar's limitations when it comes to 360˚ immersion, as well as the lack of really deep bass.

Sony HT-A7000

The DTS:X decoding is equally as impressive, with the same strengths and weaknesses as the Atmos performance. A film like Jumanji: The Next Level enjoys an expansive sound design, with plenty of effects at the side and above the screen. This is especially true during the scene with the herd of ostriches, or during the climax with the Zeppelin. The delivery certainly has scale, the details are well defined, and the dialogue clear, but once again is soundstage is very front-heavy.

Of the four sound modes, Auto analyses the audio and selects the appropriate mode depending on the content, Standard is good for general TV viewing, Music is great for music and Cinema for movies. The Immersive Audio Enhancement helps give non-object-based audio more dimensionality, as does Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X. The 360 Reality Audio also sounded impressive, giving music improved presence, and a greater sense of realism.

Conclusion

Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar Review

Should I buy one?

The Sony HT-A7000 is a generally impressive soundbar that delivers an enjoyable sonic experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio. The 11 built-in drivers, 500W of amplification, and advanced spatial processing all combine to produce an expansive front soundstage that has plenty of width, a decent amount of bass, and some nice overhead effects.

This is a well specified soundbar, with HDMI 2.1 connections that can handle 8K/60, 4K/120, Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+), and eARC. There's also support for Hi-Res Audio, 360 Reality Audio, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and the ability to work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The Sony is also well-made, although the reflective glossy top is a design misstep.

The HT-A7000 is very easy to set-up, and the Sound Field Optimiser provides automated room correction, which is a nice touch. The sophisticated speaker technology and processing provides a degree of immersion, but the soundstage is front-heavy, and the bass is lacking – resulting in an absence of real surround envelopment and no low-end depth.

Sony provides the option to add wireless rear speakers and a wireless subwoofer to address these shortcomings, but that makes an already decidedly pricey prospect even more expensive. The HT-A7000 is certainly an excellent soundbar that's worthy of a recommendation, but the reality is that there are number of better and cheaper alternatives available.

What are my alternatives?

The obvious choice is the Samsung HW-Q950A, which currently costs the same as the Sony HT-A7000, but offers a lot more bang for your buck. This superb soundbar was a recent Editor's Choice Award winner, and delivers a staggeringly immersive 11.1.4-channel layout, which results in an awesome Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundstage with genuine surround envelopment and powerfully deep bass. It has an auto EQ feature, along with built-in Amazon Alexa, two HDMI inputs, eARC, and AirPlay 2, plus it can pass both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Best of all, the soundbar is wrapped in discrete black fabric, so there's no annoying glossy black mirror to worry about.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
9

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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