Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar and SA-SW3 Wireless Subwoofer Review
If you’re shopping for a high-end home entertainment audio system and you have a generous budget, there isn’t any shortage of options. Many people would opt for a multi-speaker system powered by a proper home theatre amplifier, but this also involves a complicated setup and installation process, including mounting the speakers and running power and audio cables around your room. You might therefore want a soundbar for its ease of setup and use, even if you’re willing to splurge a bit.
The Sony HT-A7000 soundbar is meant for exactly that kind of customer. Priced at Rs. 1,49,990, this is a premium 7.1.2-channel single-bar speaker system that promises premium performance, with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity, Dolby Vision and 8K HDR pass-through, and more.
Along with the optional Sony SA-SW3 wireless subwoofer (priced at Rs. 29,990) which I’ve also reviewed here, this setup could make for a promising home theatre system with a convenient physical footprint. Is this the best premium soundbar system you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
Sony HT-A7000 soundbar and SA-SW3 subwoofer design and specifications
The Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2-channel soundbar can be purchased as a standalone device and is priced at Rs. 1,49,990 in India. However, Sony also sells it as a bundle with additional speakers. You can buy this soundbar with the SA-SW3 subwoofer (Rs. 29,990) or SA-SW5 subwoofer (Rs. 61,990), and SA-RS3S wireless rear speakers (Rs. 35,990) to expand your setup.
For this review, I used the Sony HT-A7000 with the Sony SA-SW3 wireless subwoofer. This combination is available directly from Sony as a bundle at a promotional price of Rs. 1,50,980 at the time of this review, which is just a bit higher than the cost of the HT-A7000 on its own. You can add the wireless speakers if you like as a separate purchase, but this will make setup and installation a bit more complicated, since they need to be placed alongside or behind your seating area. The soundbar and subwoofer alone were fairly easy for me to set up myself, with both positioned near my television and drawing power from the same socket board.
The Sony HT-A7000 bar speaker is quite large and heavy at 8.7kg. It’s roughly the same length as a typical 55-inch television, and also wide enough that it needs to be placed on a large table or home entertainment unit. The size (and price) of the HT-A7000 means that it is best paired with a premium television, and its built-in connectivity and amplification mean that you don’t need an AV receiver or home theatre amplifier.
The bar speaker itself looks premium and very attractive, with a metal grille, glossy surface at the top, and fabric covering the two top-firing overhead channels. The touch controls for power, Bluetooth connectivity, signal source, and volume are on the top of the soundbar. The front of the HT-A7000 has a small monochrome display that indicates its power status, the source that’s in use, and volume levels. The display was a bit hard to read from a distance, but it’s more than adequate for the purpose it serves.
A remote is bundled with the Sony HT-A7000, and has detailed controls for navigation, display, subwoofer volume adjustment, and sound mode selection, among other things. Also included in the sales package are the power cord for the soundbar, a 3.5mm audio cable for wired connectivity, and an HDMI cable.
The Sony HT-A7000 is a 7.1.2-channel speaker system with five front speakers, two beam tweeters, two top-firing overhead-channel speakers, and a built-in subwoofer. This soundbar has a total rated power output of 500W. The SA-SW3 subwoofer has a rated output of 200W, and wireless connectivity with compatible Sony products, including the HT-A7000, is easy to set up.
Connectivity options on the Sony HT-A7000 include two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output with ARC/eARC support, an analogue stereo jack, optical audio input, and a USB Type-A port. You can therefore simultaneously connect two source devices such as streaming devices, gaming consoles, or Blu-ray players directly to the HT-A7000, which can then connect to your TV or projector using HDMI ARC or eARC. The HT-A7000 supports video signal pass-through up to the Dolby Vision, 4K-120Hz, and 8K HDR formats, so this speaker is future-ready and capable of handling most current source devices.
Alternatively you can simply use the optical audio input or the HDMI ARC connection to your TV to receive audio. I used the Sony HT-A7000 with different smart televisions during my review, relying on HDMI ARC for the sound signal, and it worked as expected. Various sound formats up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are supported by the HT-A7000, along with Sony’s own DSEE Extreme, Vertical Surround Engine, and 360 Reality Audio enhancement features.
The Sony HT-A7000 has Bluetooth 5 connectivity, with support for the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. There is also Wi-Fi, which enables Google Assistant, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and built-in Chromecast audio support. HDMI CEC is supported, letting you use your connected devices to control the soundbar.
The Sony SA-SW3 wireless subwoofer has a dull, patterned texture on the top and sides, and fabric covering its front. The back has buttons for power and wireless linking, and a socket for the included power cable. The front of the subwoofer has a small indicator light, which shows the power and connectivity status of the device.
This subwoofer only connects wirelessly to compatible Sony audio systems such as the HT-A7000 soundbar. The process was simple and the connection was stable throughout my time with these two units. It isn’t possible to adjust the subwoofer volume directly from the SW3 itself, and I needed to use the remote of the HT-A7000. This was often necessary given the sheer power of the subwoofer.
When connected to a display, you can open up the visual interface of the Sony HT-A7000 to select source devices, adjust settings, and explore and activate the various connectivity options. This was also necessary to calibrate the audio according to my room environment, link the SA-SW3 subwoofer to the bar speaker, and change the audio format and basic sound settings for proper listening. It’s a good, clean interface that works well for its purpose.
