Soundbars aren’t satisfied with being just soundbars anymore. They now offer all manner of wireless 5.1 setups, hi-res music playback, multi-room capabilities and streaming options. Sometimes going back to basics might not be such a bad thing.
The Sony HT-NT5 sits at the top of Sony’s soundbar line up for 2016. It boasts a stylish design, with a slim profile that allows it to be laid flat under your TV or wall mounted depending on your setup.
It will automatically know which way it has been positioned and adjust its EQ to suit – just be aware that it’s quite deep so you’ll need a fair bit of space in front of your telly.
The HT-NT5 is made up of two parts: the three-way, two-channel soundbar and its accompanying wireless subwoofer.
The soundbar itself features two clusters of drivers at either edge, each comprising a single mid/bass unit angled diagonally upwards and two tweeters – one sitting under the grille and one along the bar’s bottom edge.
All six drivers are powered by their own proprietary S-Master HX amplifier.
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On the back you’ll find a healthy number of connections, with an ARC-enabled HDMI output, three HDMI ins (all HDCP 2.2 compliant), one each of analogue audio and optical digital, and a USB port on the side.
There’s also an ethernet connection and dual-band wi-fi, plus Bluetooth as well.
Getting set up is pretty straightforward as the sub is as plug and play as it gets.
It automatically links itself to the soundbar when you switch it on (shown by a solid green light) and there are no crossover or phase controls to mess with – you’re just left to decide on positioning and volume.
Sony offers the option to add in wireless surrounds for a more enveloping sound, which can be done via the soundbar’s easy-to-use homepage.
This is also where you go to change settings or select a source, including the likes of Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and home network devices, alongside the physical connections.
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It supports music up to 24-bit/192kHz, plus Sony’s SongPal app for iOS and Android allows you to connect the HT-NT5 to other Sony kit in your house to create a quick and easy multi-room setup.
We put on Captain America: The Winter Soldier and skip to the stand-off between the Winter Soldier and the Avengers to see how the HT-NT5 deals with some action.
It’s a big soundstage with plenty of scale, so you can really push the volume to neighbour-bothering levels without an issue.
It’s a fast, agile sound too. As cars collide and metal crunches, there’s a satisfying zing to the treble that stays on the right side of bright without sounding hard – something Sony’s soundbars haven’t always managed before.
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This crisp high-end helps create an upfront sound, supported by a clean, open midrange that ensures dialogue is clear and projected, even in the busiest of scenes.
It’s not always the most expressive though. We’d like to be able to hear more detail both in a character’s voice and the movie soundtrack.
The sound might be fast and organised but it needs a better grip on dynamics to deliver what we crave in the way of drama or suspense.
This is particularly the case in busy scenes with a lot going on – the HT-NT5 finds it difficult to separate noises and effects, becoming congested and lacking space.
With less to worry about, the HT-NT5 can concentrate on fewer things, which helps with detail levels and dynamics.
But unfortunately, the sub is the weak link, proving too soft-handed to create any impact. Explosions and gunshots sound bigger than through your TV, but they lack the punch a soundbar at this level should have.
It’s a similar story with music. The bass makes itself heard, but it’s poorly integrated and feels disjointed from the rest of the mix.
Vocals are clear and focused, but lack the subtler details we need to really connect with the music.
The HT-NT5 is a slender, well-designed and well-specced soundbar that appears to be a tempting proposition, even with its £600 price tag.
However, despite its ability to make things louder, wider and more focused, we’re not getting much more detail than from our television speakers – and that’s not good enough at this price.
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