Sony’s Dolby Atmos HT-Z9F sound bar & speakers review
Video on the TV I tested with this coming soon.
With any new TV today, a sound bar, sound base or speakers is an absolute must. Yes, there are speakers built into the TV itself, but because they’re so thin, there’s just no good way to create powerful sound from such thin and small speakers.
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I recently had the chance to pair a review of a Sony X900F 4K HDR TV (Video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff453rsiI0k) with a Sony sound bar; the HT-Z9F with sub woofer, along with the SA-Z9R rear speakers. I tested the entire set up in my home over a couple of weeks.
Setting up the Sony sound system
I had the darnedest time getting this TV connected to the sound bar and speakers correctly. Following the pictographic instructions, (I thought) I wasn’t able to get any sound. I reversed all my connections, which really consisted of just one HDMI cable, and tried again. Nope.
Since this TV has smarts, I initially didn’t connect any streaming devices or peripherals to complicate things. If you do want to do add streaming devices, read my blog on Best Buy Canada blog that explains how today’s sound bars are Home Theatre Receivers, so all your components need to go through the sound bar, even if they’re video based components.
A Home Theatre Receiver essentially takes the place of an amp or a receiver, simplifying and streamlining your set up greatly.
This sound bar comes with a rather large subwoofer. It delivers that deep rumbling bass that allows you to feel like tanks are rolling through your home theatre, or a plane is skimming your scalp.
Dolby Atmos sound bar
One of the most significant features of this sound bar is that it has Dolby Atmos technology.
What’s Dolby Atmos? Watch my demo and explainer video linked up on the channel, or read What is Dolby Atmos in my article for Best Buy. The short and sweet version is that it creates 3D sound. Atmos has the ability to project sound from or bounce sound off the ceiling, creating a three dimensional soundscape. So when a plane flies overhead, it actually sounds and feels like it’s moving across your room.
The HT-Z9F doesn’t look like it has upward firing speakers to replicate that overhead sound. So how does it work? I chatted with two Sony reps for clarification.
Sony & Dolby collaborate on streamlined home theatre set up
In essence, the overhead effect is being handled digitally using something Sony calls the Vertical Sound Engine which creates an umbrella of sound, and can digitally move sound through the space created by all your components. Sony worked directly with Dolby Atmos on how to best replicate this effect, and this sound bar is just part of that direct collaboration.
Because the HT-Z9F has that Vertical Sound Engine there’s no need for overhead speakers with this set up.
I watched Deepwater Horizon on Blu-ray in order to check out the Atmos soundscape.
The overall effect of watching a movie where the entire structure you’re standing on (an offshore oil platform) is exploding all around you is hard to describe, but it definitely felt like we were a part of it.
The bass from the subwoofer was so realistic sounding, there were a few times I felt like the shock wave was going to tip the TV over!
There’s not a great way to describe what being inside a bubble of sound that a true home theatre system creates feels like. It’s enveloping, all encompassing and it makes you feel much more like you’re part of what’s happening on screen. It feels like the sound is reaching out to you, rather than you straining to hear those built-in TV speakers.
The bass is outstanding, and rumbles thought the room heartily.
Overall thoughts on Sony sound system
I think having a sound system with today’s thin 4K TVs is an absolute must. And you want something that strikes the right balance between price, sound quality, and ease of use. For me this set up delivers.
Having Dolby Atmos is a great feature, plus with the ability to stream music right to the sound bar thanks to Spotify, connectivity it becomes not just a home theatre and movie centre, but a true home entertainment portal. Having Google Home control is also a nice plus, and being able to ask Google to play music to the sound bar without needing a remote control or my phone is a treat.
Not needing a receiver with this set up is a huge bonus as far as I’m concerned. Since the device is a Home Theatre Receiver it allows me to streamline my set up, while still having the ability to enjoy Dolby Atmos.
Overall I can definitely recommend this set up, and quite honestly, if I were in a position to upgrade my simplified living room TV and audio set up, this would be the kit I’d choose right now.
The soundbar sells for about $900-1000CAD and the pair of bookshelf rear speakers is about $400 CAD from places like Best Buy.