Dolby Atmos has been the “it” factor in home theater technology for some time now. For just as long, it’s also been a feature mostly reserved for premium products, at premium prices.
As with most tech, someone has to take the initial plunge in the charge towards making something more affordable. In this case, that someone is Sony, which may have just released the budget Dolby Atmos soundbar we’ve all been waiting for.
Here’s a look at Sony’s new HT-G700 soundbar, a 3.1-channel, Dolby Atmos and DTS: X-supported product for $600 that promises to be one of the cheapest avenues into immersive audio that we’ve seen so far.
The HT-G700 is a package system that includes the soundbar itself, plus a wireless subwoofer. There are no rear speakers included in this setup, which is probably one of the reasons why Sony was able to keep the price where it is.
The soundbar has three front speakers, including a dedicated center speaker that Sony claims will ensure that “voice sounds can be clearly heard.” There are no up-firing speakers in this setup, a significant contrast to products with directional speakers built in like the Vizio SB46514-F6. Instead, Sony’s Dolby Atmos experience will rely on signal processing to reproducing “vertical audio,” as the company describes it.
Sony hasn’t released specific details on the wireless subwoofer, besides its dimensions and weight. The 16-pound unit does feature a ported enclosure, however, which could have good implications for reproducing deep bass.
To make the entire “Dolby Atmos on a budget” concept work, Sony is tapping into its Immersive Audio Enhancement feature. Essentially, it will allow you to press a button and command the soundbar to upscale even stereo audio to 7.1.2 surround sound. We’d be interested to see how well that works given the limited amount of speakers Sony has to work with but call us cautiously optimistic for now.
The HT-G700 has different sound settings meant for various content, including Auto Sound, Standard Surround, Cinema, Music, Night, and Voice modes. It’s also got several different connection options, from Bluetooth to the included HDMI eARC/ARC or optical digital inputs on the soundbar itself.
Notably missing from the new Sony soundbar’s set of features is Wi-Fi connectivity. You can stream content from a mobile device via Bluetooth, of course, but streaming over the internet remains a more reliable option.
The HT-G700 also supports 4K HDR passthrough as well as Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Hybrid Log-Gamma.
A sound feature that Sony calls its Vertical Surround Engine is supposed to allow the soundbar to recreate a virtual surround sound experience. There’s some soundbars, like the Sennheiser Ambeo, that have achieved this kind of artificial surround sound incredibly well. Of course, that’s a $2,500 soundbar, and it remains to be seen whether Sony can create realistic surround sound at a far lower price.
Another audio perk is S-Force PRO, which Sony says fine-tunes the soundbar to match the height of your TV to make it sound like the audio is coming directly from your TV screen.
We can’t comment on how well the HT-G700 will sound beyond its specs without listening to it. But we are looking forward to seeing if this new bar can match the, well, bar that it’s trying to set.
Vizio has previously owned the budget Dolby Atmos soundbar scene, and still has a model that retails for less than Sony’s HT-G700. For a slightly higher cost, Samsung has a well-reviewed Dolby Atmos soundbar in the HW-Q70R. Plus, Sonos just came out with its own Sonos Arc soundbar, which supports Dolby Atmos and integrates into the Sonos ecosystem for $799.
That’s all to say that Sony isn’t the only one actively trying to drive down the entrance fee for Dolby Atmos. However, if Sony can succeed in creating an immersive experience with advanced technology and minimal components, it might be the product that helps launch the home theater world into more accessible Atmos.
Might is the keyword here. Until we’ve tested this new bar, we’re at the mercy of Sony’s spec sheet. So, stay tuned.
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