Sony HT A9 +SW5 Review: This Soundbar system has spoiled me!

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Sony HT A9 Review

Sony HT A9 + SW5 review summary:

Editor’s rating: 4.1/5

Design

Setup and Installation

Connectivity

Audio

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros

  • 360 Spatial Sound Mapping
  • Excellent soundstage
  • Superb Dolby Atmos and DTS-X experience
  • Good network capabilities
  • up to 8K@60 pass-through

Cons

  • Average looks
  • No optical input
  • 3.5mm limited to Sony TVs only

Buying a Soundbars is the next logical step for most Smart TV buyers. While TV audio has improved a lot in the last five years, they are still not the best when it comes to sound fidelity and surround sound experience. This is where the Soundbar steps in. Today, the market is flooded with options ranging from a few thousand bucks to lakhs of rupees. Unlike, traditional home theatre setups which involve messy wires with a complicated installation process, the Soundbars usually reproduce similar sound experiences without all the wire mess.

True to its rich innovating history a few months back introduced a new innovative product in its soundbar category called HT-A9 System. It’s a one-of-a-kind system that packs a control unit which communicates wirelessly with four identical satellite speakers to offer immersive sound including Dolby Atmos surround experience.

The Sony HT-A9 can be paired with an SA-SW5 or SA-SW3 subwoofer unit. Standalone the Sony HT-A9 costs ₹1,69,990 while a combo with SA-SW5 subwoofer costs ₹1,97,990 in India. Is it worth the asking price? Well, we have been testing this unique sound system from Sony for some time. Based on that experience, I have penned down my thoughts in this Sony HT-A9 + SA-SW5 review. 

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Sony HT A9 +SW5 Unboxing

The Sony HT A9 + SA-SW comes in two separate boxes. One box contains four cylindrical speakers along with their power cables, a control box with a power adapter, HDMI cable and remote control. The other box contains a subwoofer and its power cable.

In the Box

  • Sony HT-A9 4.0.4-Channel Wireless Home Theater System
  • Remote Control
  • 2 x AAA Batteries
  • HDMI Cable
  • TV Center Speaker Mode Cable
  • 4 x AC Power Cords for Speakers
  • AC Adapter for Main Unit
  • Limited 1-Year Warranty

Sony HT A9 +SW5 Specs

  • Number of Channels: 4.0.4
  • Audio Processing: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Dual Mono, DTS, DTS HD High-Resolution Audio, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, DTS:X, LPCM
  • Bluetooth Version: Version 5.0 (98.4′ / 30 m line of sight range)
  • Bluetooth Profile Support: A2DP, AVRCP
  • Bluetooth Codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Wi-Fi: Dual-Band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2
  • Inputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x RJ45 Ethernet LAN (10/100) 1 x USB Type-A (Firmware Updates)
  • Outputs: 1 x HDMI (with eARC & ARC) HDMI Pass-Through 8K/4K/60p/YUV4:4:4, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, CEC
  • Audio Formats Supported: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Dual Mono, DTS, DTS HD High-Resolution Audio, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, DTS:X, LPCM, HDCP: 2.2
  • Power Consumption On: 15 W
  • Dimensions: 6 x 2.1 x 6″ / 150 x 52 x 150 mm
  • Weight: 1.7 lb / 730 g
  • Power Output per Channel: Front-Firing Channels: 50 W, 6 Ohms, 200 Hz to 10 kHz, ≤1% THD
  • Up-Firing Channels: 30 W, 6 Ohms, 200 Hz to 10 kHz, ≤1% THD
  • Drivers: Front-Firing Speakers: 1x 2.88 x 3.25″ / 70 x 82 mm, Cone Woofer 1x 0.75″ / 19 mm Soft Dome Tweeter
  • Up-Firing Speakers: 1x 1.81 x 2.25″ / 46 x 54 mm Cone Full-Range Driver System

Sony HT-A9 Review: Design

The Sony HT-A9 is a part of the soundbar line-up but it looks nothing like it. It has a control box and four speakers which are taller and heftier as compared to regular satellite speakers. These four cylindrically shaped speakers connect to a central box wirelessly. Then there’s an optional SA-SW5 subwoofer (for which you have to pay additionally) that also connects automatically with the control box once you plug in the power cable. Like, the sub-woofer, each speaker needs to be plugged into a power outlet to function.

Sony HT A9 all speakers and control box

The control box looks like a beefed-up version of the Apple TV 4K box. It is almost six inches long and six inches wide. On the back of it, you will find a power port, two HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, and an S-port to connect with newer Sony TVs to use their speakers as a centre channel. You will also spot a USB port at the back of the box, but can be used by Sony’s service team if in case there’s an issue with your unit.

Each speaker has a 19mm soft dome type tweeter, two passive speakers, a wide directivity woofer and an upward-firing X-balanced driver that bounces sound off the ceiling. Each speaker also includes two microphones for Sony’s 360-degree sound setup.

