(Pocket-lint) - There are soundbars and there are soundbars. The Sony HT-A7000 firmly falls into the latter category, as an all-in-one solution with 7.1.2 channels of output - there's a built-in woofer for bass, hence the '1', two upfiring channels, plus seven main speakers - for real immersion. It's great for emboldening a large TV's output, or just for playing music with extra pomp.
But it doesn't come cheap, there's no separate subwoofer included in the package - something even many much cheaper soundbars offer - and there's a lot of competition out there in this premium space. So just how well does the A7000 - which supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound formats - deliver the goods?
Design & Features
- Dimensions: 1300 x 142 x 80mm / Weight: 8.7kgs
- Plastic shell, metal front grille
- Finish: Black only
- Front display
The HT-A7000 is a big soundbar, which is probably no surprise considering the number of speakers within its shell. At 1.3 metres long it's likely as long as or longer than your TV's width - we've been testing it with a 65-inch 4K OLED set and this 'bar is only slightly shorter than that. So if you've got a smaller TV setup, or lack an AV cabinet top that can support this monster - wall-mounting is also possible, though, with brackets included in the box - then do consider whether the physical size will be to excess or not.
In terms of finish, the A7000 has a largely plastic shell, but it's fronted with a metal grille with reasonably wide circular openings in the mesh so you can somewhat see the speaker cones behind it. That plastic top - which doesn't cover the outermost areas where the upward-firing speakers are covered with a fabric topping at each end of the 'bar - is reflective, though, which is a design issue we've leveraged against the likes of the Bose 900. Why would you want to see a reflection of what you're watching beneath the TV screen? You wouldn't. The Sony isn't as bad as the Bose in this regard, though, as it doesn't use a glass finish.
The slightly wider-than-typical openings in the Sony's metal grille are also there to reveal the always-on display, positioned to the front just off to the centre right. It's nice to see which channel you have selected - 'HDMI 1', 'Bluetooth', volume, and so on - but if you find it too much a distraction then you can set the Dimmer mode to switch it off. Given that screen-based interfacing is possible, however, we're not sure the presence of this display is all that necessary anyway.
There's no doubting this is one solid unit though; it feels robust, is weighty on account of all those speakers within, and despite those design niggles we've pointed out it looks like a dominant high-end soundbar when it's sat in front of your telly. Just make sure you have enough space for it - its 8cm height is also worth considering to ensure it won't block any of your TV's screen. Few come bigger than this, really, unless you've ever seen the Sennheiser Ambeo...
Connections & Controls
- Ports: 1x HDMI out (eARC), 2x HDMI inputs (8K60/HDR passthrough, not VRR/ALLM), 1x Ethernet, 1x optical, 1x 3.5mm
- Wireless connectivity: Built-in Chromecast, Apple Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi (ac)
- Included remote control (not universal remote, unless using Sony TV with Bravia Sync)
- Integrated menu (with a compatible Sony Bravia TV)
- Voice Assistant compatible
Unlike lesser soundbars, the A7000 has a whole host of connections that are really useful. There's an HDMI eARC (enhanced audio return channel) output, so at a minimum it's a piece of cake for your TV to communicate with the 'bar without needing to really do anything than plug in via that HDMI port.
But there's much more, as there are two HDMI inputs, enabling you to directly source devices to the soundbar itself. It supports 4K120fps HDR passthrough (including Dolby Vision), so if you've got a 4K set-top box and/or dedicated player then you can plug into these ports and let everything be handled by the bar - freeing up HDMI ports on your telly, but also ensuring the proper handshake is made between source material and soundbar for best case output.
The only exception to this passthrough is that there's no VRR (variable refresh rate) or ALLM (auto low-latency mode) support, so plug in your Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 and you'll lose out on said features. Still, there's nothing stopping you just using a 4K HDMI port on your TV as the soundbar can pick-up via the eARC connection anyway, so no major loss.
In addition to the HDMI goodness, there are a host of other connectivity types, from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi, including Apple Airplay 2, built-in Google Chromecast, and Spotify Connect. So beyond TV and audio-visual material, it's really easy to use this soundbar as a music hub with minimal fuss. More and more tracks are being mixed in Dolby Atmos, too, so there's added benefit to having a soundbar that can play ball with such output.
Sony includes a remote control, which despite its practicalities, is rather busy. As we've not reviewed this soundbar with a Sony TV it doesn't function as a universal remote - only Bravia Sync on relevant Sony tellies will allow that - so it's yet another remote control that we'd rather not have. It is useful, though, especially when it comes to adjusting the immersive sound technologies and bass levels in particular.
