Soundbars in general are a compromise solution. On the one hand, most of them are easy to set up, do not require cables and are more or less compact, which allows installation even in small spaces. Add in the relatively low price and soundbars will be available to those people who cannot afford to spend a lot of money on their viewing pleasure.
But on the other hand, creating such compact devices means that we inevitably lose the quality of what a complete surround system has to offer. Over the years, manufacturers have tried to improve on the weaknesses of soundbars with varying levels of success.
Soundbars have not been overlooked with the latest in audio technology on the market. There are more and more Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars trying to implement this format, either by adding more speakers to support Atmos or using virtual technology. And this is usually not easy to do.
So when we hear that the soundbar offers technology that can mimic a 7.1.2 sound configuration, we are always skeptical about it. There are many claims – few opportunities. Today’s Sony HT-ST5000 review focuses on one of the Japanese manufacturer’s Atmos-enabled soundbars. We will check if she can provide what she claims to offer.
Sony HT-ST5000 Design
Since the Sony HT-ST5000 soundbar is positioned as a 7.1.2-channel system, then in the kit we get not only the main body, but also a wireless subwoofer. This may not be the largest soundbar, but it is definitely one of the largest. It will blend well with TVs 55 “and up. The same can be said for the dimensions of the subwoofer.
The HT-ST5000 is not a cheap model, and Sony made sure to create a design that would match the high price tag. Sony may have added some sharp lines and angles to give the panel a more dynamic look. The subwoofer design looks similar, but here we get a little more pretentiousness.
The front of the HT-ST5000 is covered with a single, perforated fabric attachable cover that hides all of the front speakers. And on both edges of the top, there are fixed perforated grilles that hide the Dolby Atmos overhead speakers.
There are also several control buttons in the center of the top, which are conveniently located closer to the rear. This does not detract from the rather austere frontal look. The buttons are for power on, input selection, Bluetooth pairing, Music service and volume control.
Sony has placed a display between the center and right speakers on the front panel to give some visual indication of the soundbar’s operational status. On the left side of the display is the Bluetooth enable indicator. On the right side is the IR remote control sensor.
There is a single USB port on the right side. This is very convenient for connecting external drives. All other connections are located on the back of the device. There are also special holes for wall mounting.
If we remove the front grille of the Sony 5000, we will see a magnificent sight. Seven 2.5-inch (6.5 cm) front speakers cover the entire front-facing soundstage. The left and right channels are coaxial midrange drivers with gold-framed tweeters. The central channel – another coaxial speaker (midrange and tweeter are on the same axis) – is surrounded by four midrange cones.
The Sony HT-ST5000 also includes two Dolby Atmos upward-firing speakers on both edges of the top side. They are positioned so that the sound bounces off the ceiling and reaches the viewer, creating the illusion of sound coming from above. Many Atmos-enabled soundbars rely on virtual technology to simulate Atmos effects, but having real Atmos speakers is a much better thing.
While they may not be as good or accurate as real ceiling speakers, they are still much better than any modern virtual technology. The ST5000 main unit is equipped with a low distortion Sony S-Master HX digital amplifier for accurate RF results above 40 kHz.
The active subwoofer has a single 7 1/8 “(18 cm) speaker that faces down and is responsible for all low frequencies. The cone diameter may not be the largest, but it’s enough to offer adequate bass for those looking to shake up a room.
The HT-ST5000 originally supported Dolby Atmos audio tracks, but Sony updated the software so it now also supports DTS: X. For an expensive soundbar, such support is simply a necessary attribute, since more and more films with this sound format have appeared recently.
Gone are the days when a remote was all you need to control your audio equipment. Several options should be available now and the HT-ST5000 offers this capability. The included remote control looks cheap and uninteresting. It doesn’t fit into the premium soundbar image. The remote includes all the buttons you need.
There is no backlight and the plastic design leaves a lot to be desired. The physical buttons (not touchscreens) on the top of the soundbar provide basic control. For a more advanced control method, the company created Sony Music Center, which is an app for Android and iOS devices.
It can be used to control the Soundbar, Chromecast and Multi-room functions from mobile devices. Also, the HT-ST5000 panel can be controlled by voice, thanks to the Google Assistant. True, there is no built-in microphone and a separate Google device is required for this function to work.
Additional features and services
The Sony ST5000 soundbar has a variety of sound modes and functions. This is ClearAudio +, which automatically adjusts parameters according to the content you listen to. This is 3D Surround, which tries to create a three-dimensional soundstage. These are the Movie, Music, Game, Sports and Standard modes, which handle sound differently according to the content for which they are intended.
The soundbar supports lossless formats such as FLAC, ALAC and DSD. The HT-ST5000 is equipped with the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX, which analyzes low bitrate audio and replaces lost samples to bring back high-definition audio quality.
There is Wi-Fi for streaming, there is Bluetooth for transferring music from a smartphone. You can connect to services like Spotify or use the built-in Chromecast. NFC allows you to instantly establish a connection with other devices that support this option.
With the Sony music app, you can create your own wireless multi-rooms by connecting or grouping different wireless speakers you may have in your home. Finally, the HT-ST5000 soundbar supports HDMI-CEC. This means you can use the TV remote control to control the panel volume. Unfortunately, functionality via HDMI-CEC is limited.
As we mentioned earlier, the USB port is located on the side. At the back are all the connections, grouped into special niches. 2 HDMI inputs and an Ethernet port for wired internet connectivity exit perpendicular to the rear panel. Several ports look sideways, including analog input, digital optical input, HDMI input, and HDMI ARC output .
All HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2, i.e. support 4K / 60p, HDR and wide color gamut. The HT-ST5000 is also fully wireless, with built-in Wi-Fi (2.4GHz / 5GHz) 11a / b / g / n as well as Bluetooth.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is capable of producing very good sound with dynamic bass, but Atmos sound doesn’t have the fidelity that dedicated speakers are capable of. The pluses also include ease of installation and excellent build quality.
Claiming that the soundbar is a 7.1.2 soundbar is a very bold statement, especially when you consider that there are no real surround speakers. Finally, the price of a soundbar and subwoofer kit can be a little intimidating for those people who even consider buying one.
Let’s disregard Sony’s claims that this is a 7.1.2 system and see what it really has to offer. And this is, firstly, an excellent front soundstage with Atmos performance, and secondly, good bass. In this case, the Sony HT-ST5000 would be a really good choice. And if you don’t have enough space for a complex full surround sound system, then the Sony HT-ST5000 is your salvation.