Sony did not come to play this winter. After launching four new speakers in May, the company is now revamping its home theatre lineup with the HT-A9, a new modular system, and the HT-A7000, an incredibly beefy Dolby Atmos soundbar. The kicker: They cost $2,299 and $1,699, respectively.
To be fair, the HT-A9 sports four wireless speakers that feature Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping (SSM) and a small Apple TV-sized control box. During a press briefing, Sony explained the idea behind the A9 is to appeal to folks who want a home theatre but aren’t keen on a soundbar or complicated setups. You can pretty much see that in the design, which looks like it blends easier into your decor than the typical boxy black speaker.
The four speakers are identical in terms of specs. Each has a dual microphone setup, X-Balanced speaker drivers for enhanced bass and sound pressure, and a new Wide Directivity Woofer. Sony claims they can automatically calibrate to any room — meaning they don’t need to have a particular placement to create an immersive experience. The company also says the A9 is capable of creating a much broader sound field due to its SSM tech. Specifically, Sony claims the four speakers can create up to 12 “phantom” speakers, leading to an effect where it feels like a sound is “coming from beyond the wall.”
The HT-A7000 is Sony’s new flagship soundbar, replacing the ST-5000. Despite being a single soundbar, Sony says this can serve as a 7.1.2 system, because it has two up-firing speakers to mimic overhead sound, two beam tweeters, five front speakers, and a built-in dual subwoofer. This also has the same auto-calibration feature as the A9 — the first for a Sony soundbar — and supports 360 Reality Audio.
A thing to note: With the A7000 you’re getting simulated height. We found Sony’s simulated surround sound tech to be pretty good with its HT-G700 soundbar, but it’s definitely not going to beat out ceiling speakers or having rear speakers. That said, the A7000 is a buildable system, and you have the option to buy compatible subwoofers and rear speakers over time. Many home theatre systems already come with a fixed set of speakers. It’s convenient, but can also be intimidating to anyone just starting out. However, the optional speakers are also pricey. The $999 SA-SW5 is a wireless sub that focuses on bass with a 180mm driver and passive radiator, while the $599 SA-SW3 has a more compact 160mm driver. Meanwhile, the $649 SA-RS3s are 100W rear speakers that are also wall mountable.
Both the A9 and A7000 support high-resolution formats, like Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and DTS:X, HDMI 2.1, eARC, and 8K and 4K at 120fps. New this time around is that both can also be used with Sony Bravia TVs (X95 or later). Basically, you can control settings from the TV itself, as well as turn your TV into the centre channel via a 3.5mm cable. In that scenario, the A7000 would focus on background noises, while the TV itself would handle things like dialogue. Both are also compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, Spotify, Chromecast, and, in a first, Apple AirPlay 2.