Sony HT-A5000 overview: The Dolby Atmos soundbar for hi-res audio followers

MSRP $1,000.00

“With every sound format and connection option we could want, the Sony HT-A5000 rocks.”

Pros

  • 8K-ready HDMI enter
  • Excellent film and music sound
  • Easy on-screen setup
  • Tons of connection choices
  • Hi-res, Sony 360RA, and DTS:X

Cons

  • No EQ changes
  • Some settings are buried
  • Poor integration of music providers

At the upper finish of the soundbar market, you’ll discover nice Dolby Atmos-compatible fashions just like the $899 Sonos Arc, the $899 Bose Smart Soundbar 900, and LG’s $1,000 SP9YA. And now you may add Sony’s $1,000 HT-A5000 to that listing. Wondering the way it compares to the opposite fashions — and to Sony’s flagship $1,300 HT-A7000? Let’s test it out.

Big and fundamental

Sony HT-A5000.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

In phrases of design the HT-A5000 (which we’ll merely name the A5000) isn’t a lot to take a look at. Its textured black plastic physique and gray metallic speaker grilles gained’t win any magnificence pageants, however that’s a great factor. Personally, I believe that soundbars shouldn’t name any consideration to themselves visually, as a result of that may detract from their major function — to boost the sound coming out of your TV, which is the place your eyes must be centered.

More necessary although, is the dimensions. At 47.75 inches huge and a pair of.75 inches tall, the A5000 should not have any drawback discovering a house in entrance of any however the smallest of TVs. Sony even claims that its Bravia TVs can accommodate the A5000 between their movable legs, however I don’t advocate doing that — any soundbar with up-firing audio system must be positioned as far ahead as attainable, to provide these drivers each alternative to intention sound at your ceiling, unimpeded.

The HDMI enter can deal with 8K, Dolby Vision, and 4K at 120Hz, making it as future-proofed as it may be.

Sony additionally offers every part you would probably want proper within the field: Soundbar, wall-mount {hardware}, HDMI and optical cables, a distant management, and an analog patch twine for connecting a suitable Bravia TV. Yes — should you’re the fortunate proprietor of one in all Sony’s 2020 or 2021 Bravia TVs, you should use that twine to hijack the TV’s built-in audio system and have them improve the soundbar’s middle channel audio. Unfortunately, with out a type of TVs readily available, I didn’t check this characteristic.

HDMI in, HDMI out, and 8K

Sony HT-A5000 input ports.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Some soundbar corporations (ahem, Sonos, Bose) suppose {that a} single HDMI ARC/eARC port must be sufficient for anybody. I don’t agree — and, fortunately, neither does Sony. The A5000 has each a devoted HDMI enter and an HDMI ARC/eARC enter/output. Better but, the HDMI enter can passthrough 8K, Dolby Vision, and 4K at 120Hz indicators to your TV, making it as future-proofed as it may be. There’s additionally an optical port in case your TV doesn’t do HDMI ARC, however the A5000 drops the A7000’s analog enter.

When it involves the methods you may wirelessly hook up with a speaker, the A5000 has all of them lined.

Why does an HDMI enter matter? Other than changing the HDMI enter in your TV you needed to sacrifice for the soundbar’s connection, it offers these of us with older TVs the flexibility to attach Blu-ray gamers or streaming media units on to the soundbar. This will get across the inherent sound-quality limitations of HDMI ARC connections imposed by TVs that don’t have HDMI eARC. There’s fairly a bit to unpack there, so as a substitute of filling up area on this overview with the complete clarification, please try our guides to HDMI ARC/eARC and Dolby Atmos. If you care about getting the absolute best audio high quality, you’ll thank me.

These ports are packed very tightly right into a small recess on the again of the A5000, which makes them difficult to make use of, however so long as you don’t must entry them lots, it shouldn’t trigger you an excessive amount of ache.

On-screen setup

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar on-screen system message.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Speaking of HDMI, the A5000 repeats one in all my favourite options of the HT-A7000 — the on-screen setup course of and menus. Not that utilizing a smartphone app to arrange a speaker is difficult, however with the ability to use your TV’s display when you sit back in your couch, distant in hand, is manner higher.

From the preliminary connection to getting the A5000 onto your Wi-Fi community, to the zippy auto-room calibration process, Sony makes it straightforward and — dare I say it — enjoyable. And at any time, you may select to press the house button on the distant and navigate the soundbar’s menus (akin to they’re) on the display, which is far more handy than studying from the small scrolling digital show behind the speaker grille or pulling out your cellphone.

