Technology

Sony’s latest Dolby Atmos soundbar has a much more sensible price

I recently reviewed Sony’s flagship 2021 Dolby Atmos soundbar, the HT-A7000, and found it to be a fantastic performer made even better by two passthrough inputs that offer support for HDMI 2.1 features like 4K gaming at 120Hz. But with a price of $1,300 (and that’s before adding rear surrounds and a sub), Sony’s latest and greatest isn’t going to be practical for everyone. So with that in mind, the company is today announcing a cheaper, smaller model called the HT-A5000 that costs $899.99.

That price puts it somewhat closer in line with something like the Sonos Arc, but Sony’s new soundbar could win people over for its added functionality and future-proofing. The HT-A5000 retains much of what’s good about the higher-end model: it’s still an Atmos bar with up-firing speakers — albeit fewer drivers overall. This is a 5.1.2 configuration compared to the 7.1.2 HT-A7000. But you still get built-in support for Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth audio.

At 10 pounds (compared to the hulking 26 pounds of the HT-A7000), the HT-A5000 also measures significantly smaller than the more expensive model. It’ll certainly look more at home next to a 55-inch TV like mine than the very long HT-A7000 did. But with those smaller dimensions, you can expect weaker sound performance than the flagship. The larger, heavier enclosure of the HT-A7000 prevents unwanted vibrations and helps maintain cleaner sound at loud volume levels. It also allowed Sony to have two tweeters facing the left and right sides, which isn’t the case on the HT-A5000.

One key difference is that instead of including two HDMI 2.1 passthroughs, Sony sticks with just one on the HT-A5000. It’ll still send through 8K video, 4K at 120Hz, and Dolby Vision. But unfortunately, like its pricier sibling, this soundbar doesn’t currently support variable refresh rate (VRR) or auto low latency mode (ALLM). Sony is looking into both of these features but isn’t promising anything at the moment.

Like the flagship, the HT-A5000 has acoustic optimization to automatically produce the best sound for whatever room you put it in. Sony’s technologies like Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro are also present for convincing height effects and a wide, immersive surround experience. It supports the same optional rear surrounds ($349.99) and two subwoofer choices as the HT-A7000. Those will obviously drive the cost up, but at least you’re starting off spending $400 less. The HT-A5000 is expected to ship in early fall.