Can this flagship soundbar/subwoofer combi really be a suitable alternative to a full 5.1 rig?
If square speaker drivers existed then Sony would have certainly used them for the HT-ST7, a soundbar that’s got more hard edges than Jason Statham and more angles than a protractor factory. Even the remote control is a perfect oblong with triangular shaped buttons. And with substantial dimensions and considerable heft to both bar and subwoofer (not pictured) there is nothing subtle about the HT-ST7’s look.
Build quality certainly can’t be faulted, though. The 'bar itself is hewn from aluminium and rigid plastic, while the downward-firing 7in subwoofer is old-school MDF, finished with a 'quartz effect' plastic laminate.
The high-end theme continues with the specs. DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding are on board and there are seven discrete amplifiers driving five 2.5in woofers in the centre, plus two more woofers and 0.8in tweeters for the left and right. With 100W for the sub, the total power is 450W. Connectivity is exemplary for home cinema use with three HDMI inputs and one ARC HDMI output, plus other fallbacks.
Sony supplies an IR blaster should you find the soundbar obscures your screen’s receptor, which could happen considering the ST-HT7 stands 129mm with its feet. For wireless audio streaming from a tablet or smartphone Sony has provided aptX Bluetooth audio streaming with NFC.
There are plenty of acoustic adjustments on offer, with the remote sliding open to reveal more buttons. You can tune the sub’s tone and volume, alter the dialogue level when listening to movies and choose a sound mode from Movie, Music, Football and Standard. Other options include a Sound Optimizer to improve low-volume playback by boosting clarity.
But why stick to low volume when the HT-ST7 does such a terrific job with Blu-ray soundtracks and is well suited to throwing multichannel audio out in to the room? Jack the Giant Slayer’s dialogue is rich and clear, while discrete effects such as horses’ neighing, clumping boots on cobbles and clanking castle gates have verve and just the right level of impact. The subwoofer is a perfect match, although it’s essential to calibrate it manually or else risk dislodging your windows with the thud of the first giant’s footsteps. Sony makes no attempt at generating virtual rears (thankfully) but the 'bar produces a terrifically dynamic sound with great clarity and balance. It’s not such a pleasing performer with music, though, sounding thin and processed in its Music mode, or warm but somewhat narrow in Standard mode.
Overall, the HT-ST7 is a meaty, magnificent movie marvel that will do the job should you not want to invest in a 5.1 array.
Price: £1,100 Approx
Highs: Hi-res Blu-ray audio decoding; good connectivity; easy to use; powerful, controlled sound; impressive movie playback
Lows: Not cheap; music performance lacks polish; substantial size; remote control isn't backlit
Drive units: 7 x 2.5in mid-range drivers; 2 x 0.8in tweeters
Connections: 3 x HDMI inputs; HDMI output (ARC); 2 x digital optical audio; coaxial audio; stereo analogue phonos
Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD MA: Yes/Yes
Separate sub: Yes. 100W, 7in downward-firing with passive radiator
Remote control: Yes
Dimensions: 1,080(w) x 109(h) x 110(d)mm
Features: Standard, Movie, Music, Football modes; Voice level selector; subwoofer tone control; wall-mounting option; wireless subwoofer connection; Bluetooth (aptX, AAC), NFC; DRC; AV sync; Sound Optimiser; AAV (advanced auto volume); 3D and 4K passthrough; display brightness control
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