When it comes to a great home cinema, the number one priority probably ought to be in getting the biggest screen you can accommodate and afford. After all, to be truly immersed in a movie, you need as much of your field of view as possible to be taken up by the image.
As long as the sacrifice in screen quality isn’t too great, that means you should possibly consider foregoing that OLED TV you are yearning for in favour of a larger acreage of a relatively less costly LCD set. Such as this 65-inch Sony TV we present here...
TV: Sony XR-65X90J (£1189 / $1400/ AU$2295)
Soundbar: Sonos Arc (£899 / $899/ AU$1399)
4K disc player: Sony PlayStation 5 (£450 / $500 / AU$750)
Total: £2538 / $2799 / AU$4444
TV: Sony XR-65X90J
By investing in the Sony XR-65X90J, the money you save on not buying a similarly vast OLED television can be invested in the rest of the equipment you see on this page to make a fine home-cinema set-up. And of course, this TV is no mug, with a heady mix of fancy features and well-pitched picture performance to go with its mid-range price tag. The X90J has a very solid selection of physical connections that includes aerial, satellite, ethernet and optical ports, plus three USBs and four HDMIs.
Of those HDMIs, two are standard HDMI 2.0 spec but two are 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports. 4K at 120Hz is supported out of the box, but you can’t have 4K/120Hz enabled at the same time as Dolby Vision – which you could if you were using an LG OLED such as the C1. You may want to avoid Dolby Vision gaming altogether anyway here; the X90J lacks a Dolby Vision Game mode, so games played in Dolby Vision suffer from input lag. In short, this isn’t the ideal TV for a hardcore Xbox Series X gamer, but it’s a fine foil for a PS5 user. Following a recent firmware update there is, at least, support for VRR (Variable Refresh Rate).
It’s also worth pointing out that, as is the norm for most TVs still with two HDMI 2.1 sockets, one of the Sony X90J’s HDMI 2.1 inputs is also its eARC/ARC output, so if you need to use eARC/ARC to get sound to your AV receiver or soundbar, as you do here, you’re going to be left with just one top-spec input. For now, that will only be an issue for the lucky few hardcore gamers who have both of the next-gen consoles (and/or a top-spec gaming PC), but it could become more of an issue if and when HDMI 2.1 sources become more prevalent.
Get around those relatively minor (for most people) irritations, though, and this is a TV packed with tech and specs, thanks to the Google TV operating system. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Apple TV are here in all of their 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos glory; Plex and VLC make for easy playback of your stored content; and Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music and Deezer give you plenty of options for music streaming.
One of the major reasons an OLED screen is so impressive is in the way it handles contrast – and the tech has a huge advantage over traditional LCD backlit sets in this regard. With this Sony LCD set, though, the backlight is consistent, with none of the clouding or blotchiness that’s common of big TVs in this price range. You get a little bit of light seepage into the black bars at the top and bottom when a very bright element gets close, but it is barely noticeable if you are not looking for it.
There is impressive overall contrast on offer here, too. The set may not go perfectly black, but it goes very bright, and scenes that contain a mix of dark and light look terrific. Colours are excellent throughout. This is a cinematically warm and rich delivery that is true to the Dolby Vision ethos, but whites are still clean and detailed. Skin tones are superb, too, with a subtlety of shading that’s extremely rare at this end of the market.
Spend more and you’ll get a crisper, more three-dimensional performance, but the X90J’s measured approach is extremely well judged. Edges are more than sharp enough, with no hint of exaggeration, and detail levels are exemplary for a TV this big at this price.
Soundbar: Sonos Arc
Such a great acreage of screen space deserves big sound to go with it, and long-time readers of What Hi-Fi? won’t be surprised to see the all-conquering Sonos Arc soundbar taking its place in this lineup. This two-time Award-winning Dolby Atmos equipped bar is simple to set up, lovely to live with and supremely capable.
The Arc’s Dolby Atmos soundfield is generated by 11 Class D digital amplifiers that power 11 custom drivers. Eight of those drivers are elliptical woofers (four along the front, two on top and one in each end), while the other three are silk-domed tweeters that are all built into the front but with two firing diagonally into the room.
The Arc uses its array of speakers to bounce sound off your walls and ceiling to create a 3D audio effect, and the soundfield is once again tailored to your room using Sonos’s Trueplay technology.
Even the majority of soundbars with upward-firing speakers still struggle to deliver a convincing Dolby Atmos experience. Often, the mistake is thinking that Dolby Atmos is simply about adding height to a soundtrack, when it should be about filling the room with sound and precisely placing effects in a three-dimensional soundstage. Thankfully, Sonos has taken the addition of Atmos to its line-up seriously. And the Sonos Arc delivers one of the most convincing Atmos presentations of any soundbar we have heard.
It’s not all about bangs and whistles, either. Play the bombing run scene
from Unbroken (one of our go-to Dolby Atmos test scenes) and we’re immediately transported to within the fuselage of the B-24 Liberator. Our listening room is filled with wind noise and the whirr of the bomber’s engines, and the incidental creaks and rattles are placed in specific spots, including right in the top corners of the wall we’re sitting against.
Those incidental details are lovely, but the Arc is dynamically deft too, and it’s this combination of qualities that makes the performance so evocative. Each part of the plane sounds different, and it’s this ability to differentiate subtly that makes the Arc such a hit.
4K disc player: Sony PS5
A next-generation console is the most obvious source for this system, offering
as they do all-round capabilities as streamers, 4K disc players, and of course gaming machines. The Sony PlayStation 5 gets the nod in this system as it marries nicely with the television and is a superb performer – but the Xbox Series X would do sterling service here as well.
The choice of a gaming console comes down to preference and individual choice (and bias) – suffice it to say that there isn’t a wrong answer here.
This set-up is a no-fuss way to get a great cinematic experience in your home, courtesy of a large TV screen with a well-pitched picture performance and, importantly, a mid-range price tag. Partnered with an Award winning, compact way to get immersive Dolby Atmos sound via the one-box Sonos Arc soundbar, and of course a 4K BluRay player as your source, this is affordable home cinema at its best.
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