Sony HT-A7000 soundbar and SA-SW3 subwoofer performance
Looking beyond its design, connectivity options, and raw specifications, the Sony HT-A7000 is quite a beast when it comes to performance. It was very easy for me to set up and operate, and although there was a small learning curve and certain tweaks needed to be carried out, I quickly managed to get the HT-A7000 and SA-SW3 performing at the kind of level that I expected of a soundbar system that costs over Rs. 1,50,000.
I used the Sony HT-A7000 and SA-SW3 primarily as a sound system for my television while watching various movies and TV shows across audio formats including Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos, relying on HDMI ARC for connectivity. I also occasionally used Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth to stream music.
Of all the movies and TV shows I watched while using the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar and SA-SW3 subwoofer, Dune on Amazon Prime Video was perhaps the most memorable, even though it didn’t use any advanced audio format. Initially, the deep, rumbling soundtrack put the subwoofer to good use, but with absolutely no adjustments, voices sounded too soft and got lost in the atmospheric background sounds and intense action sequences of the movie.
This was quickly and easily fixed by turning off the DSEE Extreme mode, enabling the Auto Volume adjustment setting, and setting the Voice Dynamic Range feature to ‘Auto’. This allowed the soundbar to tweak sound levels to suit whatever was being played, on the fly. Indeed, it adjusted itself quickly and dynamically to suit softer voices in scenes as needed. This did tend to affect soundtracks a bit adversely, particularly the opening credits, which sounded a bit strange. However, vocals and action sequences sounded very good.
There were times when I needed to lower the subwoofer volume, which at high levels, was occasionally overpowering with its intense bass. Once all of these initial setup issues were tackled, I was truly able to enjoy the loud, intense, atmospheric, and immersive sound that the Sony HT-A7000 and SA-SW3 produced. I did still occasionally need to tweak the subwoofer volume, but these adjustments were quick and easy, and entirely worth it to allow the HT-A7000 to work well with the content being played.
Indeed, my experience with Dune considerably more fun than when relying on only the Philips 55PUT8115/94 television’s – or rather most televisions’ – basic speaker system. The audio quality and sound experience of the Sony soundbar also far outclassed the picture levels that this particular Philips TV managed, which is why I mentioned in the beginning that it’s best to match this speaker setup with a TV of similar stature for the best home cinema experience.
At moderate volume levels, the sound from the Sony soundbar and subwoofer felt strong and engaging, while even at lower volume levels, casual content such as sitcoms or late night viewing were perfectly enjoyable.
Dune also let me try the native sound post-processing modes, including Dolby Speaker Virtualiser and DTS Neural:X. There’s a third mode called ‘Sound Mode On’ which presumably preserves the original source audio without adding any enhancements. DTS Neural:X was perhaps the more impressive of the two post-processing modes, adding much more atmospheric aggression and mood to the sound. The Dolby Virtualiser mode kept things a bit more uniform and soft, while still enhancing vocals.
Sound Mode On was best used with Dolby Atmos content to ensure no changes were made to the sound signal. With Our Great National Parks on Netflix, performance was excellent as there was decent virtualised surround sound despite the lack of physical rear speakers. The sounds of nature, particularly flowing water and the chirping of birds, had a distinct sense of directionality and a wide soundstage that was impressively audible at the sides and above where I was sitting.
Even without the Sony SA-SW3 subwoofer, the Sony HT-A7000 delivered excellent sound, albeit with expectedly less low-end grunt. I wasn’t disappointed with the bass levels, but I definitely felt that the SW3 subwoofer added some useful and helpful attack and punch to the sound, particularly in intense movies and TV shows, and even music. The ‘Immersive AE’ mode improved the soundstage both vertically and horizontally, but seemed to make the overall sound a little less cohesive and sharp, particularly voices.
Music sounded surprisingly good on the Sony HT-A7000 and SA-SW3, thanks to their sheer power and attack. The tuning of the drivers naturally favours movies and TV shows, but that said, it’s a workable option for occasional music listening.
Audio quality was expectedly better with AirPlay and Chromecast than Bluetooth, but I did face some connectivity bugs with AirPlay which caused music to stop or the soundbar to not respond to playback controls on my iPhone on occasion. Bluetooth was more stable in terms of connectivity, and LDAC Bluetooth codec support made for decent sound quality when used with an Android smartphone.
It can be argued that a soundbar will never quite match up to a proper surround sound system, but a very good soundbar still has enough potential to make the difference somewhat irrelevant. The Sony HT-A7000 is quite impressive, enhancing the sound experience across genres and content, and adding useful post-processing and specific tuning where necessary. Combined with the Sony SA-SW3 subwoofer, this is a formidable home theatre system but is still easy to set up and operate.
That said, it’s undeniably very expensive at around Rs. 1,50,000 for the combo; perhaps more than it needs to be given that you can get soundbars that are also very good, such as the Sony HT-Z9F, for considerably less. However, if money is no bar and you’re looking for a very good (and convenient) home audio system to complement your premium television and home decor, there isn’t much else that comes close to what the Sony HT-A7000 has to offer.