Sony doubles down on virtualized 3D audio with the HT-G700, a 3.1-channel soundbar that may ship immersive 3D audio utilizing not one, not two, however three competing audio applied sciences. While it lacks the upfiring drivers that almost all Dolby Atmos- and DTS:X-enabled soundbars make use of for peak results, the HT-G700 simulates peak and encompass cues utilizing digital 3D options from Dolby, DTS, and Sony itself. The HT-G700 makes for a formidable showcase for the way far virtualized 3D audio has come in recent times, but it additionally betrays its weaknesses, notably in relation to Sony’s aggressive—maybe too aggressive—implementation.
The HT-G700’s $500 price ticket would possibly sound attractive given its array of 3D audio performance, but it surely’s additionally lacking one enormous characteristic: a Wi-Fi adapter. That means most of the wi-fi capabilities we’ve come to anticipate from soundbars on this value vary—together with multi-room audio, AirPlay 2 or Chromecast connectivity, direct help for streaming music providers, and voice assistant help—are lacking.
This evaluate is a part of TechHive’s protection of the best soundbars, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you need to take into account when buying.
A substitute for Sony’s 2.1-channel HT-X9000F, the HT-G700 arrives with extra energy than its predecessor (400 watts versus 300W for the X9000F), together with (in response to Sony) a wider sweetspot, a bigger subwoofer, and a brand new “Immersive AE” (Audio Enhancement) mode that’s able to upmixing 5.1 and even stereo audio to virtualized 7.1.2 audio.
The Sony HT-G700 is a 3.1-channel soundbar, with a trio of 45 x 10mm oval-shaped cones in the principle unit for the left, proper, and heart channels (the “3” in “3.1”) and a wi-fi subwoofer with a 160mm cone for low-frequency results (the “.1”). Because the HT-G700 lacks the wi-fi capabilities of Sony’s pricier soundbars, it will probably’t be upgraded to a full-on 5.1-channel system utilizing a set of wi-fi encompass audio system; in different phrases, what you see (and listen to) is what you get.
The HT-G700 helps 3D object-based sound codecs resembling Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but it surely doesn’t ship peak results with upfiring drivers that bounce pontificate your ceiling (which is itself a substitute for putting in audio system in your ceiling). Instead, it makes use of virtualization to trick your ears into pondering you’re listening to sound from above (to not point out from behind, or from the edges). The soundbar really helps three flavors of immersive 3D audio virtualization: Dolby Atmos with peak virtualization expertise, DTS Virtual:X, and Sony’s aforementioned Immersive AE, which employs a pair of different Sony audio applied sciences—Vertical Surround Engine for peak cues, and S-Force Pro for side-to-side encompass—to upmix 5.1 and even 2.0 audio to virtualized 7.1.2 sound.
In common, digital 3D peak results lack the precision you’ll hear from these delivered by upfiring drivers (which, in flip, aren’t as exact as in-ceiling audio system), they usually may sound harsh and distractingly synthetic in the event that they’re utilized too aggressively. That mentioned, digital 3D sound presents a key profit over drivers that bounce pontificate the ceiling: its efficiency doesn’t depend upon the kind of ceiling you will have. To wring the very best sound out of upfiring drivers, Dolby recommends a flat ceiling between 7.5 and 14 toes peak, and vaulted ceilings merely received’t do. If the ceiling in your leisure room is simply too excessive, too low, or something apart from completely flat, digital 3D sound could be the best choice, shy of precise in-ceiling audio system.
The Sony HT-G700’s primary soundbar unit measures 38.6 x 2.6 x 4.4 inches, making it considerably narrower than my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV, with the soundbar barely grazing the underside fringe of the display from the vantage level of my front room couch. Meanwhile, the 7.6 x 15.25 x 16-inch wi-fi subwoofer (which isn’t actually wi-fi, because it requires an influence wire) is about as large and hulking as these that include competing soundbars.
The Sony HT-G700 takes solely minutes to arrange. You have the choice of putting it in entrance of your TV or mounting it on a wall beneath your TV; a wall mounting information is included, however no brackets or screws. I skipped the mounting course of and easily plunked the soundbar down in entrance of my TV set.
Once you’ve put the soundbar the place you need it, simply plug within the energy wire (there’s no outlet-blocking wall wart or energy brick, fortunately), then place and energy up the pre-paired wi-fi subwoofer, which ought to hook up with the soundbar mechanically (you too can pair the subwoofer manually if one thing goes mistaken with auto-pairing).
Because the HT-G700 lacks community connectivity, you received’t must take care of including it to your private home Wi-Fi community, a course of that (as I’ve discovered with different soundbars) could be surprisingly arduous.
While its lack of Wi-Fi connectivity makes the HT-G700 a snap to arrange, it additionally signifies that the soundbar lacks bevy of key options, together with multi-room audio, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast audio casting, and the power to straight hook up with streaming audio providers resembling Spotify or Amazon Music. You can also’t management the HT-G700’s options or settings with a cell app, nor with Alexa or Google Assistant voice instructions. For a $500 soundbar, that’s quite a bit to surrender.
