The Sony HT-G700 Makes a Great Case for Budget Dolby Atmos Soundbars

The Sony HT-G700 Makes a Great Case for Budget Dolby Atmos Soundbars
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Getting a true Dolby Atmos home theatre experience is an investment — and some of us just don’t have the space or willingness to spend upwards of $1,500 to make a super authentic Atmos experience happen. However, recently we’ve started seeing more entry-level soundbar systems supporting the format and of the ones I’ve tested so far, the Sony HT-G700 is absolutely the one you should get.

A few caveats here: An entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbars will involve some sort of trade-off. Of course, you’re going to have the best Atmos experience if you go ham with and buy satellite speakers, a soundbar, a subwoofer, and ceiling speakers. With the $625 HT-G700, the tradeoff is a 3.1 channel system that can decode Atmos but uses Sony’s secret algorithmic sauce to simulate height. It comes with a wireless subwoofer, but that’s it — you don’t have the option to add rear speakers or height speakers later on. Sony’s claim is that its software can upscale the sound from the HT-G700 all the way up to a 7.1 channel system. This may raise a red flag for some home theatre nerds and to be fair, lots of companies who make this sort of claim fail to deliver.

Sony HT-G700

WHAT IS IT?

An entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbar and subwoofer

PRICE

$625

LIKE

Great sound and soundstage. Bass is crisp. Music sounds amazing. Setup is super easy.

NO LIKE

No ability to build out; claims of height simulation overblown

When you pull the HT-G700 out of its box, it’s surprisingly stylish given that, like other soundbars, it’s basically a long black rectangle. It’s got a dark grey grille in the front, and touch controls up top. On the left side, behind the grille, there’s also an LED display that’s actually quite helpful in that it tells you when something is playing in Dolby Atmos (or when you’ve changed settings, etc.). The ports are located in the rear on the left side, while the power cord plugs in on the rear right. The subwoofer is a black box. It’s not hideous, but it’s also not going to win Prettiest Subwoofer of 2020 either. The HT-G700 is also wall-mountable if that’s your thing. I did not wall mount it as my TV is a) not wall-mounted and b) despite doing my best to get swole and lift heavy objects, I don’t want to die trying to wall mount my TV. So I can’t really speak to how easy it is to do that, but it is an option should you want it.

Size-wise, the HT-G700 isn’t the most compact soundbar. The Sonos Beam or the Panasonic SoundSlayer are much, much smaller. It measures 38.6 by 2.5 by 4.25 inches (WHD), so it’s long but not egregiously so. It’s also got a decently low profile. Unlike the Sonos Arc, it doesn’t obstruct my view on my LG TV, which has an extremely stubby base. It’s also perfectly fine for TVs over 55-inches. I also tested it with my 65-inch Vizio, and had zero issues. The subwoofer measures 7.6 by 15.25 by 16 inches (WHD) — it’s not too beefy but at 8 kg, it’s hefty unless, like me, you regularly lug around a lazy 9 kg cat.

Inside the soundbar, you’ve got three elliptical full-range drivers with a maximum output of 400W. Meanwhile, the subwoofer has a single bass cone and 100W output. TL;DR — It gets sufficiently loud. I’ve been trapped in my 550-square foot studio apartment all pandemic, and drowning out my cabin fever with movie explosions and sad indie music was easy. You shouldn’t have any problem in medium or large rooms, though it might be overkill in a smaller room like a bedroom or office.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

For ports, you’ve got an HDMI input, HDMI eARC (or ARC if that’s all your TV supports), optical input, and Bluetooth, so you can use this to play music from your phone if you please. (I had some issues connecting with my iPhone XS Max over Bluetooth but had no problems with my husband’s iPhone 11 Pro Max. My iPhone has gotten a bit wonky with Bluetooth recently, so I chalked it up to that.) The HT-G700 also supports 4K HDR passthrough, so that’s good if you want to route the Apple TV through the soundbar for Dolby Atmos streaming. It also has HDCP 2.2 and supports HDMI CEC.

Setup is easy peasy. All you have to do is plug in the soundbar, make sure the right HDMI cords go to the right ports, plug in the subwoofer, and voilá. You don’t have to do anything to connect the subwoofer, other than make sure it’s plugged in. There’s a small indicator light on the upper left of the subwoofer — as long as it’s green, that means it’s connected to the soundbar and you’re ready to go. In all my time testing, I never had any issues with the subwoofer’s wireless connectivity — even as I plugged, and unplugged, and switched up which of my two TVs the HT-G700 was connected to. If you’ve got a Sony TV, you can also connect to the soundbar wirelessly. I don’t have a Sony TV so I wasn’t able to test that part out.

While I don’t love adding yet another remote to my arsenal, the HT-G700’s remote is pretty good and easy to navigate. You can also control the subwoofer’s volume via the remote if you don’t like the auto-preset.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

But now let’s get to the good stuff. This soundbar sounds great. Even that dumb ba-bum noise Netflix makes when you launch the app sounds good. Mwah. Chef’s kiss. End of review. Just kidding.

