Soundbars have come a long way in recent years and we’re impressed with the technology and the level of immersion that comes out of them. As television and movies prioritize Dolby Atmos and streaming, we’re excited about all the new high-performance soundbars that can present this exciting new surround sound format. In this comparison, w...
Sony's 2021 Dolby Atmos Soundbar Lineup
HT-A9 vs HT-A7000 vs HT-A5000 Home Theater Packages
In this comparison, we are covering the latest Dolby Atmos soundbars in Sony’s lineup, — the Sony HT-A7000, the Sony HT-A5000, and the new Sony HT-A9, which is a really cool soundbar alternative. Finally, we will talk about the different subwoofer models and surround speakers that can be added to level up the immersion — and we will also recommend the Sony TVs to pair with them for a complete Sony home theater package! You could have a complete Dolby Atmos home theater system with the best Sony TV pairing for a living room, a spare bedroom, or even a bonus room.
Company & Product Overview
Sony is the only company that makes commercial movie cameras, professional video editing consoles, and even the projectors used in movie theaters all over the world. They touch every single part of the movie-making process. At Audio Advice, most people don’t realize what they are actually getting when they choose a Sony A/V system for their home theater sound and a Sony TV, or a high-performance Sony projector.
You are getting Sony’s decades of research and development which powers the backend of the movie industry and also the music industry too. To our eyes, the picture on Sony TVs just looks a lot more natural than other brands. We feel this is due to all of the great video processing tech Sony has developed over the years to create a more lifelike picture compared to anyone else.
Some TVs may appear to be brighter or to jump out more when you first see them, but if you keep watching them for longer than 10 minutes, you’ll notice they just do not look natural. Once you notice it, it’s really hard to unsee these subtle details. Plus, when you pair a great OLED display with Sony’s XR processor, you really get an even more amazing picture! OLED panels are the most appealing to video purists due to those perfect, inky blacks they deliver.
Watch our video on all the powerful tech behind Sony’s most advanced TVs.
Features & Technology
To bring this all back into focus on high-performance sound, Sony’s Bravia XR TVs also have a really cool feature called “Acoustic Center Sync,” which will transform the entire screen into an active audio surface to create a dedicated center channel when you connect a compatible audio system. All of the new soundbars we are about to go over are compatible with this cool Sony tech, including — the Sony HT-A5000, which is an expandable 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar, the more powerful flagship model — called the Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar. We will also cover Sony’s soundbar alternative that will create a virtual 360-degree spatial audio “bubble” of up to 12 phantom speakers from just 4 physical speakers that you place anywhere in the room — the Sony HT-A9 high-performance home theater system.
All of these Sony systems will transform just about any space into a personal Dolby Atmos home theater with minimal setup — however, the model you choose will depend on the size of your room, and budget. We will cover all of these premium home theater systems, the optional add-ons available, and then some of the cool Sony tech they all share. Finally, we will provide our top three home theater packages complete with a Sony TV to top it off for the ultimate Sony A/V system for your room size and the money! We tailored each Sony package with a rating of “good,” “better,” and “ultimate” for those who just want the best Sony setup money can buy. Hopefully, this will help you choose the right setup that works with your room type and budget.
Since all of these Sony Dolby Atmos systems share similar features and tech, we will start with the most bang for the buck model — and then step up to the more expensive models & Sony TV packages from there.
Sony’s “Best Value” Home Theater Package
Sony HT-A5000 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Up first, we have Sony’s HT-A5000 Dolby Atmos soundbar as our first “best value” home theater package. For less than $1,000, this one covers you in a true 5.1.2 “bubble” of Dolby Atmos surround sound completely from the bar, and nothing else.
You could expand this one to 7.1.2 channels of Dolby Atmos if you add one of the subwoofer choices plus the SA-RS3S wireless surround speakers, but this one will be best for people looking for the best sound quality possible for a room where space could be limited and the convenience of having a sleek, minimal setup is more important. Having said that, this bar will present a very immersive sound. You could step up to the flagship A7000 and have a true 7.1.2 channel Dolby Atmos soundbar for less than $400 more than the A5000 and then expand this one up to 9.1.2 channels of true Atmos when you add the additional wireless speakers. But, we think the A5000 provides a lot of value upfront as a standalone bar with room to grow when you need it.
If you are limited on space, then for less than $400, go for the smaller Sony SA-SW3 wireless sub. This subwoofer choice will reproduce deep, rich bass with more impact from a slimmer-sized cabinet that will only take up an area of about 18-and-a-half-inches of width and less than 20 inches of length. At almost 11-inches tall, the SA-SW3 provides 200 watts of power from a 6.3-inch driver, which provides enough coverage for a small to medium-sized room. If you have a larger room, then the more powerful Sony SA-SW5 subwoofer choice is the best pairing option. The SA-SW5 is also pretty compact, standing about 5-inches taller, but this provides 100 watts of additional power from a similar-sized driver. Sony claims both subs will play down to 28 Hz, but they do not specify at what volume level. For just $200 more, we'd recommend the larger SA-SW5 wireless sub for Family rooms and bonus rooms to make sure you get the proper impact.