Sony does supply an analogous soundbar with Wi-Fi capabilities: the $700 3.1-channel HT-Z9F (which we haven’t reviewed but).
Inputs and outputs
The Sony HT-G700 comes outfitted with a pair of HDMI ports: one is a normal HDMI enter, whereas the second is an HDMI ARC (brief for “audio return channel”) port that helps eARC, an “enhanced” model of eARC that permits for lossless audio codecs resembling Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (you’ll be able to read all about ARC and eARC in this story). In addition to the HDMI ports, there’s additionally a Toslink optical digital enter, plus a USB port that’s just for putting in firmware updates.
The best option to join the HT-G700 to your TV is by way of the aforementioned HDMI ARC port, which lets you maintain your numerous video sources related to your TV whereas sending audio to the soundbar over the included HDMI cable. If considered one of your video sources is a Blu-ray participant (both standalone or these which are constructed into PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sport consoles), the HT-G700’s eARC help will allow you to get pleasure from lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks in all their glory—offered your TV additionally helps eARC, that’s.
Another possibility is to attach a video supply to the soundbar’s single HDMI enter after which join the soundbar to the TV by way of the HDMI ARC port, which helps 4K HDR video passthrough. The advantage of plugging a video supply straight into the soundbar is that you just’ll be capable to hear lossless audio from a Blu-ray participant even when your TV doesn’t help eARC (which it probably doesn’t, except you purchased it within the final 12 months or so). The draw back, nevertheless, is that you just’ll must bodily swap out HDMI cables when you have multiple video enter.
Integrated buttons, distant management
On prime of the principle soundbar unit, you’ll discover touch-sensitive buttons for energy, enter choose, Bluetooth, and quantity up/down. Peeking out from the black aluminum speaker grille is a five-character show that tells you (amongst different issues) the quantity stage, the detected audio sign (Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and many others.), which enter is chosen, and so forth. You may set the indicator to go darkish after a short interval, useful for reducing down on visible distractions.
The HT-G700’s lengthy, skinny, and non-backlit distant could be tough to make use of. While the big spherical quantity button is straightforward to seek out at midnight (as is the jumbo-sized energy button within the top-right nook), good luck figuring out the opposite small, round buttons with out turning a lightweight on.
A dozen of those identically formed buttons are organized in two columns of six buttons every, together with the mute button, the night time and voice modes, and the subwoofer stage buttons. All of these sit beneath the quantity rocker. Eight extra buttons, together with 4 for sound modes (resembling Cinema and Music), one which toggles Sony’s Immersive AE characteristic, one other that cycles the show, and one more for choosing the lively enter, are above the quantity rocker.
To navigate the HT-G700’s settings menu, you’ll have to press the Menu button, which sits in the precise column of buttons beneath the quantity rocker. You press the Up and Down arrows within the left column to navigate the menu choices, after which press the Enter button that’s beneath the Menu button to pick out an possibility. The Menu button is the one option to allow DTS Virtual:X and Dolby’s digital 3D sound modes, and to get to these menu choices, you’ll must navigate two menu ranges deep, then step right down to the very backside of the second menu.
Virtual 3D modes
The Sony HT-G700 presents a humiliation of riches so far as digital 3D audio engines are involved; certainly, for those who ever needed the chance to stack the digital 3D sound expertise of Dolby, DTS, and Sony in opposition to one another, this versatile soundbar presents the right alternative to take action.
DTS Virtual:X is probably going essentially the most acquainted of the three competing digital 3D modes. Following its debut in 2017, DTS Virtual:X confirmed us simply how sensible digital 3D audio expertise may sound. Dolby’s digital 3D expertise, often called Dolby Atmos peak virtualization, is just now making its manner onto soundbars (such because the upcoming TCL Alto 9+).
Then there’s Sony’s Immersive AE mode, which requires some explaining. As I discussed earlier, Immersive AE is definitely a mix of two Sony audio applied sciences: Vertical Surround Engine, which provides peak results, and S-Force Pro for side-to-side encompass results. These two applied sciences are utilized—or not—relying on the content material you’re listening to and the sound mode you’ve chosen.
Both the Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro are auto-enabled—and obligatory— everytime you’re watching object-based Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content material (and assuming you aren’t utilizing the Dolby or DTS virtualizers), that means that urgent the Immersive AE button on the distant received’t have any impact. If you’re watching 5.1- or 2.0-channel content material, urgent (for instance) the Cinema button and enabling the Immersive AE mode engages each the Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro; for those who disable Immersive AE in Cinema mode, the Vertical Surround Engine is turned off, however S-Force Pro stays on. Music mode behaves a bit in a different way; whereas each the Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro will (as with the Cinema mode) change on for those who allow the Immersive AE mode, they’ll each flip off for those who toggle off the Immersive AE mode.