Connections galore

Sony HT-A5000 on-screen display.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I’ve acquired at hand it to Sony. When it involves the methods you may wirelessly hook up with a speaker, the A5000 has all of them lined. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast — decide your favourite. Even the Bluetooth connection, which on many soundbars is barely an afterthought, is spectacular, with assist for Sony’s LDAC codec so you may stream from an Android cellphone on the highest degree of high quality. You may also use LDAC for a high-quality wi-fi hyperlink to a suitable Bravia TV, must you need to go utterly cable-free.

Thanks to distinctive assist for high-quality wi-fi streaming, music typically sounds superior.

These choices imply that no matter which cellphone you personal, or which music streaming service you subscribe to, you’ll be capable of get essentially the most out of the A5000’s capabilities. And given the rising assist for lossless and hi-res audio from Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, and others, these advantages are not theoretical edge instances.

Cleverly, Sony offers you the flexibility to modify the Bluetooth operate from obtain to transmit (once more with LDAC assist) so you should use any set of wi-fi headphones or earbuds for personal listening.

Great for music, even higher for films

Sony HT-A5000.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

OK, right down to enterprise: How does this factor sound? Pretty rattling good. If you keep on with the A5000’s fundamental mode (preserving the Sound Field operate turned off), you get completely clear and balanced stereo sound. It’s excellent for sitcoms, information broadcasts, and comedy specials — principally any time you need to concentrate on dialoueg. In this mode, even with the subwoofer set to max, bass stays light, offering simply sufficient low-end to provide voices added depth and a few weight to the background soundtrack.

It’s additionally the popular mode for listening to two-channel stereo music, particularly should you’re a purist who needs to maintain extra digital processing to a minimal. And due to the soundbar’s distinctive assist for high-quality wi-fi streaming, music typically sounds superior.

The solely disadvantage is that should you don’t like the best way Sony has tuned the A5000, there’s not a lot you are able to do about it. I dinged Sony for the dearth of any EQ changes on its dear A7000 and I’m going to do it once more for the A5000. It’s a wierd alternative for an organization that gives in depth EQ choices for its wi-fi headphones and earbuds.

Dolby Atmos films have been all rendered with that key ingredient — sounds that appears to return from throughout you.

If you’ve a Tidal HiFi or Amazon Music subscription, you owe it to your self to check out tracks mastered utilizing Sony’s 360 Reality Audio (360RA) format, which the A5000 helps. Simply put, 360RA makes an attempt to imitate the sound of an indoor dwell efficiency by benefiting from encompass sound expertise to provide the music an open, ethereal feeling. As with Dolby Atmos Music, some tracks profit from this greater than others. Pink Floyd’s Learning To Fly, for example, felt prefer it was made for 360RA, whereas John Mayer’s I Guess I Just Feel Like appeared to lose one thing within the transition.

But even when songs don’t essentially profit from 360RA, generally the format itself is preferable while you’re within the temper for a extra ambient sound — say when entertaining a bunch of visitors. I discover it’s simpler to hold on a dialog when the music isn’t being directed at you, as conventional stereo tends to do. For now, 360RA solely works over a Wi-Fi Chromecast connection from a cellphone or pill, so that you gained’t be capable of management it through Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

The solely disadvantage to the A5000’s musical prowess is the dearth of music service integration into the Sony Music Center app. The app lists most of the hottest providers (Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, and so forth.), however tapping on these simply pushes you out to the service’s app in your cellphone (assuming you’ve it put in). Unlike Sonos, there’s no option to entry search, handle favorites or playlists, or another music service characteristic. You can, nonetheless, use the app to manage multiroom audio should you personal different suitable Sony audio system.

Sony HT-A5000.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

You don’t purchase a $1,000 Dolby Atmos soundbar for stereo sound. You need to be blown away by totally immersive 3D soundtracks that convey energy, pleasure, and emotion, and for that you have to interact Sound Field mode. Doing so instantly expands the soundstage from a reasonably slim and forward-facing affair to at least one that spreads across the room.

Sound Field mode isn’t one taste of 3D, it’s three — Sony’s personal Vertical Surround Engine, Dolby’s virtualized speaker mode, and DTS Virtual:X — and every has its personal distinct sound signature. Sony’s model pulls again on low frequencies in favor of making a tall, huge, and deep presentation that emphasizes readability. Dolby, then again, pushes the built-in subwoofer to its limits for a thunderous sound, however it might probably introduce undesirable distortion and infrequently muddies the midrange and excessive frequencies. DTS Virtual:X is someplace in between, however not in a Goldilocks manner. It’s extra of a compromise than that.

