There are two schools of thinking at the top of the soundbar market. The first is that more expensive models require extra speakers for improved bass and surround sound capabilities. The second is that a single, high-quality soundbar should be capable of properly delivering superb treble clarity, bass, and a room-filling sound on its own – with additional boxes accessible (though not required) to suit the buyer’s taste, home, and budget.
The Sony HT-A7000 is squarely in the latter category. In a single chassis, this 7.1.2 slab of sound houses two up-firing speakers, two beam tweeters, five front-facing drivers, and a built-in dual subwoofer.
And it’s an approach that I like. After all, isn’t the purpose of a soundbar to provide cinematic audio without the need for multiple speakers? Of course, we understand that larger drivers reproduce low frequencies more authentically and that reflected surround sound is no match for direct audio. However, we’ve discovered that multi-box systems aren’t always harmonious as a whole, and rather than increasing the illusion of immersive and realistic sound, the sub and surrounds can become intrusive if they’re not all top performers. Which kind of ruins the purpose.
Sony HT-A7000 Specs
- Connections eARC, 2*HDMI 2.1, optical, USB,
- ARC/eARC eARC
- Sound format support Dolby Atmos/ Dolby AudioTM/ DTS:X/ DTS-HD/ PCM
- Bluetooth Yes Bluetooth 5
- WiFi Yes
- AirPlay 2 Yes
- Chromecast Yes
- Voice control Google Assistant, Alexa
- Dimensions (hwd) 8 x 130 x 14 cm
- Weight 8.7kg
Sony HT-A7000 Price
The HT-A7000, which stands proudly on its own two (rubberized) feet, doesn’t need any additional speakers to justify its expensive price tag of £1199 / $1300 / AU$1699 or its status as Sony’s flagship soundbar.
However, if you wanted to add to the HT-A7000, the price could virtually quadruple. There are two subwoofers available, the 300W SA-SW5 for £699 / $700 / AU$899 and the 200W SA-SW3 at £449 / $400 / AU$599. A pair of surround SA-RS3S speakers costs £449 / $350 / AU$649, and they only have front-facing drivers, which is a little disappointing at this price.
The Sony HT-A7000 replaces the Sony HT-ST5000, which cost £1499 / $1500 (about AU$2830) when it was released in 2017. It is less expensive than LG’s top-tier 7.1.4 package, the SP11RA, which costs £1499 (about $2050, AU$1849), and Samsung’s 11.1.4 package, the HW-Q950A, which costs £1399 / $1500 / AU$1795.
Both the LG and Samsung include a separate sub and a pair of wireless surrounds, but the Award-winning 5.0.2 Sonos Arc, which delivers impressive Atmos performance on its own for £799 / $799 / AU$1399, but can also be expanded through the addition of two One SL speakers (£358 / $358 / AU$538) and, if required, a Sub (£699 / $699 / AU$999).
Sony HT-A7000 Build
The HT-A7000 is simply one item, but it weighs an incredible 8.7kg and stands 8cm tall, just barely sliding under the Sony A80J OLED TV that we tested it with.
The HT-A7000 is made up of a blend of materials, textures, and shades of black, from the fabric covering the upward drivers and a perforated metal front grille to the polished glass top surface and the greasy fingerprints that appear on it after reaching for the capacitive function buttons, which Sony describes as an ‘Omnidirectional Block’ concept shared by the rest of the range. The structure feels strong and sturdy, however, the design’s mixed appearance isn’t as sleek as that of some of its competitors.
While the main soundbar may be unsure of its image, the bundled remote is unmistakably a throwback to the 1990s. With a scrolling text response on the front face of the soundbar, you can rapidly access (nearly) all of the A7000’s capabilities and check settings such as which music format you’re now listening to. It’s a nice touch, but the fully integrated on-screen set-up and choices menu that comes with a Bravia TV is even better (Z9J, A90J, A80J, X95J, X90J, X85J or X80J series). Other AV companies have begun to incorporate symbiotic technology into their soundbars and TVs, but this is one of the greatest applications we’ve seen, and it’s especially beneficial considering the A7000’s hefty feature load.
Sony HT-A7000 Features
The A7000 is simple to set up and calibrate, as is connecting to streaming services like Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and integrating into a multi-room system — Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home are all supported. It’s fantastic to be able to get started without having to grab your phone, but if you prefer, the Sony Music Center app for Android and iOS provides another convenient way to control the A7000. Our main complaint is that there are no settings on the remote to adjust the soundbar’s EQ bands. In fact, the only separate tone options available are three bass volume levels, which are hidden away in the app’s sound settings.
The A7000 is filled with streaming smarts, but it is also well-specced in terms of physical connectivity. Gamers and those whose TVs don’t have more than one HDMI port will like the two HDMI 2.1 pass-through connections, which can handle 8K@60Hz, 4K@120Hz, and Dolby Vision HDR. While that appears to be full-fat HDMI 2.1, Xbox Series X (and, perhaps, PS5) owners should be aware that the A7000 does not currently support VRR or ALLM.
Along with these inputs, there are eARC/HDMI out sockets, analog and optical audio inputs, USB type-A, power, and an analog output for Sony’s Acoustic Center Sync, which allows a compatible Bravia TV to become part of the soundbar’s center channel when the two are connected using the supplied cable.