Audiophiles will always have something to gripe about because to be fair, no speaker is really perfect. With the HT-G700, my main complaint is that dialogue can sometimes sound a tad flat. It’s improved with the Voice setting turned on, and is way more noticeable if you’re watching Atmos content than in 5.1 surround sound.

Without Dolby Atmos, the HT-G700 still does a good job of giving you a sense of where characters are in a scene, particularly with regard to depth. Events occurring in the distance sound like they’re far away, people speaking “near” you sound louder. Most soundbars will improve on your TV’s shitty speakers, but I tested this at the same time as the Panasonic SoundSlayer and the Sonos Arc and there’s no question that this just sounds better than either. I was actually pretty impressed that even without rear speakers, I did get a fairly immersive soundscape compared to other standalone soundbars I’ve tested. Is it the same as having rear or height speakers? No — but it’s still pretty good.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The above is all true with Dolby Atmos-enabled, too, even if you’re not really getting “true” Atmos. It’s just dialed up even further. I’d say the HT-G700 is on par with the Sonos Arc with regard to spatial sound. While I think the HT-G700 is much better at creating depth, the Arc wins on height. The HT-G700 just doesn’t really simulate height as well as Sony claims and no, I never felt like something was happening behind me. Just to be sure, I watched nearly every spaceship battle in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Spaceships zooming left to right? Great. Spaceships launching into hyperspace? Also great. There was one instance of a ship swooshing forward on a right-to-left diagonal during the skirmish between the Resistance and the First Order on Takodana in The Force Awakens that was just stupendous. Explosions in the distance? Truly impressive. Explosions up close? Also impressive. (The subwoofer really helps bring out the rumble of expensive destroyers meeting a fiery death.) What I did not really get was a good sense these spaceships were zooming above me.

That’s doesn’t mean these scenes weren’t enjoyable. They fully were. The Seoul car chase scene in Black Panther doesn’t really have a lot of overhead sounds, but the HT-G700 handled cars nyooming in every direction with aplomb. Honestly, if I wasn’t specifically listening for that overhead sound, I wouldn’t really have anything to complain about. Lastly, it’s sort of obvious, but the subwoofer really did add oomph when it came to kabooms. I’d even say it made Kylo Ren’s helmet voice 10% less stupid. (No technology is powerful enough to make it sound genuinely threatening.)

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The HT-G700 is a good option if you want a soundbar to double as a Bluetooth speaker for music, especially if you like bass-heavy songs. I played Joji’s entire Nectar album and heard the subtle bass lines I hadn’t noticed in my over-ear headphones or on my other speakers. Mac Miller’s What’s the Use was also thumping. Trebles sounded great too — the Jurassic Park theme song was appropriately majestic without sounding too thin or reedy. The soundstage during Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was excellent, and it handled the rapid shifts from quiet to loud without crackling or distortion. Meanwhile, it also handled sad lo-fi indie queen Mitski’s Your Best American Girl without sounding garbled, which her music sometimes does on cheaper speakers.

At $625, this is a reasonably priced Dolby Atmos-capable soundbar and subwoofer combo. To me, it sounds better than the $1,000 Sonos Arc alone and is way more cost-effective than the roughly $2,000 you’d be spending if you want the Sonos Arc and Sonos Sub. Sonos has a slight edge when it comes to creating that Atmos sound bubble, but honestly I’ve got to hand overall sound quality to Sony. That said, I do think you need to care about having Dolby Atmos just a little bit. If you don’t care about Atmos at all, then there are cheaper 3.1 and even 5.1 surround sound options that also sound pretty decent, like the $688 Roku’s 5.1 Surround Sound System. So long as you’re ok without height or rear channels, and don’t really care about having that in the future, this is a good deal for what you’re getting.

If you’re still on the fence, what you really need to figure out is whether you’re willing to invest in getting the best, most immersive sound possible — or whether you’re good with a 3.1 system that sounds more expensive than it is. The HT-G700 won’t get you the most authentic Atmos experience possible, but for most people, it’s pretty damn good. In a nutshell, this is a great choice if you’re willing to spend a little more for above-average sound, but don’t want to clutter up your space with a bulky theatre system. For me, personally, I am currently fighting with my husband as to which TV — mine or his — gets to use the Sony HT-G700 while I wait for my next review soundbar to arrive.

README

  • A 3.1 system with a soundbar and wireless subwoofer that’s also Dolby Atmos compatible.
  • Sony claims it can upscale sound up to 7.1 channels, so while it can decode Dolby Atmos it’s really simulating height and rear sounds. It’s better than you’d expect, but that 7.1 channel claim is a ‘lil overblown.
  • Great for movies and TV, but also excellent for playing music too.
  • Can’t be built out, however, so if you want legit height and rear speakers someday, this one isn’t the one for you.