Because every of those 3D flavors sounds so totally different, they will all be good decisions relying on what you’re taking part in. I discovered Sony’s model was excellent for native Dolby Atmos films and music. Avengers: Infinity War, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ford v. Ferrari have been all rendered with that key Dolby Atmos ingredient — sounds that appear to return from throughout you and transfer in sync with the on-screen motion. Wondering should you’ll want one in all Sony’s wi-fi subwoofers? They’d undoubtedly offer you higher low-frequency results, however the A5000’s built-in subwoofer is surprisingly highly effective. For smaller rooms, it’s in all probability all you want.

I linked a Shield TV to the HDMI enter and totally loved Dolby Atmos music tracks from Tidal like The Weeknd’s Save Your Tears and The Doors’ traditional, Riders On The Storm. Dolby Atmos Music can really feel lackluster at instances, particularly when utilizing headphones, however the A5000 permits you to admire the rising format to its full potential.

Sony HT-A5000 built-in display.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

But right here’s a tip: As with most Dolby Atmos soundbars, should you really feel like one thing’s lacking — such as you’re not likely listening to an immersive combine — dive into the Advanced audio settings and increase the degrees for the peak and encompass channels. Sony’s calibration software program tends to take a conservative strategy that doesn’t at all times yield one of the best outcomes.

It’s undoubtedly value attempting out Dolby’s virtualized speaker mode and DTS Virtual:X for all content material, whether or not it’s Atmos or not, however switching between these 3D variations isn’t a lot enjoyable. There’s no option to do it within the Sony Music Center app, and no option to do it by urgent a preset button on the distant.

Instead, you must pause your film or music, hit the Home button on the distant, after which navigate the on-screen menu to Setup > Advanced Setting > Audio Settings > Sound Field Settings. You can then select a unique 3D taste and return to your content material.

This may not be so dangerous if it was only a matter of discovering the one you want most, however given there’s no option to tweak their EQ, switching between them is your solely possibility should you don’t love the best way one in all them performs.

Beyond the bar

Sony HT-A5000 remote control.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As with most mid-to-high-end soundbars, you may develop the A5000’s sonic chops by including your alternative of two Sony wi-fi subwoofers (SA-SW5 or SA-SW3), and a set of wi-fi encompass satellites (SA-RS3S). Doing so doesn’t enhance the system’s top channel prowess, however it might probably make an enormous distinction to the general degree of immersion. If you’ve the room in your house and in your finances, I extremely advocate these additions.

Our take

Sony’s HT-A5000 instructions a premium value, however it delivers a premium sound expertise for each music and film lovers.

Is there a greater different?

At this value, the HT-A5000 has a number of direct rivals and so they’re all wonderful in their very own manner. Choosing amongst them actually comes right down to the options that matter to you. Here’s what you must know:

  • If you’re an audiophile, the LG SP9YA is a robust contender as a result of, just like the A5000, it helps hi-res audio through Wi-Fi and USB. It additionally comes with its personal wi-fi subwoofer, making it extra satisfying for films proper out of the field. But it doesn’t assist Bluetooth LDAC or Sony 360RA, and its hardwired energy twine could possibly be a nuisance for some installations.
  • If you need straightforward and highly effective management over your music sources and multiroom audio, and wish some sensible house extras, contemplate the Sonos Arc or the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. Neither have HDMI inputs, which reduces their flexibility, however that’s solely an issue you probably have an older TV. Both can function sensible audio system together with your alternative of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
  • If you desire a true house theater system substitute for films and TV reveals, however multiroom audio isn’t as necessary, the Vizio Elevate comes with a wi-fi subwoofer and encompass satellite tv for pc audio system, which normally price further.
  • Want even higher sound, however don’t need to muddle your room with extra audio system? For $300 extra, the Sony HT-A7000 is an even bigger and extra succesful speaker (with two HDMI inputs plus an analog enter) that’s completely value the additional funding.

How lengthy will it final?

Sony’s merchandise are very well-built and the HT-A5000 isn’t any exception. When you contemplate its 8K compatibility, it could possibly be 10 years or extra earlier than you even want to consider upgrading. And even then, it is going to be a alternative, not a requirement.

Should you purchase it?

Yes. The Sony HT-A5000 shall be an amazing film and music improve for any TV room in the home.

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