The A5000 bar spans 48-inches wide and stands less than 3-inches tall, and about 6-inches deep — visually, this will look great with TVs that are 50-inches or wider. If you are considering your options for the best TV to pair with this bar, then strongly consider any of the Sony A80J models. These come in 55-inch, 65-inch, and 77-inch sizes and use Sony’s new XR OLED Contrast engine for great clarity. For less than $1,800, we like the Sony 55A80J 55-inch 4K HDR OLED TV the best because this size combination just looks fantastic above this bar in a smaller room, but you really can’t go wrong with the larger sizes in this series, either.
This one has two HDMI 2.1 ports — one is an HDMI input so you could connect a gaming system or another source, and the other is an HDMI eARC output that connects with your TV’s ARC connection. Plus, this can pass through 4K 120 signals. Sony also says 8K 60 signals are now possible although we have not tested that claim yet. Another cool thing about this HDMI eARC connection is how the soundbar’s settings integrate with Sony’s BRAVIA TVs so that all of the soundbar’s settings automatically appear on the TV’s Quick Settings menu for really easy control over all the sound modes, and the levels of the bass and rear speakers. This lets you quickly dial in the right amount of mid-range on vocals and dialog, plus control over all of Sony’s special modes like “Immersive AE” and Night Mode for less low-end rumble so do not disturb people while they are sleeping. For less than $2000 for a 55-inch OLED panel, the Sony Bravia XR A80J TVs are great options for the money to pair with this bar.
Finally, the total power output of the A5000 is 450 watts, which is plenty of power to cover a small to medium-sized room with good, clear cinematic sound with just the bar by itself, and nothing else added to it. The HT-A5000’s built-in microphones will intelligently measure the position of each speaker, vertically and horizontally to optimize the sound in your room and this all works with or without the optional speakers.
Some people don’t have a room that will benefit from the extra boost in surround sound performance, so it is really cool Sony made the A5000 a Dolby Atmos system that can stand on its own without the added extras, but that is also expandable, should you acquire more space in the future. If you are limited on space, you could skip the wireless surrounds and just add the smaller SA-SW3 wireless subwoofer for less than $400, and you will have a very good Sony 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos system that will really add a new dimension to your late-night movie watching in the master bedroom.
Sony’s “Even Better” Home Theater Package
Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Some other cool tech both soundbars have is Bluetooth & WiFi, so you can stream music from devices on your home network with Spotify Connect, Chromecast, & Apple AirPlay 2 — plus they both work with popular voice assistants like Google Assistant for multi-room whole-house coverage or Amazon Alexa — but, if you need more power for a larger-sized room with even more HDMI 2.1 inputs — then step up to Sony’s flagship A7000 for 50 watts of extra power plus a true 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos setup.
For less than $400 more than the A5000 with just the bar and nothing else added, this is a better system to step up to, if you want a true Dolby Atmos & DTS:X experience with more dedicated speakers to present the information. On top of the bar, there are two Atmos up-firing X-Balanced speakers that reflect sound off the ceiling for that immersive sense of elevation, plus two high-performance beam tweeters on each end of the bar bounce the sound off the sidewalls for a wide presentation that completely covers the room in clear surround sound. The bar also has five front-facing X-Balanced speaker units that double down on the crystal-clear sound quality for vocals and dialog.
The bar’s built-in subwoofer also features Sony’s X-Balanced speaker tech which maximizes the diaphragm area of the woofer to reproduce better, punchier and clearer bass from just the bar with minimal distortion. But, for the money, just go all out and add on the SA-SW5 wireless sub and the SA-RS3S Wireless Rear Surround Speakers for around $1000 more. The immersion you will get from this 9.1.2 Dolby Atmos setup will perform noticeably better in a medium to large-sized room. With the larger SA-SW5 wireless sub in the mix, you will get a deeper bass extension for more impactful sound effects that really hit you in the chest on movies and TV shows — plus, you’ll have a wider soundstage with clearer details in the presentation with a pair of SA-RS3S Wireless Rear speakers behind you — especially on effects like footsteps that were intended by the director to sound like they are coming from behind you.
The Sony SA-RS3S rear speakers connect to the A7000, wirelessly, and adding them made movie sound effects really come to life and sound a lot more realistic. The sound of someone’s shoes tapping down a dark alley, or creaking doors slowly creaking open, and raindrops falling and splashing onto pavement all sounded a lot more realistic in the soundstage compared to just having the A7000 as a standalone bar.
