We’ve written before about the importance of having a sound bar with today’s flat screen TVs. There’s a new type of sound bar you’ll see on the market, where it’s more than just an external speaker.
Meet the ‘Home Theatre Bar’
Sony is now making a sound bar which it calls a Home Theatre Bar, and that’s because more than just a speaker, this device also acts as a central component, like a stereo receiver, to control and connect all your TV peripherals.
Reviewing Sony HT-ST5000 sound bar and subwoofer
The Sony HT-ST5000 is a large and heavy 7.1.2 channel sound bar that comes with a large and heavy subwoofer. This kit is a higher end audio solution meant to provide top quality sound, and it feels well made and durable.
Inside, a woofer and tweeter work together inside the sound bar and the separate subwoofer with a big downwards-firing passive radiator and forward-forward facing driver.
The soundbar also has a unique feature in that it’s Dolby Atmos enabled, meaning you’ll get more of a 3D soundscape. More on that in a second.
Setting Up the Sony HT-ST5000 sound bar
I have to admit that I struggled with the set up of this device, but I think that’s probably because I didn’t fully understand what this sound bar can do. Let me explain.
The soundbar connects to the subwoofer via Wi-Fi, and then connects to your TV with an HDMI cable. If you have an older TV, there’s also the option of using an analogue audio cable, and with newer TVs you can use an optical digital audio cable (not included).
Initially, I tried both the HDMI cable and the analogue cable with my older model LG TV and couldn’t get any sound.
I’ll say the pictographical instructions that came with the soundbar were not what I’d call easy to follow, so I contacted Sony’s online and phone support for assistance because I just couldn’t get it working. My online request was quickly upgraded to a phone call but the person on the other end of the phone also seemed puzzled about why no audio was emanating from the sound bar, and suggested I might need to return it to the store.
Instead, through my connection to this blog, I was able to get some personalized help from the Sony corporate representative in my area. While this isn’t an option available to the average consumer, it helped me figure things out and I can share that info with you, dear readers.
What I was doing wrong was connecting the sound bar to the TV only. (That’s how I have my current TV and Sony sound bar connected.) What I actually needed to do was also connect my components (in my case, an Apple TV) to the sound bar also.
Connect all your peripherals to the sound bar
Because this soundbar is a Home Theatre Bar, all the components you’ll want audio from will need to be routed through the HT-ST5000. In truth, this was a simple fix. When I went back later and re-read the set up pamphlet, I found a line below the giant diagrams that does say, “when devices such as Blu-ray disc player, cable box, or satellite box are currently connected to a TV, disconnect them from the TV and then connected them to the bar speaker.” So score one point for fine print, zero for me.
I should also note the subwoofer basically sets up itself. Once you connect the kit to Wi-Fi, the subwoofer will connect to the sound bar wirelessly and the glowing green light on the front of the sub will prove it’s raring to go.
With everything now properly connected I was able to enjoy the device.
Sony HT-ST5000 Features: Dolby Atmos
The biggest plus of this device is that it’s got Dolby Atmos built in. Dolby Atmos, in a nutshell, allows sound to be projected and reflected across a wider area including overhead, providing not just the effect of surround sound, but three dimensional sound. For a more detailed explanation of Dolby Atmos click here.
The key takeaway is that with Dolby Atmos, you’ll feel like sound is coming from everywhere, particularly if you’ve got a set of rear speakers connected. Even with just the sound bar and the sub, sound just feels bigger.
Wider soundscape with Dolby Atmos
Listening to TV shows and movies, it’s hard to describe but there’s definitely a much wider soundscape. You can hear more subtleties; sounds that seem like they’re coming from places other than the screen. It’s a really neat effect that really made me realize how out of date and basic my current sound bar is.
The other innovation Dolby Atmos brings is the projection of that sound overhead. The Sony HT-ST5000 has upward firing speakers that you can see in the top of the unit. Those are designed to push sound up and bounce it off the ceiling, in essence, replicating the illusion of speakers overhead. This is all part of the Atmos experience.
How to adjust Sony HT-ST5000 Dolby Atmos settings
You’ll need to make sure you adjust the settings of the sound bar for your room. Input the height of your ceiling and the distance from the sound bar to your sitting area in order to get the best experience from the sound bar. Don’t forget to factor in how far up from the floor the sound bar is sitting (on furniture or when wall mounted).
To change this setting hit the Home button to be taken to your main menu. Go to Settings in the very top right corner and select Audio Settings>Speaker Settings and then adjust Distance and Ceiling height.
While we’re on the topic of properly adjusting the settings, take a few minutes to input your preferences for some other features:
Voice mode: This option lets you adjust the sound of voices to have them cut through the background noise more so you don’t need to crank up the overall audio just to hear the talking if it’s low.
To access it, click the Voice button on the remote. You can turn it off or adjust it to level one or level two. You’ll see this setting change on the front of the sound bar’s digital display, not on the TV menu.
Night mode: Night mode tones down particularly loud noises like explosions, gunshots etc. for nighttime viewing so you’ll be less likely to wake up the kids during John Wick 2. Night mode is toggled on and off with a button on the remote also; it’s either on or off, as shown on that same digital display.
There’s also an option to change the names of your inputs on the main menu so it’s easier to keep track of what’s connected to the sound bar and how.
To access this feature, hit the blue Home button on the remote, and select Set Up. Choose Input settings and adjust the ones you need to. There’s no custom tagging option (to add an ‘Apple TV’ label for example) but it helps keep things straight. Hopefully a future software update will allow you to custom name your components.