Sound Quality & Surround
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based decoding, 360 Reality Audio support
- Sound modes: Auto, Cinema, Music, Standard
- 7.1.2 channel output, 500W total
- Woofer levels: Min, Mid, Max
- Optional sub and surrounds
- Hi-Res Audio support
From the second the Sony HT-A7000 receives a signal there's no doubting this is one serious soundbar with big audio chops. It's loud, its soundstage is not just wide but also tall, and with 500W total output there's a lot of volume and driving force.
That said, there's not the immediate eloquence here that some other soundbars offer. For example in our setup there was no automatic room calibration offered - something even the cheaper Bose 900 offers during setup - so all those channels firing into nearby surfaces and off walls and ceilings weren't necessarily tempered as finely as could be possible.
[Update: Sony tells us that its Sound Field Optimisation - which measures the height and width of the room to tune accordingly - is actioned when first using the soundbar. There are also manual settings adjustments for fine-tuning.]
That's not to say Sony doesn't perform some clever acoustic adjustments, though, with its Immersive AE technology. There's a button for this on the included remote - and you'll need it to hand as you won't always want it active. Immersive AE activates Sony's virtual surround technology, deciphering a signal and effectively upmixing it into a surround format to make the most of all those channel outputs.
Immersive AE can be immediately heard when active, creating greater separation and depth, which can give sounds much greater paths of flight. The high-end, in particular, makes much greater use of the side-firing output for a wider reach. For some content it's really great.
But not for all. Immersive AE can sound downright weird with some music. And it can't always handle dynamic adjustment well: when playing a 4K Blu-ray of Tenet, the jumps between quiet dialogue and sudden swells (no surprise, given Nolan's overly loud musical mix in that movie) caused some confusion in output that was a bit jarring - so we turned the setting off.
Then there's bass delivery. Sony bigs-up the A7000's use of dual woofers to handle bass, but with no separate subwoofer included in the package - although you can, at additional expense, add one no problems (the SA-SW5). The 'bar clearly can output bass with pomp, but its not to subwoofer levels, so sometimes there's a 'thumpyness' to it that's more trying to give perception of the low-end's existence rather than a truly low-frequency output. This isn't helped by the woofer's min/mid/max only adjustment levels - a more dynamic and stepped adjustment would be a much better take in our view, allowing for greater crafting of how bass sits in the mix.
Don't get us wrong though: there's clearly bass here in and around the 60Hz band, so you'll get good bass guitar levels, for example, just not synthetic lower-end output. And for a soundbar so big, while the bass is present, it's not going to reach levels that'll blow your socks off. Really you want the additional sub, by which point the package cost is increased so much that there are better more thorough options out there - such as the Samsung Q950A.
All said, however, the A7000's overall reach and immersive quality delivers a strong and wide-reaching soundstage that lesser soundbars will struggle to ever reach. It's the impressive height and placement quality that justifies its lofty price tag, generating home cinema sound that'll outshine even the best built-in TV setup (it sounds better than our Panasonic JZ2000's built-in Atmos array for example).
The Sony HT-A7000 is one big, bold all-in-one soundbar solution that delivers a wide and tall soundstage that will elevate any TV's audio output to the next level. Its ability to handle Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based formats puts a big tick in the box, as does the twin HDMI 2.1 inputs with 4K120/8K60/HDR passthrough. Not many soundbars offer such a great feature set.
However, as it doesn't come with a separate subwoofer, it doesn't have true low-end capabilities on hand straight out of the box - no more so than a speaker would anyway. Its built-in woofers will be ample for many, sure, but if you want true sub-bass - the kind that you'd probably expect to go along with a 1.3-metre-long soundbar - then you'll want to add the optional extra. But then the price goes from already high to more than considerable.
As a straight out of the box solution, the A7000 is adept at delivering expansive and immersive sound quality from numerous sources. It'll put other standalone Dolby Atmos soundbars, such as the Sonos Arc, to task. We do think Sony's Immersive AE dynamic response and simplistic bass settings ought to be more eloquently delivered, but even so this all-in-one soundbar package has little to rival it when it comes to immersion.
The full package - a 7.1.4 channel arrangement with included surround speakers and a subwoofer - can even sync with Samsung tellies (2020 onwards) with Q Symphony, to make an immersive experience with no compare. It's pricey though - more than many would spend on a TV really.