Coming back to design, you will notice that a matte perforated grille covers the front and top faces of the speaker, while the back of each unit has been flattened to allow it to rest flush against walls. Each speaker unit is more than 12 inches tall and more than 6 inches wide. The speaker units also have the option of wall-mounting or stand mounting (stands need to be bought separately). I have to say these speakers will look bulky if you decide to mount them on walls. The system is only available in one greyish colour which blends in with most home decors. Having said that, I would have preferred a matte black colour.

Sony HT-A9 Review: Setup & installation

Fortunately, Sony has ensured setup process is very user-friendly and doesn’t require any expert intervention. Each speaker has a marking at the bottom to help you position them accurately. All you have to do here is place the speaker labelled with FL to Front Left, FR to Front Right, RR to Rear Right, and RL to Rear Left. If by any chance you mess up, the on-screen guide will highlight the anomaly so you can rectify it.

You don’t have to arrange them in a symmetrical pattern or have them at the same height. They can be positioned according to your room’s layout. Unlike in a regular home theatre, where speaker placement is critical, this isn’t the case here. All you have to do is make sure the speaker is pointing in your direction.

Once you place all the speakers, connect the control box to your TV through the HDMI wire and connected to a power outlet. When the control box is turned on, a red light illuminates all of the speakers and the subwoofer. Change the HDMI eARC source on your TV and follow the guide on the screen to complete the setup.

As a part of the setup process, each speaker fires audio at all angles during setup, which is received by the two built-in microphones on each speaker. Following this process, the HT_A9 determine the room’s height, speaker distance, and distance from the ceiling. This ensures you experience optimum sound even when speakers are not placed symmetrically.

Setting up the SW-5/ SW-3 subwoofer is also simple. All you have to do is plug in the power cable and re-run the Sound Field Optimization to re-calibrate all the speakers and subwoofer as per your surroundings. Once optimisation is successful you are all set for experiencing Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound.

Sony HT-A9 Review: Audio Performance

For this review, we paired our Sony HT-A9 with the TCL Mini LED 4K C825 using the eARC port, which pushed audio from a TV, Fire TV 4K Max and my PlayStation 4 Pro to the Sony sound bar system. As for the formats, it supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround-sound codecs. Moreover, the HT A9 also is capable of upscaling conventional stereo audio to deliver a surround-sound experience using Sony’s Immersive Audio Enhancement technology aka Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE).

Even before I get into the nitty-gritty, Sony deserves appreciation for their remarkable feat of delivering immersive surround sound even though speakers are not symmetrically placed. While reviewing the HT-A9, we tried varied forms of content including movies, series, and different genres of music from different sources to check how the HT-A9 performs. So, how does the Sony HT A9 perform in real life? Well, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and sounds that HT A9 delivered.

We watched titles like Top Gun, the Dark Knight, and Ready Player One with HT-A9 and each time it impressed us with its fidelity and performance. Despite the lack of a central channel, we faced no issues with hearing dialogues – they were clear and crisp. Sony with its virtualization technology turns its 4 speakers to create an effect equivalent to 12 virtual speakers (sony prefers to address them as phantom speakers) to deliver deep vocals and very good channel separation. With Heath Ledger as Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight moving from left to right on the screen, the direction of sound also follows accurately. During the opening race sequence of Ready Player One, it fills the room making you feel like you are part of that race.

As you know the HT A9 does support Dolby Atmos so yes, I did explore some Dolby Atoms content here. One of the first things that I played on the HT-A9 was a “Rainforest” demo from Dolby. Here the Sony HT A9 impressed us with its grand sense of scale. During a thunderstorm, the screen delivered a rich low-end response while the movement of raindrop sound can be felt as if it’s coming from the ceiling towards you. Is it as good as a pair of ceiling speakers? Not exactly but, yes I managed.

The SW-5 is no slouch either as when I watched Top Gun it filled my living room with an extremely well-pronounced grunt of the F-14A Tomcat fighter plane. During the Dogfight manoeuvres, you feel the positional sound of a jet zooming from your left to right, front to back and visa-versa.

Coming to music, I played From Arijit Singh to K-Pop BTS and KK to Eric Clapton music via different streaming services while testing Sony HT-A9. Each time it made me fall in love with its crisp sound, excellent soundstage and great channel separation. Sony’s stabilisation tech has spoiled me and it will be difficult for me to adjust to life after Sony HT-A9.

Review Verdict: Should You Sony HT-A9?

Expert rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

While some might debate Sony’s decision to place it in the soundbar category but you won’t find many who’d debate its performance. It is right up there with the best when it comes to audio quality. The 4.0.4 setup with SW-5 subwoofer scores a home run for Sony thanks to its immersive performance. It has spoiled me so much with its Dolby Atmos sound and excellent sound staging.

Having said that, the HT-A9 + SW5 is a luxury that not many will be able to afford in India. If you are looking for a Dolby Atmos setup then you won’t find a better Sound setup than Sony HT-A9. If you have deep pockets, we can definitely recommend the Sony HT-A9 sound system.  

Reasons to buy

  • 360 Spatial Sound Mapping
  • Excellent soundstage
  • Superb Dolby Atmos and DTS-X experience
  • Good network capabilities
  • up to 8K@60 pass-through

Reasons to not buy

  • Average looks
  • No optical input
  • 3.5mm limited to Sony TVs only

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