In the realm of entry-level soundbars, manufacturers have to make brutal decisions about which features to focus on and which to miss out. That means there are many soundbars available at almost identical prices that take very different approaches.
The Sony HT-G700 is a different proposition to our current favourite soundbar at this price, the Sonos Beam. Unlike the Beam, the Sony HT-G700 comes with a wireless subwoofer, supports Dolby Atmos and has a dedicated HDMI input, however, it doesn’t have music streaming, multi-room or voice control. Its focus is much more upon movies and, for some, that will be just the ticket.
As you remove the Sony HT-G700 from its packaging, there’s a real sense that you’re getting a lot for your money. Not only is a large, smart-looking subwoofer part of the package, but the soundbar itself is also more substantial and solid than most in its class.
That isn’t to say that it’s huge or overbearing – it’s roughly the width of an average 49in TV and will sit low enough not to get in the way of your screen – but it makes rivals such as the Sonos Beam look small by comparison.
It’s a serious-looking bar, with a matte black finish and simple black grille, through which a small dot-matrix display shines – we like how the display doesn’t draw your attention away from the screen.
Along the top are touch-sensitive ‘buttons’ for power, input select, Bluetooth and volume. There’s also a remote control with dedicated buttons for the soundbar’s various sound modes. This is useful, of course, but the tiny buttons make using it rather fiddly.
Like the soundbar itself, the glossy-fronted subwoofer also feels weightier and more solid than expected. At 39cm tall, it has the heft necessary to shift a lot of air and the compact dimensions for it to be fairly easy to position.
On the front of the sub is a large woofer with a correspondingly large reflex port positioned beneath it. The soundbar itself features three elliptical drivers for an overall 3.1 arrangement with a claimed total power output of 400W.
You might be wondering how a 3.1 system can possibly claim to do Dolby Atmos sound (DTS:X is also supported), and the answer is Sony’s own Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround technologies. These are designed to create room-filling sound, but crucially aren’t reliant on bouncing sound off the walls, theoretically making their effectiveness less dependent on room size and shape.
Speaker arrangement 3.1
Power output 400W
Bluetooth version 5.0
Dimensions (hwd) 6 x 98 x 11cm (bar); 39 x 19 x 40cm (subwoofer)
Weight 3.5kg (bar); 7.5kg (subwoofer)
You can even apply height and surround processing to 5.1 and even stereo signals, using something called Immersive AE processing, which Sony claims upscales audio close to 7.1.2 channels.
Getting sound into the HT-G700 is simple. The soundbar’s HDMI output is fully eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) compatible, so as long as your TV also supports that or standard ARC, it will send the audio of whatever you’re watching through to the bar instead of through its own speakers.
Thanks to HDMI-CEC, you won’t even need to set anything up, with both devices automatically knowing that they’re linked. You can even use your TV’s remote control to change the soundbar’s volume. If your TV doesn’t support ARC, you can connect it to the HT-G700 using the included optical cable.
Unlike the Sonos Beam, the Sony HT-G700 also has a dedicated HDMI input that’s fully compatible with Dolby Atmos (in both the Dolby Digital Plus and True HD formats) and DTS:X. The soundbar will also pass through 4K HDR signals (including Dolby Vision) to the TV.
There’s little set-up required with the HT-G700. The soundbar and subwoofer automatically establish a wireless connection and you don’t need to do any audio calibration, mic-driven or otherwise. You can trim the subwoofer’s volume independently of the soundbar, and though it might be necessary in some rooms, the default level proves more or less spot on during our testing.
The HT-G700 also has a dedicated night mode, which temporarily reduces bass and dynamics to avoid annoying the other members of your household.
We head straight for our favourite Dolby Atmos test scene; the bombing run of Unbroken. With roaring B-24 Liberator engines, zooming Zero fighter planes and meaty machine gun fire, the Sony immediately impresses with the weight and scale of its delivery.
It’s clear that the subwoofer allows the system to reach bassy depths that its sub-less rivals cannot, lending an enjoyable heft to the whole experience. The way the sound fills the room is impressive, too, and the HT-G700 does a surprisingly effective job of simulating a Dolby Atmos soundscape by tracking the strafing runs of the fighter planes from right to left and ceiling to floor.
Naturally, it’s not in the same realm as a dedicated Atmos speaker package, and more premium soundbars, such as the Sonos Arc, beat it too, but for its modest price, the HT-G700 puts in an impressively cinematic performance.
It’s not all good news, though. Voices are a little recessed and muffled, and though the dedicated Voice mode is designed to boost dialogue, it doesn’t really help. Things also get a bit cluttered and hard to follow when the action really kicks off, too.
We switch to Blade Runner 2049 and, while that slight lack of clarity to voices remains an issue, we’re impressed by the way the HT-G700 conveys the echo and reverb of Niander Wallace’s yellow-bathed chamber and the accuracy with which it places the creepy clicks of his pebble-like drones in the soundfield.
In the scene in which K and Joi fly out towards the orphanage, the HT-G700 again impresses with its depth, scale and large-scale dynamics, all of which are vital in the recreation of the oppressive soundtrack and action. But the slight lack of punch and crispness means you’re not grabbed by the lapels as you should be. The pitter-patter of the rain hitting the car’s windscreen is less precise than we’d like, too.
While the Sony HT-G700 is less of a music speaker than the Sonos Beam, a Bluetooth connection and dedicated Music mode may encourage you to send tunes its way from time to time. It delivers a weighty fullness that makes the Beam sound rather lightweight, but while there’s lots of deep bass, it’s not terribly flexible or musical. The overall sound is definitely less clear and crisp, too, but for some people, the extra weight will make that trade-off worth it.
The Sony HT-G700 is a completely different proposition to the similarly-priced Sonos Beam. Whereas the Sonos is really a multi-room speaker shaped into a bar and given an HDMI socket, the Sony is a dedicated bit of home cinema kit. Which approach is right for you depends on what you’re hoping to get from a soundbar.
If you’re after big, meaty explosions and room-filling Atmos scale, the Sony is the soundbar to buy. With a little more crispness and clarity, it would be getting the full five stars.
- Sound 4
- Features 4
- Build 5