Sony HT-ST5000 Features – Google Chromecast
The HT-ST5000 has Google Chromecast built in which allows you to easily stream audio from your smartphone or tablet. You can connect to Google Play music or use Spotify and play whatever you want on the sound bar. With the power of Chromecast you can also connect to a large variety of streaming audio services to like Pandora, Tuneinradio and NPR.
I struggled with getting music to cast on the soundbar. I found that more than a few times, the sound bar would say it was casting, but no audio would come out.
On one particular occasion I was unable to get music from Google Play to play. I devised an experiment where I was able to get the music to cast on my Google Home device perfectly one minute, but the sound bar just wouldn’t connect the next. I tried numerous times and used both an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy S8 and couldn’t get it to work.
Eventually I shut the sound bar off, left it for a minute and then turned it back on. When I attempted to cast again, it worked. If you find your sound bar isn’t casting correctly, you can try powering it off and turning it back on again.
I will say music sounds great on the sound bar. The bass is amazing of course thanks to help from the sub, but the overall sound picture is big and bold and ultra clear. The music easily fills the room and the voice track is ultra clear.
The Sony HT-ST5000 also has NFC or Near-Field Connection you can do things like pair a Bluetooth headset with it.
Sony HT-ST5000 Features – High-Resolution Audio & High Dynamic Range HDR & 4K support
The soundbar has High Dynamic Range support for your HDR and 4K video devices built in.
It’s also got High-Resolution Audio which allows you to listen to enhanced digital quality audio files, when they’re available to you.
Other features of Sony HT-ST5000:
- 7.1.2ch S-Force PRO Front Surround technology: virtual surround sound combines Digital Signal Processing, and S-Force PRO Front Surround with wavefront technology to emulate a natural, three-dimensional sound field, all from a single soundbar and subwoofer.
- 3x HDCP 2.2-compatible HDMI inputs
HDMI ARC output, optical SPDIF, analogue AUX, and a USB connection
- S-Master HX Digital amplifier: S-Master HX digital amp reduces distortion for precise results with high-frequency ranges (above 40 kHz).
- DSEE HX/Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX: DSEE HX upscaling technology uses an algorithm to analyze your music and replace lost harmonics, restoring audio signals to near high-resolution quality.
- Clear Audio+: From game mode to movie or music mode, ClearAudio+ automatically adjusts sound settings to suit whatever you’re watching or listening to.
Sony HT-ST5000 – How it sounds
If I hit a few bumps in the road with getting things set up I can make absolutely no complaints about how the Sony HT-ST5000 sounds.
The subwoofer has house-shaking ability, and makes you feel like you’re right beside all the action. The sound bar is clear, crisp and pumps out a lot of power. I loved it for watching action movies in particular because I felt like it created a bigger world than I could see on even my small test TV.
I used the soundbar for a variety of TV shows, movies and music.
Watching Game of Thrones this season has been a treat. The thundering hooves of the Dothraki army as it unleashes a surprise attack was really cool. I could feel them coming before I could see or hear them, just like the unnamed character they were advancing upon (no spoilers here!).
Ray Donovon had far less action this season but the dialogue was very clear and easy to listen to. Even Ray’s somewhat mumbly Stallone-esque delivery was improved on the Sony HT-ST5000.
John Wick 2 was a seismic thrill ride. Whether it was a torrent of bullets, a raucous car chase, or a wicked fight scene, it felt like we were right in the room with our brooding hero and his gymnastic handgun techniques.
Overall review of Sony HT-ST5000 sound bar
This sound bar is not for those on a budget or looking to boost the audio quality of a small TV. This sound bar is made to power your big TV and your dedicated home theatre. Indeed, because the sound bar acts as a receiver it’s meant to play a central role in your set up.
You can opt not to install the front grille too if you want a more raw look to your sound bar. The subwoofer, however is going to take up some real estate. It’s about the size of a smaller carry-on suitcase so it definitely needs some space carved out for it, but the raw reverberating, floor-shaking low end sound it provided makes it worth it.
While I definitely appreciated the more fullsome soundscape the Sony HT-ST5000 provides, I found the overhead sound effects less noticeable. They are there, but less dramatic than I might have been expecting. I think that’s because I had the sound bar in a temporary and less than ideal set up. As I noted before, you’ll want this device for your home theatre where you can control everything perfectly, so I think in that situation you’ll get more bang for your buck.
I did experience connectivity issues with casting music from my phone. While powering the unit off and on seemed to reset the system, it was frustrating.
I also experienced connectivity issues with the soundbar overall. Occasionally it would become disconnected and just cease to function. Turning it off and on didn’t work, and it would also sometimes show the Apple TV was disconnected when it was clearly on and functioning. Even after rebooting the Apple TV, the soundbar stubbornly refused to connect to it. Was this a problem with the sound bar, the Apple TV, or the older model LG TV I tested it on? I may never know. I feel like for the price of the device though, connectivity issues should be less of a problem. I had to resolve the issues by pulling all the power and HDMI cables and reconnecting everything. Not a big problem in my temporary set up, but it would be maddening for a permanent installation.
Overall I think this sound bar is a great sounding device that’s going to fill a lot of your TV audio and home theatre needs, if you can get past the intermittent connectivity issues which could be a problem if you’re using older components.
Find the Sony HT-ST5000 sound bar and subwoofer at Best Buy.