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Sony HT-G700 takes center stage in introducing “cinematic surround sound”
from Dolby Atmos / DTS: X soundbar and 3.1ch wireless subwoofer ..
The Sony HT-G700 soundbar features a classic design that can be placed beneath most televisions; the bar works with a related wireless soundbar for more bass from whatever part of the room the user wants.
The soundbar comes with multiple modes, including a theater mode for home cinemas,
a music mode for listening to tunes, a night mode for hearing things clearly at low volume,
and a voice mode for things like watching the news.
Sony HT-G700 Soundbar Design and features
it is quietly stylish: 98cm long, with a matte grey top surface and a front metal front grille punched through with a host of holes – our estimate: 52,684.
Soundbars should be visually unobtrusive, while audibly obtrusive: ear-friendliness is essential, eye-friendliness secondary, and Sony ticks those boxes here.
The bar’s height of 6.4cm will keep it clear of all but the most low-slung of today’s TVs,
and it has a laudable collection of IR passthrough transmitters on the rear,
so even it does block your TV’s infrared receiver,
it will relay remote commands through (this requires activation in the settings menus).
This passthrough facility is not unknown in competitors but should be far more common than it is.
Sony HT-G700 is accompanied in its chair-shaped packaging by a wireless subwoofer,
usefully labeled with a sticker saying ‘Wireless Subwoofer’.
This is a tall slim unit – 38.7cm high, 19.2cm wide, its depth of 40.6cm being its longest dimension.
For these the bar has a set of three full-range drivers, each an oval of 45mm x 100mm.
There are no separate tweeters. Nor are there any ports on the bar; this is a sealed box,
which is a less efficient arrangement than a ported enclosure in terms of power required.
This may explain why Sony quotes a stupendous 100W of power to each driver,
though it provides no measurement criteria for this figure. When quoted at 1kHz
with a maximum of 1% THD distortion, the figure drops to 60W per channel.
Sony HT-G700 Connections
Plugger resides in two bays at the rear of the bar, with one bay for the power cable,
the second hosting an optical digital audio input, and two HDMI sockets:
one inward for connecting an external source, one outward to your TV.
This outward HDMI connection may, however, provide a key inward source of audio,
since it supports both the Audio Return Channel of HDMI ARC and the enhanced Audio Return Channel of eARC.
If your TV is so equipped,
you can play from streaming channels such as Netflix and Disney+ which provide Atmos soundtracks and these can travel to the soundbar down the HDMI cable,
no other connections required. If your TV lacks even the original ARC, you can use an optical cable from TV to soundbar,
but whether this can deliver surround will depend on how your TV handles audio.
The Sony bar is capable of receiving up to Dolby Digital
DTS-ES via this input (not Atmos and DTS:X, nor TrueHD and DTS-HD),
but many TVs will only deliver stereo anyway. It can also receive TV sound (in stereo only)
via Bluetooth from compatible Sony TVs.
Atmos, DTS:X and Immersive AE
One key area the Sony outdoes a great many rivals is its acceptance of a wide range of audio formats via HDMI in and HDMI eARC.
These cover the gamut from Dolby Digital through Dolby TrueHD to full-blown Dolby Atmos,
and from basic DTS through DTS HD Master Audio to DTS:X.
The two of those formats which can include height information are Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
But just because equipment accepts Atmos and DTS:X doesn’t mean it delivers height…
These object-based surround technologies are scalable to any size of the system –
up to 24.1.10 in the case of Atmos consumer systems, should you be lucky enough to have an expansive home cinema room capable of holding 34 speakers.
But in the other direction, it can also scale to lesser systems, right down to mono!
So when it says Dolby Atmos or DTS:X on the box, that just means the unit can read and interpret a Dolby Atmos
or DTS:X data stream – it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting any height channels.
Sony HT-G700 Movie performance
Such studious sound selection is just about worth doing,
because the Dolby setting under ‘Effects’ delivered the cleanest
most accurate delivery of an expansive sound field under nearly all circumstances,
including when the bar was receiving Dolby Atmos content.
We very nearly believed that the sycamore seed in the Dolby Leaf demo went behind our head, the only setting when this occurred.
This setting also delivered a significantly tighter bass component from the subwoofer.
But disengaging the Dolby effects mode and switching to Immersive AE also delivered an expansive
an enjoyable field that pushed further in terms of width beyond the bar itself.
Vertical sound? Not to our ears. But we’ll give it ‘engaging’ and ‘exciting’,
along with the versatility of the ‘Standard’, ‘Music’ and ‘Cinema’ modes.
Test tracks are one thing; real content another.
Pixar’s ‘Onward’ streams in Dolby Atmos from Disney+:
the HT-G700 kept dialogue perfectly clear without any need for its dialogue enhancement settings.
Under that deep Effects menu there is also an ‘off’ setting, which turns everything off.
This sounded rather dull for movie content after the expansion of Immersive AE,
but it’s handy for bringing music back to purity,
further than is achieved by the ‘Music’ button on the remote,
which takes the center speaker out of play for stereo music.
‘Standard’ puts it back again: a bigger but messier sound.
Immersive AE makes rather a mess of stereo music
you can hear the disorientating effects of whatever phase trickery the system employs,
with treble elements getting spitty and phasey.
At its unprocessed best the Sony is a little above average with music for a soundbar,
but it never gets to the heart of music, lacking, in particular,
the treble clarity to open up a soundstage. We found it a little tiring for music over long periods.
So this is an enjoyable, sound-widening bar and subwoofer pair for movies and TV, if not our first pick for music.
The promise of vertical and surround effects are simply overstated.
While we accept the possibilities of wall-bouncing surround created by separate drivers
(which has reached its apogee in Sennheiser’s rather pricier AMBEO soundbar),
that isn’t how Sony’s Immersive AE works; the drivers face forwards
and the manual notes that it “is hardly affected by the shape of a room because it does not use the sound reflected from a wall”.
Instead, it goes the sound processing path, and such pseudo-surround from front speakers is invariably either ineffective or so destructive to clarity as to be unusable.
This Sony bar does nothing to change our view on that.
Why make such claims? Perhaps because otherwise they would have to admit this is a well-built but otherwise simple 3.1-channel soundbar
which delivers TV and movie sound respectably, music averagely, surround and height channels not at all.
- Compact Atmos/DTS:X bar
- Immersive AE for lesser signals
- Bluetooth for TV and music
- No dedicated height/surround drivers
- Height/surround claims overstated