Because there are so many connections, the cavern on the back designed to store all the ports is a little crowded, which is something to keep in mind if you believe you’ll need to access it frequently.
In terms of audio formats supported, the A7000 outperforms itself once more, with Dolby Atmos (in both Digital+ and TrueHD formats), DTS:X, LPCM, wireless hi-res audio, and Sony 360 Reality Audio. The final is an object-based spatial technology that surrounds the listener, with appropriate content from Tidal, Amazon Music HD, Nugs, and Deezer.
Sony HT-A7000 Sound
Sony has chosen to use a combination of driver positioning and psychoacoustic approaches to improve the width and height of the soundstage regardless of whether you’re watching immersive content or not, and it works quite well. Along with the upward drivers, the company’s Vertical Surround Engine (VSE) makes use of the height channels by up-mixing ordinary content. The wide-spaced beam tweeters, which channel sounds via a series of flute-like chambers, and Sony’s S-Force Front Surround Technology, which is activated when the ‘Cinema’ and ‘Standard’ sound modes are selected, are more important to the A7000’s overall performance.
The performance of these broad tweeters is so effective and transparent that when watching the opening sequence of Gravity in Dolby Atmos, we keep checking to make sure there isn’t a speaker directly to our side.
The amazing sound design is wonderfully rendered spatially, rising upward and outward, beyond the frame of the film, while Sandra Bullock circles on the screen, unable to escape from the spinning robotic arm. Later, as she drifts through space, snippets of radio static and communications appear to be dispersed on either side of the listening location. In terms of height and precision, the performance is comparable to the Sonos Arc, but the soundstage width and forward projection are more believable. It’s not the same as having direct audio from the speaker above or to the side, but it’s effective and visually appealing, enhancing the viewing experience.
The integrated subwoofer also delivers a taut, controlled, and powerful performance that we haven’t heard from a single soundbar other than the more expensive Sennheiser Ambeo. Even when we push it to the limit with Blade Runner 2049’s throbbing synths, the A7000’s subwoofer handles itself admirably, with a powerful leading-edge while preserving musicality, though we do reduce its volume level from high to medium. The Vangelis-inspired score is faithfully rendered, with a fitting epic sense of scale and attention to finer elements. When dropped into quieter times, the A7000 picks up on dialogue with transparent clarity.
The A7000 demonstrates its capacity to handle lighter, delicate sounds by switching to Nomadland, which offers a more constrained but nonetheless intriguing Atmos sound design. Because of the outstanding depth of field, shifts in the location are sharp and striking. The viewer feels firmly contained inside the van, with the faint noises of the world passing by outside. The A7000 immerses you in each environment, from the enormous clanking Amazon plant to the soft winds and huge empty echoing of the open desert.
The dialogue is spoken naturalistically, and often quietly, throughout the film – but the A7000 once again shows the excellent presentation, and while adding in the Sony TV to bolster the center channel doesn’t dramatically alter the already impressive soundfield, it does nicely add to the openness and character of voices. There’s a conversation boost setting if you need it, and if you’re watching DTS:X video, you can alter the dialogue level individually with the remote.
When streaming music, we find that maintaining the A7000 in Standard mode or the heavier Cinema option is preferable to Music mode, which does not use S-Force Pro Front surround technology. The vertical sound engine, which up-mixes recordings to make use of the height speakers, works best with classical or acoustic music that lacks major rhythmic aspects.
Björk’s Hyperballad’s deep, mesmerizing bass is powerful, confident, and rounded, with only the absolute lowest notes flattened off slightly. There’s plenty of headroom to crank up the volume, but you’re unlikely to need to go above 70 unless you have very understanding neighbors.
The clipped percussive transients, kick drum, and bass in Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On maintain precise rhythmic consistency, while the guitars and vocals have plenty of separation with just the perfect amount of melody and edge.
When switching to Mozart’s Grosse Messe’s dynamically variegated Et In Carnatus Est and Santus, there’s a delightful warmth and consistency in the strings in the lower midrange, and the sub makes a decent attempt at the grand timpani rolls and organ blasts. The vertical surround engine is a welcome addition here, adding a touch of sweetness to the higher frequencies.
We decide to put a few 360 tracks from Tidal’s collection through its paces for good measure, and we immediately realise that not all 360 tracks are created equal. For example, Foo Fighters’ Everlong on the A7000 sounds a little boomy and congested, whereas Pearl Jam’s Alive’s drum panning fizzes with vivacious effervescence. Immersive audio is still a new field for streaming companies, but for the time being, it’s a great addition to an already feature-rich soundbar.
- Robust low-end
- Excellent Atmos performance
- No VRR or ALLM at launch
- EQ controls would be nice
- Slightly confused styling
The A7000 delivers powerful, cinematic audio as well as an immersive, detailed soundfield from a single soundbar that outperforms most multi-box systems.
If we didn’t have any financial or living space constraints, we’d gladly install the optional surrounds and sub, but the A7000 isn’t in need of any further help. It’s an extraordinarily capable, future-proofed performance that elevates everything we watch and establishes a new standard for Dolby Atmos soundbars at this price.