Hands on: Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 review

First impressions of Sony’s new flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar Tested at £1399 / $1400 / AU$1799

What is a hands on review?
The Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 soundbar photographed in front of the Bravia 9 TV
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

While our early listening session has left us with some concerns over the Bar 9’s punch and impact, for spaciousness and Atmos-ness it appears to be a step up from the HT-A7000. Here’s hoping for a more all-round performance when we get a final sample into our test rooms for a full review.


  • +

    Fabulously enveloping, three-dimensional delivery

  • +

    HDMI passthrough with 4K/120Hz support

  • +

    Subtle and thoughtful design


  • -

    Sound lacked punch during the demo

  • -

    Just one HDMI input

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

2024 is a big year for Sony. The brand is (rather controversially) betting big on Mini LED with its next-gen backlight, which features (rather than OLED) in its new flagship TV, and it is also unifying its TV and soundbar ranges under the rejuvenated ‘Bravia’ moniker.

So, that flagship Bravia 9 TV is mirrored on the soundbar side by the flagship Bravia Theatre Bar 9, which also has the unenviable task of replacing the multi-Award-winning HT-A7000.

I was lucky enough to be invited to listen to the new soundbars (and view the new TVs) at Sony’s launch event in March. It’s worth stating right away that the large, open room might not have been ideal for the Bar 9. That’s just one reason – along with the brevity of, and lack of control over, the demo – that we never draw final conclusions about a product's abilities from a hands-on session. That might be good news for Sony, because while the Bar 9 sounded very good in some ways, it sounded surprisingly deficient in others.


The launch price of the Bravia Theatre Bar 9 is £1399 / $1400 / AU$1799. That’s a not-insignificant increase on the launch price of the HT-A7000, which was £1199 / $1300 / AU$1699, but that did come out way back in 2021.

It’s against the HT-A7000 that the Bravia Bar 9 will be most enthusiastically judged – it’s still the best performance-per-pound soundbar you can buy and it’s now available with some pretty big discounts.

There’s no end of non-Sony rivals to contend with as well, of course, most notably the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus and Samsung’s Q990C, the latter of which is a complete system in a box and has just been replaced by the Q990D (review incoming).

The Sonos Arc, meanwhile, is significantly cheaper than the Theatre Bar 9 but looms over the Dolby Atmos soundbar category, and the long-rumoured Sonos Arc 2 must surely make an appearance before the year is out.


The Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 and HT-A7000 soundbars photographed next to each other on a table

(Image credit: Future)

Soundbar aesthetics are hard to get right and very much open to interpretation, but to these eyes, the Bravia Theatre Bar 9 is much more visually appealing than the HT-A7000. I personally never particularly liked the A7000’s mix of materials or glass top panel, and I think it now looks a bit old-fashioned. The rounded front corners and fabric cover, which shrouds 90 per cent of the bar’s visible surfaces, make the Bar 9 look much softer and more discreet.

In terms of dimensions, the Bar 9 is exactly the same width as the HT-A7000 (130cm), but it’s also less tall (at 6.4cm) and deep (11cm), making it seem more svelte and also more likely to sit in front of your TV without blocking the bottom of its screen. ‘Spacers’ (essentially foot extensions) are also included in the box so that the ‘bar can be raised slightly to straddle a TV stand. Inevitably, this is designed specifically with the new Bravia 9, Bravia 8 and Bravia 7 TVs in mind, though one presumes this will also be handy for owners of some other TVs.


The Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 soundbar's drivers arranged on a table

(Image credit: Future)

Under the fabric cover are 13 individual drivers (up from 11 on the HT-A7000) and quad passive radiators. Along the front are four woofers, three standard tweeters and two beam tweeters; on each end is a side speaker; and on the top are two up-firing speakers and those passive radiators.

The up-firing drivers and beam tweeters are the same as those found in the HT-A7000, but all of the other speakers (and the passive radiators) are new. Of particular note are the four front-firing woofers, which are 1.7 times larger than those of the HT-A7000 and are designed to boost bass and midrange.

This array is designed, as expected, to create a sort of bubble of sound in your room using Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping, which creates phantom speakers in places where physical speakers don’t exist. You can, though, add more physical speakers if you wish, with the Bar 9 supporting the existing SA-RS5 and SA-R3S wireless surrounds and SA-SW5 and SA-SW3 wireless subwoofers.

Sony says that its Sound Field Optimisation has been improved this year and can better account for the individual characteristics of a room. The optimisation can be completed within the new Bravia Connect app in around 30 seconds, at which point the sound will be tuned to match Sony’s reference listening rooms in Tokyo as closely as possible. As an aside, this new Bravia Connect app can control all aspects of the Bar 9’s performance, as well as that of a new Bravia TV. On that note, controls for the soundbar will also appear in the menus of a connected Bravia TV.

As you would hope, the Bravia Theatre Bar 9 can handle both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D sound formats, and support for IMAX Enhanced is coming post-launch via a software update. Sony’s Acoustic Centre Sync makes a return with the Bar 9, so that owners of certain Bravia TVs can use the TV as the centre channel of the surround system created by the soundbar.

