At CES 2020, Sony demoed its 360 Reality Audio (360RA) technology on a home theater setup like you would put in your living room. The in-booth layout included a soundbar, subwoofer and two rear satellite speakers. Today, the company announced the first gear that will allow you to actually create something similar at home. The company's new HT-A7000 flagship soundbar offers Dolby Atmos in addition to 360RA and the option to tack on sub and/or extra speakers can accommodate any space. If you're not so much into soundbars but still want the sensation of immersive audio, Sony also introduced the HT-A9: a set of four speakers and a control box equipped with new 360 Spatial Sound Mapping tech.
The HT-A7000 is a 7.1.2-channel soundbar packed with Sony's X-balanced speakers, side beam tweeters, up-firing drivers for Dolby Atmos and dual subwoofers. Thanks to a Virtual Surround Engine (overhead) and S-Force Pro Front Surround (horizontal), the A7000 can simulate immersive audio on its own so you can take advantage of DTS:X in addition to Atmos. The soundbar is equipped with Sound Field Optimization that uses built-in microphones to calibrate the speaker to a room by detecting the height and width of the space as well as the position of a wireless subwoofer and any rear speakers.
When it comes to music, the A7000 accommodates High-Resolution Audio and 360 Reality Audio. In fact, this is the first Sony soundbar to support 360RA and just the third speaker from the company to do so. The A7000 also has Sony's DSEE Extreme technology that Sony has leveraged for its headphones. That feature restores some of the compression from streaming services in real time, giving you something akin to lossless audio without the massive file sizes or the need for a wired setup.
In terms of connectivity, the A7000 has HDMI 2.1 with eARC and both 8K and 4K/120fps passthrough — plus Dolby Vision support. The soundbar works with Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect, so you have options when it comes to streaming music from your phone or another device. When used with compatible Bravia TVs, the A7000 works with Sony's Acoustic Center Sync that allows you to employ your television's speakers as additional center audio for things like speech clarity. The new soundbar can be controlled by a Google Assistant device at launch and Sony plans to add Alexa compatibility in a future update. Lastly, the company says optional wireless subwoofers and rear speakers will connect automatically to the A7000 when you power them on.
Unlike the HT-ST5000 that it's replacing, the HT-A7000 soundbar doesn't come with a subwoofer. Sony says it unbundled the pairing based on customer feedback. Some people wanted the company's top-of-the-line soundbar, but they weren't necessarily interested in the sub. It's a beast in terms of both size and sound, so it's not ideal for apartments on any room where space is limited. Instead, Sony is offering two subwoofer options — the SA-SW5 and SA-SW3 — along with a pair of rear satellite speakers (SA-RS3S) as separate purchases. All of the add-ons connect to the HT-A7000 wirelessly, with the SW5 offering 300 watts of low-end tone via a 7-inch driver and the SW3 packing 200 watts of bass with a 6-inch speaker.
With the A9 "home theater system," four cylindrical speakers offer what Sony describes as a "flexible layout" option that's meant to blend in with your living room decor. Thanks to Sound Field Optimization and built-in mics, the A9 can calibrate itself to any space — just like the tech does for the A7000. A key difference here is that the A9 is also equipped with Sony's new 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Technology. This feature not only lets you place the four units as you see fit, but it also offers a broad soundstage the company says is more immersive than "traditional" soundbars. Sony explains that the A9 gives users the sensation that the audio is "coming from beyond their walls" by creating up to 12 "phantom" speakers with just the four units. Of course, this is something we'll have to put the test to double-check the claim.
Each speaker houses X-balanced front and up-firing speakers along with a tweeter and bass duct. The four devices connect wirelessly to a control box that has HDMI in/out (eARC output) with 8K and 4K/120 passthrough alongside Dolby Vision. The A9 is compatible with immersive formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 360 Reality Audio and High-Resolution Audio. It also works with Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect and you can leverage voice control by pairing the set of speakers with a Google Assistant (at launch) or Alexa (via future update) device. If you need a boost in the center channel, you can use the A9 with compatible Bravia TVs and Sony's Acoustic Center Sync to employ the speakers from the display. Lastly, both of Sony's new subwoofers can be paired with the A9 speakers for fuller sound.
All of Sony's new home theater gear is set to arrive in "September/October," according to the company. The HT-A7000 soundbar is $1,300 while the HT-A9 speaker set is $1,800. The SA-SW5 and SA-SW3 subwoofers are $700 and $400 respectively, while the SA-RS3S satellite speakers are $350. That means if you're expecting to grab a complete setup with the A7000, a soundbar and rear speakers, you'll need to hand over at least $2,050.