The A7000 also gives you one more extra HDMI input for a total of three HDMI 2.1 ports for connecting multiple gaming consoles, a streaming box, a blu ray player, or other sources. Since the A7000 spans over 51-inches wide and is a half-inch taller than the A5000, pair this with any of Sony’s Bravia XR A90J 4K HDR OLED Master Series TVs, and you will have an even better Sony setup. The A90J models come in 55-inch, 65-inch, and 83-inch sizes, plus they have a much brighter picture that’s up to 40% brighter than previous OLEDs — and when you couple a great OLED display like these with Sony’s special XR Contrast Pro processing tech, you really get an even more amazing picture with the brightness that comes closer to an LED display.
Check out our video on LED vs OLED TVs for the complete picture.
For less than $4000, we like the Sony XR65A90J 65-inch 4K HDR OLED TV, because this size combination just looks fantastic above this bar in a larger-sized room. We also like how all of the settings automatically appeared on the display in the BRAVIA TV’s settings. While the Dolby Atmos immersion and the soundstage were impressive coming from the A7000 and even the A5000 bar, some people do have a room that will accommodate the extra boost in surround sound performance — so, we think it’s really cool Sony made the A7000 so expandable.
Sony’s “Ultimate” Home Theater Package
Sony HT-A9 360-Degree Dolby Atmos Soundbar Alternative
Finally! If you want the ultimate Sony setup, then strongly consider Sony’s premium alternative to the soundbar category. The Sony HT-A9 home theater system consists of four speakers that you can place anywhere in your room and a box that looks a lot like an Apple TV to serve as “the brain” of the setup.
If you go by the actual channels, the Sony HT-A9 home theater system is really a 4.0.4 surround sound system, but this ultra-convenient setup uses Sony’s advanced 360 degrees spatial sound mapping tech to create the sense that twelve “phantom” speakers are in the room from just four physical speakers — creating a pretty exhilarating experience that comes extremely close to that of a 12 channel system.
The four loudspeakers in the A9 each have a hi-res soft dome tweeter mated to an X-Balanced woofer for the mid-bass frequencies as well as an X-Balanced up-firing driver to bounce high-quality sound off the ceiling. Each speaker is powered by Sony's digital amplifier tech for over 500 watts of total power, and these connect wirelessly to the brain that comes with this system.
The brain of the A9 is similar to the A5000 soundbar in that it features one HDMI 2.1 input as well as one HDMI eARC output. Some other similarities the A9 shares with the A5000 and the A7000 are compatibility with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X — plus high res audio either wired or wirelessly, which is really cool. The A9 can also pass through 4K 120 signals and up to 8K 60 signals with support for Dolby Vision and HDR as well. And just like the other systems, this one also works with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi too.
What really sets the A9 apart from the other Atmos systems is the ease of setup and the way Sony combines all of the built-in microphones in each speaker. Sony’s tech will intelligently map and measure the distances between each speaker and the ceiling to calibrate the unique acoustics of the room — creating the sense that you are at the center of a 12-channel home theater system in just about any room.
At Audio Advice, we love room calibration tech, and here, Sony’s 360 degree “Immersive AE” sound mapping tech worked extremely well in our open living room space with ceilings that were 9-feet-high. If your room has vaulted ceilings higher than 10 feet, the “Immersive AE” tech may have some trouble mapping out a three-dimensional bubble — but in our room, the performance was very impressive.
This model also has the easiest setup out of all the models. We didn’t have to worry about where to place the speakers. The built-in microphones did a fantastic job measuring the position of each speaker in our configuration to optimize the sound within the walls and the ceiling of our room, and we even tried placing the speakers in places we normally wouldn’t just so we could try and trick the Immersive AE and see what happens. The soundstage of two-channel music and especially spatial audio tracks encoded with Dolby Atmos was immersive, spacious, and dare I say even “detailed” — from all angles — side to side and top to bottom, which made dynamic details sound incredibly real.
Adding the larger SA-W5 wireless sub was the best subwoofer choice for this premium system. When we added the SA-W5, the bass really came alive as this improved the rhythm and pacing and the sense of timing of instruments in the lower frequencies while also adding more bottom-end weight on movie sound effects with the impact that really hit us in the chest. Finally, just go all out and get the Sony 65-inch A90J Master Series 4K OLED TV and you will have the ultimate Sony A/V system for the money!
That concludes our take on the new Sony home theater systems and our top recommended Sony TVs for the money. Choose any of the Sony packages on this list, and you will experience the best immersion for music, movies, and gaming for the money. If you have any questions about these or how your home audio or home theater can take advantage of these new Sony Dolby Atmos systems, just give us a call, chat with us online, or stop into one of our award-winning showrooms. We’ll be happy to help you out!
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