Time for another look at one of Sony’s sound bar solutions, and this time we’re testing out the Sony HT-A5000. It offers 5.1.2 capabilities, Atmos decoding, and the ability to pair with other speakers within Sony’s latest home theatre system.
Right out of the box it looks to be a robust alternative to their top-of-the-line Sony HT-A7000 model. How does this one compare? Let’s crank it up to find out.
Specifications for the Sony HT-A5000 system
The Sony HT-A5000 system is made up of three components – the HT-A5000 soundbar itself, the Sony SA-SW3 subwoofer, and Sony SA-RS3S surround speakers.
Specifications for the HT-A5000 sound bar
- Size: 1210 x 670 x 140 mm, 6.1kg
- Total output: 450w, 5.1.2 channels
- Network/Services include Wi-Fi, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Google Assistant, AirPlay2, Bluetooth
- Codecs: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
- Input/Output: 1 HDMI 8K/4k-120hz passthrough
- 1 HDMI eARC supporting output, 1 Toslink optical port
Specifications on Sony SA-SW3 subwoofer
- Size: 264 x 476 x 444 mm, 10.2 kg
- Total Output: 200w
Specifications on Sony SA-RS3S surround speakers
- Size: 100 x 187 x 100 mm
- Total Output: 50w/ch
First thoughts on the Sony HT-A5000 sound bar
The easiest way to describe the Sony HT-A5000 is to think of it as the trickle-down tech from the A7000 flagship. For many the larger unit may be overkill, making this a highly attractive and more cost-effective alternative. The functionality is almost identical, with Sony’s elegant menu system still by far the most aesthetically pleasing from any television manufacturer.
Setup is a breeze, whether using the sound bar as a standalone or as part of the wireless system where the product is allowed to truly shine. Provided your television allows for modern implementation of eARC (the audio return channel via HDMI) you basically have a single cable to install between your TV and the unit.
The Sony HT-A5000 does include a single HDMI input in case you wish to plug directly in rather than to the back of your television. This works for those that have already filled all their ports, or that have televisions such as the one I tested with that support lower resolution ARC but not the newest codecs such as Dolby ATMOS. Thus, I plugged my 4K Oppo player into the soundbar and had the high-resolution images pass through to the television. I was able to get the highest quality sound out of every title I could throw at the Sony.
Using the Sony HT-A5000 as a standalone unit
While the benefits of adding a subwoofer and rear surround speakers are massive, some may still choose to simply invest in the sound bar either as a first step in entering the Sony ecosystem or simply because it’s more than sufficient for their needs. With its built-in tweeters, woofers, and beam-tweeters to provide some height information, the HT-A5000 does a fairly good job at representing surround information from a single source. The separation between left, right, and center channels is what it’s most effective at, far better than the built-in speakers on most televisions.
That said, despite the solid construction, the low-bass information is quite paltry if used as a standalone. While there’s some thump, this is best used to round out the front channel mid-bass information rather than a true replacement for a dedicated subwoofer. Similarly, while the “fake” surround emanating from the front bar does provide a bit more spaciousness, it’s a far cry from truly being engaged in a true 5.1 setup.
Using the Sony HT-A5000 with subwoofer and surround speakers
It’s the addition of the SW3 Subwoofer and RS3S surround speakers that lets the A5000 truly shine. These are the same surround speakers as I reviewed with the Sony A7000, and they continued to do a good job at providing both directional sounds from the rear channels as well as providing welcome ambience and sound field separation from the front sound bar unit. I would still welcome an updated model that includes up-firing drivers like on the A5000, as this would nicely spread out the ATMOS sound field even more.
The SW3 is a slightly more compact model than the Sony SW5 I previously looked at, and in some ways, it integrated even better in my smaller room. Don’t let the smaller size fool you, as the faster driver response actually made the SW3 more limber, especially when playing back music tracks or intense scores such as Hans Zimmer’s deep bass notes on the Dune UHD.
While the SW5 may pack a bigger punch in a large room, it would have a tough time compared to other manufacturers’ dedicated subs designed for large home theatre use. The SW3, on the other hand, seems a perfect complement to a system of this scope, ideal for a smaller living room or bedroom television setup, with plenty of rumble but not so much that the neighbours will call to complain.
Performance of Sony HT-A5000 sound bar system
As much as I appreciated the Sony A7000 system, it felt a bit like it was trying to do too much, forcing capabilities on a soundbar form factor that are still best expressed by dedicated home theatre setups. Essentially, if you have a room and space to warrant an A7000, you should probably consider instead going the receiver/speaker route which will give even more impact.
On the other hand, the Sony A5000 seems the perfect sweet spot, with a rock-solid sound bar, appropriately sized subwoofer and highly capable surround speakers delivering in smaller rooms exceptional sound from streaming services, television broadcasts, Blu-ray/UHD, and video game consoles. While it lacks some of the inputs of its bigger brother, the A5000 will be for the vast majority of users a perfect compliment to their setup.
The Sony A5000 is still missing an Ethernet port, which is annoying, as is the absence of a simple way of playing back sound “direct”, turning off all “enhancements” and simply playing back what’s on the original track. Once again, this is less an issue on an auxiliary setup where the A5000 would be ideal, wherein a dedicated listening room you’d likely go a different route than a sound bar solution.
Final take on the Sony A5000 sound bar system
There’s a proper time and place for using a sound bar instead of a fully dedicated receiver/speaker system, and in almost every circumstance I can envision the Sony A5000 may be the best solution you can find. While the Sony A7000 is indeed a step up from this model, the big brother reveals its limitations against more powerful systems in the rooms for which it was designed. The A5000, on the other hand, is perfect in either small to medium-sized rooms or setups where the convenience of wireless connectivity, the cleanliness of installation, and simplicity of setup and operation is the primary goal.
While I wouldn’t get rid of my 13 speaker home theatre setup for any sound bar, I found the A5000 absolutely perfect while hooked up to my bedroom television. Overkill, perhaps, but the setup transformed my already decent set up there in massive ways, easily trumping anything I’ve ever had in that room including the Sony A7000 by providing a rich and detailed sound field without ever overwhelming the space.
If you’re in the market for a sound bar system I’d highly recommend the A5000 with its paired subwoofer and surround speakers over a solo A7000 any day. In fact, I’d recommend the A5000 full stop, given that the A7000 only truly shines in a large room, and in that space I’d recommend going a different direction altogether.
It’s remarkable how much the technology of sound bars has improved over the last few years, and Sony has been at the forefront of pushing the quality and capabilities forward. Their A5000/SW3/RS3S combo may be the best you can buy. You can find your own Sony A5000, Sony SW3, and Sony SA-RS3S combo at Best Buy right now.