Popular manufacturers of home theater equipment continue to flood the market with sound bar speaker systems every year. Sound bars in general do not produce audiophile-worthy audio quality but they still serve as big upgrades over standard TV speakers and don’t cost so much. But with manufacturers raising the bar in sound quality and features, even big names like Sony have to think of innovative ways to woo consumers. The Sony HT-ST7 represents the very best the company has to offer although this well-designed sound bar is made for people with deep pockets. This might be hard to believe but the HT-ST7 as a whole really justifies the $1,299 price tag providing that the sound bar’s strengths really cater to your needs.
The design of the Sony HT-ST7 highlights just how important the sound bar must look and feel to justify the premium price tag. Sony has succeeded here as the HT-ST7 easily takes the crown for being the most stylish sound bar. It is also one of the heaviest sound bars weighing close to 18 pounds and it measures just close to 43 inches wide and about 5 feet tall. It has a nice brushed metal finish along with angled accents on the left, right and center of the sound bar giving the whole sound bar a futuristic look. The front of the sound bar is all speaker grille and you can slightly notice the 9 drivers. Surprisingly, the grille is removable as well if you want a better look at these drivers. Also on the center of the sound bar is the display which shows the usual status info.
The rear of the speaker is only made of plastic but the far side of the rear reveals a wealth of connectivity options. This includes 3 HDMI inputs which is great as it allows 3 home theater components to directly obtain the full audio quality that this sound bar is capable of producing. This includes the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio benefits that TV connections are unable to provide. The usual analog and digital inputs can be found there as well.
Even the remote control has a premium look with triangular buttons that match the angular style of the Sony HT-ST7. It is thinly shaped making it very easy to use and make quick audio adjustments.
Setting up the HT-ST7 is pretty easy. All you have to do is unpack the sound bar and the included subwoofer and make the usual connections. After you attach the wireless transceivers to the subwoofer and sound bar, the pairing process is very straightforward. You can essentially hide the subwoofer so you end up with a spacious living room and the sound bar should still be able to connect to the subwoofer.
Having 3 HDMI inputs is very impressive for a sound bar but many of the latest sound bars including the more affordable ones feature some wirelessly connectivity features too. The Sony HT-ST7 hits those areas too with built-in Bluetooth enabling all kinds of Bluetooth-enabled devices to stream audio to the sound bar wirelessly. The addition of NFC is an interesting choice as more mobile devices feature this technology. If your mobile device supports NFC, you should be able to pair with the speaker by simply placing the unit on the sound bar’s angled edge. Adding AirPlay would have provided great value to iPhone, iPad and iPod users but unfortunately the HT-ST7 lacks such functionality.
To the average consumer, the Sony HT-ST7 sounds great no matter what kind of content you throw at it. Due to the sound bar’s constricted form factor, you won’t exactly get the true surround sound experience that a real 7.1-channel speaker system delivers but you can’t really get better audio quality from a minimal system that doesn’t litter your living room with speaker components and wires. The sound bar doesn’t slouch when it comes to music with heavy bass either. The 100-watt subwoofer provides plenty of bass and you can lower or slightly raise the subwoofer power if you like.
You might notice a slight drop in audio quality if you play stuff back through Bluetooth. This is understandable since Bluetooth tends to compress the audio but you shouldn’t notice so much loss if you enjoy using online streaming apps like Spotify. The subwoofer lacks oomph as well if it is placed too far from the sound bar.
The overall design, features, exceptional audio quality and easy setup process is easily worth $1,299. You can cut down to one of those $300 to $500 sound bars that may even offer impressive features like Wi-Fi and AirPlay but the sound quality and design won’t hold a candle to the Sony HT-ST7. But if you want to judge the audio quality alone, $1,299 can be seen as way overpriced. If you can live with a complicated setup and more wires, you can save a significant amount and enjoy more controls too. The HT-ST7 is all about reasonable tradeoffs and as a whole, the Sony HT-ST7 is the best sound bar of its class.
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