One final upgrade worth mentioning is the new dual antenna system, which will constantly scan for free wi-fi channels and automatically switch if necessary to avoid any audio dropouts. As a user of the HT-A9, which does suffer from very occasional and minor dropouts, I feel like this is a great move.

While in most ways the Bar 9 is an upgrade on the HT-A7000, there is one disappointing downgrade: the number of HDMI inputs has been reduced from two to one. While it seems likely that the majority of Bar 9 owners will simply connect their TV to the soundbar using eARC and leave it at that, there are those who always need more HDMI inputs. The Bar 9 does at least have one of those, which is more than can be said for rivals such as the Sonos Arc, and it supports 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM.


Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 soundbar sitting across one of the Bravia 9 TV's feet

(Image credit: Future)

Before I get to how the Bar 9 sounded during the demo session, it’s worth going into the specifics of the set-up, as that will help explain why we’re a long way from being able to pass final judgement on the performance.

For starters, the Bar 9 was demoed with the optional SA-SW5 subwoofer and SA-RS5 speakers. That will make a big difference to the listening experience. Meanwhile, the room was really long and open, much more so than a regular living room. The Sony team did tell us that the 360 Spatial Sound Mapping room optimisation had been done and didn’t express any concerns regarding the Bar 9’s sound in the demo space but I think it’s fair to say that how the system sounded in this environment is not necessarily how it will sound at home. Finally, as is typical of listening demos such as this, it was brief and we had no control over set-up or the demo clips, of which there were just two.

With those caveats out of the way, on to the listening session. First up was the scene in Venom in which the titular lifeform first reveals itself to its host, Eddie. The first thing that struck me was the enveloping nature of the soundfield. Even more so than the HT-A7000, which I have heard with the same sub and surrounds, I felt as though I was sitting in a seamless bubble of sound, transported to the dingy back alley behind Eddie’s apartment. As a swarm of drones entered the scene, I could audibly pinpoint each one in the bubble and hear it whizz clearly through three dimensions.

The Sony staff leading the demo had already flagged how pleased they are with the way the Bar 9 recreates the alien voice of Venom, and it’s true that tonally he sounded spot on, with a deep, weighty fullness. However, I felt that his lines lacked punch and impact. Tonally, it was there, but it was lacking solidity and heft. This was true with other large effects during the scene, too, such as the many explosions and car crashes. The leading edges of those effects felt rounded off, robbing them of the audio hit they should provide. I found the whole scene to be a bit dynamically flat, too, resulting in a slight lack of overall excitement.

The second clip was from Gran Turismo and was designed primarily to show off the Theatre Bar 9’s new ‘hi-res’ tweeters. This demo certainly highlighted the detail offered by the bar, with subtle sounds such as the cable of a pair of headphones running across a character's hand and velcro straps being unfastened coming across clearly.

This clip also included a pumping soundtrack and the Bar 9 did a good job conveying the weight and depth of the bass, making for a very full-bodied overall delivery, but I once again felt that punch and impact were missing thanks to a slight softness to the bass and midrange. Again, though, the spaciousness and immersion offered by the system were superb, resulting in an excellent sense of atmosphere.

Early verdict

The Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 soundbar photographed in front of the Bravia 9 TV

(Image credit: Future)

And with that, the listening session was over and I was left with very conflicted feelings. On the one hand, for delivering the immersion of 3D audio, fine detail and tonal accuracy, the Bravia Theatre Bar 9 really delivered the goods, but a lack of punch and dynamics meant that the expected thrills were missing.

There are many possible reasons for this. The unusual room could have done it, and while you’d expect Sony staff to get set-up spot-on, there’s always a chance that something had been switched on or off by mistake. Volume could have played a part, too, as the system was running quieter than I would have run it myself.

Sony’s recent soundbar track record is so good that it’s hard to imagine the brand getting its new flagship significantly wrong, so I’m hopeful that when we get the Bravia Theatre Bar 9 into our own testing rooms for a full, comparative review, it will manifest the excellent qualities I heard during the demo and not the flaws. For now, though, the jury’s out on whether the Bar 9 will be heading to the top of our best soundbars page.


Read our hands-on with the matching Sony Bravia 9 TV

Here's our comparison of the Bravia Theatre Bar 9 and HT-A7000

And these are the best Dolby Atmos soundbars you can buy right now

Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons has been writing about TV, AV and hi-fi products (not to mention plenty of other 'gadgets' and even cars) for over 15 years. He began his career as What Hi-Fi?'s Staff Writer and is now the TV and AV Editor. In between, he worked as Reviews Editor and then Deputy Editor at Stuff, and over the years has had his work featured in publications such as T3, The Telegraph and Louder. He's also appeared on BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and Sky Swipe. In his spare time Tom is a runner and gamer.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.

  • BanquoStarbon
    I’m not convinced by the look of the bar 9, it’s too generic for my taste. I get people might not like the look of the a7000 but it did stand out from the crowd. Put the bar 9 and a7000 next to the beosound stage, devialet dione, ambeo etc and it’s the bar 9 that looks the most cheap and tacky in that line up.
  • t5k
    As Sony Bravia Theatre Bar 9 is now available at some shops, I become very impatient to read the full What HiFi review. Please tell me article is almost completed and would be pushished shortly? :)