You can also have Alexa stop the music or adjust the volume. ), the bar kept the announcers voices clear and intelligible up front while the Z9R rears surround me with crowd roars. (Unfortunately, audio from the Z9F itself is muted when transmitting.). Also cool is it offers voice control via both Alexa and Google. Update my browser now. At this location, the height effect improves dramatically, so I would say the Vertical S. virtual height info tends to perform better in smaller rooms with a closer seating distance. More importantly, it seems to do this with very little negative effect to the sound, and I preferred to leave it on all the time. In another scene where Johnsons character, Will Sawyer, is trying to break into The Pearl, the sounds of machinery, cabling, destruction, and a hovering helicopter fill the room, with audio extending well above the screen to the front ceiling, with terrific front-to-back integration with the surrounds. The Z9F addresses this with a Display button that that clearly shows Dolby Atmos or DTS:X loud-and-proud up onscreen when the appropriate format is being received. While the included remote is serviceable with direct access to all inputs and sound modes it continues Sonys maddening trend of omitting any backlighting. John Sciacca is a principal with Custom Theater and Audio, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. #ProTip: Pay attention to the REAR R and REAR L label on the back of each speaker to know which is which. Want more stories like this delivered to your inbox every day? Also surprising/disappointing is the bars lack of ability to learn third-party IR signals, say the volume commands from the TV or cable remote. For rears, Sony offers the SA-Z9R, a pair of dedicated wireless rear speakers for the Z9F. One of my nits with the HT-ST5000 was its lack of any kind of Dolby Atmos indicator. However, unlike the ST5000, the Z9F is only a 3.1-channel bar, with no actual upfiring height speakers. By John Sciacca 3.1.-channel surround bar, with three 1.75-inch full range speakers powered by 300-watt amplification (100-watts per speaker); wireless subwoofer features 6 3/8-inch active driver powered by 100-watt amplifier, Decodes Dolby Atmos (True HD) and DTS:X, Supports large array of audio file formats including AIFF, ALAC, DSD, FLAC, .WAV, MP3, WMA up to 192/24 resolution, Bluetooth A2DP, AAC, LDAC; Spotify Connect, GoogleCast, Inputs: 2 HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2, 3.5mm analog audio, Toslink digital, Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, USB Type-A; Outputs: HDMI 2.0a/HDCP2.2 with ARC, Optional SA-Z9R Wireless Rear Speakers feature a 2-inch full range driver powered by 50-watt internal amplifier. Turning Vertical S. off, turns the rear speakers off as well.) It also supports Spotify Connect and Googles Chromecast, meaning you should be able to enjoy your favorite streaming station and it can be part of a house-wide music system. Speaker manufacturers now realize there is a market for upscale, high-performance soundbars, with customers willing to pay for advanced features such as streaming audio and Dolby Atmos. Rather, Sony uses some audio DSP secret sauce it calls Vertical Surround Engine or Vertical S. for short. Sony's new soundbar can help improve the TV and movie watching experience in rooms where a traditional surround system isnt practical. England and Wales company registration number 2008885. But the ST5000 had two major limitations: it was pricey and couldnt support true surround speakers. Then sign up for the free Residential Systems eNewsletter here.
A tad disappointing is that, unlike the HT-ST5000, the Z9F doesnt offer any Control4 integration (short of infrared). Update your browser to view this website correctly. 2022 Future Publishing Limited Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. While Im generally loathe of DSP sound modes, the Z9F features a News mode that does a good job of knocking down ambient sounds to make dialog more intelligible, which might be useful for some viewers. There is no ability to adjust the Vertical S. level or effect short of turning it on or off. Sony HT-ST5000 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar, The Latest Speakers, Soundbars, and Subwoofers, Bar: 39 3/8 x 2 5/8 x 4-inches (W x H x D), 6 pounds 13 ounces, Sub: 7 1/2 x 15 1/8 x 15 1/4-inches (W x H x D), 17 pounds 14 ounces, SA-Z9R Rears: 4 x 6 1/8 x 4 (W x H x D), 2 pounds 3 ounces. The height effect greatly improves as you get closer to the bar say around 5-6 feet away. The Z9F can both receive and transmit Bluetooth signals, meaning you can beam audio to it from a smartphone or have the bar send audio to Bluetooth headphones; a fantastic solution for clients that are hard of hearing. I appreciated that all connections are positioned where they can be accessed even with the bar wall-mounted. This is a great feature for quick showroom demos. The HT-Z9F does a ton right, tremendously improving the TV and movie watching experience in rooms where a traditional surround system isnt practical or possible. In one fight scene, a bullet shell casing hits and skitters across a hardwood floor, and you can hear it bounce and travel far left of the bar. For example, watching Dwayne The Rock Johnsons latest opus, Skyscraper, in Atmos featured a wide and encompassing presentation. However, Sony really impressed me with its HT-ST5000 (read that review here), a bar that repeatedly delivered those I cant believe there arent any speakers in the celling! moments. The opening of the film features an employee attempting escape from a T-Rex, with a helicopter flying overhead, a pouring rainstorm, and weighty foot