A Dolby Atmos soundbar can be a great compromise if you can't afford, or don't have the means to accommodate, an Atmos-compatible AV receiver and surround sound speaker package. The best ones allow you to experience the immersive Dolby Atmos audio format effectively through a single bar (or bar and subwoofer), second best to a full-blown setup but much more practical.
You've got your top-ranging Sonos Arcs and your Sennheiser Ambeos – but they are pretty mega money. Perhaps more than you'd ever spend on a TV, in fact. Thankfully, though, a decent Dolby Atmos soundbar experience is within reach, courtesy of a handful of models designed to offer a convincing surround effect for much less outlay.
The Sony HT-G700 soundbar and subwoofer package is one of them, and thanks to its current £200 saving in the UK and $202 saving in the US, it is our pick of the bunch for those who are looking to take one home this weekend. (Just don't wait too long as stock is low.)
While the US saving has been knocking around for a while and is unlikely to shift until the 2020-released soundbar reaches the end of its life, the UK price is a further £50 down on the best price we have previously spotted it at (at the end of 2022).
UK: Sony HT-G700 Dolby Atmos soundbar:
£449 £249 at Amazon
The Sony HT-G700 is big on sound and on value – for cinematic scale and weight, there are few better Dolby Atmos soundbars at this level. With a £200 saving over its original RRP, it's excellent value.
US: Sony HT-G700 Dolby Atmos soundbar:
$600 $398 at Amazon
When we reviewed the HT-G700, we appreciated its punchy sound, great Atmos support, and impressive build quality. And that was when it cost $600. Now just under $400, this is not just a great soundbar but an excellent deal. Also at Walmart
How good really is this soundbar deal?
Considering the Sony's deal price is now between 34 and 44 per cent less than the original RRP in the two territories, the extent of its discount cannot be argued with. It makes it the best budget Dolby Atmos soundbar for value, not least as there aren't many available at this low price.
In our Sony HT-G700 review, we praised its "impressively cinematic performance", which it delivered by being big and weighty and able to reach bassy depths that subwoofer-less rivals cannot. "The way the sound fills the room is impressive... and the HT-G700 does a surprisingly effective job of simulating a Dolby Atmos soundscape," we noted.
The Atmos effect is good within the contextual confines of an Atmos soundbar, communicating a spaciousness and sense of height that non-Atmos models cannot, though you shouldn't expect ceiling-high sounds or sounds whizzing behind you from anything less than a full Atmos speaker package set-up. The HT-G700 isn't magic, though it is clever...
It uses Sony’s own Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround processing technologies to simulate an Atmos effect, but crucially these aren’t reliant on bouncing sound off the walls, theoretically making their effectiveness less dependent on room size and shape. So if your TV (and therefore soundbar placement) is more out in the open than most, this shouldn't detrimentally impact Sony's processing wizardry.
This is a soundbar clearly designed to impress on movie nights due to its scale and heft, even if we think its delivery of voices could be clearer and crisper. This slight caveat was the reason the HT-G700 came away with a four-star as opposed to a five-star rating when tested in the context of its then-£399/$598 price, but if you can live with the fact that other soundbars are a bit more forward when it comes to vocal delivery, the trade-off is a) a fuller-sounding soundbar than most – if not all – at this level, and b) a considerably cheaper cost.
To quote our review once more, "if you’re after big, meaty explosions and room-filling Atmos scale, the Sony is the soundbar to buy".
What else does it do?
These days, soundbars are more media-savvy than they used to be, with many packing streaming smarts such as AirPlay, Chromecast and voice control. The Sony is not one of these multi-tasking streaming machines, though there is Bluetooth onboard, allowing it to receive and playback music wirelessly from a phone or tablet.
Its impressive features all relate to it being a dedicated bit of home cinema kit. Firstly, it's the 'plonk down and play' kind, with set-up being a breeze due to the soundbar and wireless subwoofer establishing a connection automatically on power up.
Getting sound into the HT-G700 is simple too. 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.
Its dedicated HDMI input is fully compatible with Dolby Atmos (in both the Dolby Digital Plus and True HD formats) and DTS:X, too, and the soundbar will also pass through 4K HDR signals (including Dolby Vision) to the TV.
Thanks to HDMI-CEC, 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.
Would we recommend the HT-G700 as heartily today if it weren't as heavily discounted? Perhaps not, because it would then sit shoulder level with the Sonos Beam Gen 2, our favourite budget Dolby Atmos soundbar and the only alternative we have come across at roughly this level. If you can stretch to the Beam's current discounted price of £425 at Peter Tyson in the UK or $476 at Walmart in the US, it might well be the better bar for you. The Beam Gen 2 is, after all, a What Hi-Fi? Award winner.
The Beam Gen 2 – also a great deliverer of Dolby Atmos audio – has that crisper, clearer midrange that the Sony falls a little short of, as well as the added bonus of built-in streaming services and support for multi-room and voice control that come with being a Sonos product. That said, it is a single, compact soundbar with no subwoofer, so its 'cinematic' heft and bass are, unsurprisingly, comparatively limited.
Which one would best suit you depends on your priorities, though your budget might well have you siding with the Sony. And once you've given it the reigns with your favourite blockbuster, you won't be sorry you did.
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