Sony HT-ST5000 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Sony’s first soundbar to launch with Dolby Atmos support, the Sony HT-ST5000 is a beast. Stretching 1180mm wide alongside a wireless sub, at first glance it may look like an over-dressed 2.1 package, but Sony describes the HTST5000 as a 7.1.2 proposition. In addition to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, there’s High-Res Audio support, built-in Chromecast functionality, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The soundbar is certainly in the pricier end of the market, but for the money, you’re getting a very capable piece of equipment.
The build quality of the Sony HT-ST5000 is fabulous, there’s no debate about that. The bar comes with a fabric grille, but looks better uncovered, because the drivers are as pretty as a picture. Left and right are two matching coaxial speakers with gold-rimmed, high-frequency tweeters, while a coaxial driver with mid-range cones handles the centre channel. This slight difference translates to a minor timbre mismatch, although it isn’t really apparent when listening live to multi-channel mixes.
Unlike lesser bars, the HTST5000 offers full AV receiver versatility. There are four HDMI (three inputs, plus one ARC output). All are HDCP 2.2 ready for your various 4K sources (UHD player, Xbox One X, Amazon Fire 4K) but need to be configured before being paired. Select Enhanced over Standard, in order to support 4K 60p and 4:4:4 (or incrementally lower) video settings. There are a number of additional display options, all of which are best left in Auto mode. Located right-side on the bar is a covered USB port, for handy local file playback. There’s also an optical digital audio input and a stereo minijack on the HT-ST5000. An Ethernet LAN port enables wired networking, but there are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the latter with NFC pairing and Sony’s proprietary LDAC headroom extension.
A clear display window reveals input selection and volume. A selection of on-body controls is also provided for those of us that don’t like the stubby IR remote control. There’s a tiled interface on the HT-ST5000 which lists all the input options, plus any connected home network devices. The sub connects to the bar automatically during set up, with an LED confirming the link is active.
Once you turn this beats on, the Sony ST-HT5000 really does sound immense. It creates a wide, high soundstage, and spatial placement is excellent. A specified power output of 800W indicates the system isn’t short of slam or dynamics, and it certainly hits hard. The Sony HT-ST5000 isn’t just about muscle though, because there’s musical refinement here too. Vocal performance sounds really natural, rounded and rich, the presentation is almost three dimensional. Don’t come to the HT-ST5000 expecting pronounced Atmos overhead steerage though. The bar may well feature a barrage of drivers, but it doesn’t convincingly create an encompassing audio canopy.
The Sony HTST5000 listening experience isn’t comparable to an AV receiver with speakers in a 5.1.2 configuration. Ultimately, much will depend on your room and your seating distance from the bar itself, around 1.5m worked best. Further back, the soundstage comes across as more stereophonic than Atmospheric. One aspect of this two-piece that really impresses is the bass response, the HT-ST5000 can sound properly seismic. The wireless subwoofer murmurs from 31.5Hz and has copious energy at 50Hz. The soundbar itself crosses over at 100Hz.
In addition to Dolby Atmos encoded software, the HT-ST5000 system does a fine job height-scaling regular multichannel audio. The Dolby Surround mode can be quite brilliant when it comes to identifying spatial elements in a 5.1 mix that it can distribute up high. This works particularly well with live events and concert material, where there’s a greatly enhanced sense of ambience.
The soundbar is also a competent streamer and DLNA compliant. Audio file support covers all the usual lossy formats, as well as 24-bit 96kHz FLAC and DSD. Have more MP3s than you’d like? Well the DSEE HX processor on the Sony HT-ST5000 goes some way to restoring the fidelity in compressed audio too.
Sony’s debut Dolby Atmos soundbar is a no-compromise solution for audiophiles looking to mix refined music with immersive movie audio. It’s fabulously well finished and presents a soundstage that’s wide and high. The provision of integrated Chromecast capabilities is a nice bonus.
The Sony HTST5000 may be expensive, but it justifies its price tag with knock-out good looks and superior performance. Sony’s first Dolby Atmos soundbar is gloriously over-engineered and offers an audio performance that’s rich and exciting, more than warranting its flagship status. If you want a top-flight sound system that doesn’t take over your room, then the Sony HT-ST5000 has few equals.
Having a Dolby Atmos soundbar and subwoofer match the sound of a stereo product on all counts is a hefty task, and on almost all fronts the HT-ST5000 performs excellently. It’s not something you’re likely to notice unless you’re often swapping between expensive soundbars. This is an all-round soundbar that decisively deals with most types of audio material. Its Dolby Atmos is probably best-in-class and it delivers neutral and balanced sound, even at low and moderate audio volume. It may be expensive, but the Sony is a superb-sounding product, packed full of features, and the first Dolby Atmos soundbar that we’d have no hesitation in recommending.