stomps and roars from the giant dino. Ive found when customers are purchasing something based on a specific feature in this case playing Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio they generally want to see that it is doing this. It sounds especially impressive when paired with the SA-Z9R surrounds, which I would consider a pre-requisite for use. Once powered on, the bar automatically found and connected to the wireless subwoofer and it was ready to go. Music can stream across the homes network, or via an attached USB drive, and the Z9F supports a huge variety of file formats, including MP3, AAC, WAV, DSD, AIFF, ALAC, and FLAC, handling Hi-Resolution Audio up to 192kHz/24-bit resolution. (An IR repeater mode can pass commands through the bar when sitting in front of a TV.) ), Setup is fast and straightforward via an attractive onscreen GUI. I didnt love the wall mount solution, which is basically two small hangers the bar secures into, but which hold the speaker off the wall roughly -inch. (Interestingly, when listening to music, turning Vertical S. on also activates DTS: Neural, sending audio to the rear speakers. The bar produces a massively wide and tall soundstage that feels like a far larger system. Not only does this bar cost significantly less than the ST5000, it supports DTS:X and optional wireless surround speakers for a more immersive, surround effect. There are some controls on the top of the bar, but these are kind of difficult to see and use. Sony claims the bar is not ceiling dependent, as it doesnt bounce sound off the ceiling like upfiring speakers do, and that ceiling height, design, or construction doesnt affect performance. In his free time, he blogs prolifically about the CE industry and is publisher for cineluxe.com. The bar includes an incredibly handy and effective built-in Demo mode that I found great for giving short demos to family and guests. While audio is definitely well above the bar, and frequently sounded like it extended up to the front ceiling location from my typical viewing distance about 12 feet from the bar I didnt feel it offered the same audio directly overhead immersion as the ST5000. While simply unplugging the bar from power and reconnecting it generally re-established connection, this was irritating and happened enough that it was worthy of note.
Press and hold a button on the top of the bar and it goes into a short demo that features traffic sound, a helicopter, fireworks, a rain storm, and other sounds that do a fantastic job of quickly demonstrating the immersive audio the bar is capable of producing. This is especially true when you add in the surround speakers, creating a true sonic bubble. There is also a Toslink digital input, mini-jack analog audio input, and a USB connection. Published: December 6, 2018 Updated: November 3, 2020, Kudos: Clear, articulate dialog; solid bass performance; impressive vertical soundstage; incredibly easy to setup and great built-in demo The Z9F can access the network either via wired RJ45 LAN connection or 2.4/5 GHz dual-band WiFi. Concerns: Randomly dropped wireless speakers; limited overhead height effect. The bar offers no calibration or microphone setup, but does let you adjust distance and levels for front, sub, and surround (left and right independently) channels. These are 18 Gbps inputs supporting 4K HDR, including Dolby Vision and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma). The firmware update will be released in the next month or so.
For more stories like this, and to keep up to date with all our market leading news, features and analysis, sign up to our newsletter here. Again, these are totally plug-and-play, with the bar automatically finding and adding them once they were powered on. Related: The Latest Speakers, Soundbars, and Subwoofers, Beyond just providing audio for your video, the Z9F offers several music streaming options as well. All rights reserved. Tags Dolby Atmos DTS:X Sony Soundbar. (I was told this was due to thermal concerns. Still, the vast majority of bars offering Atmos capability rely on Dolbys upfiring speaker technology, which delivers performance that is highly room dependent and can be difficult to create a truly encompassing effect. The bar offers enough connections for a basic system, including two HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs, as well as an output that supports ARC. I lived with the Z9F in my bedroom for several months, during which time we watched a ton of TV, sports, Netflix, and Blu-ray movies, and the Z9F rarely disappointed. ], Also reviewed by John Sciacca:Sony HT-ST5000 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar. For example, say, Alexa, play Jazz on the soundbar and music will begin. Factor in its music streaming capabilities and competitive price, and youve got a winning package. During my months with the Z9F, I experienced several occasions where the bar randomly lost connection with either the sub or rear speakers, or both. Theres no question that Sonys Vertical S. works, as toggling it on produces a noticeably larger presentation, while the soundfield collapses significantly when off. When watching sporting events such as the World Series or college football (Roll Tide! Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in DTS:X was another sonic smorgasbord on the Z9F, with virtually every scene offering some surround workout. [UPDATE: According to Sony, the HT-Z9F is now certified by Control4 for IP control and will Control4s library shortly. At this past CES, Sony rolled out its next-generation Atmos soundbar, the HT-Z9F. The bar really shines when it comes to playing back content that is actually Atmos or DTS:X encoded.