Review of the Sony HT-8500 Soundbar

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The Sony HT-8500 soundbar is the best value for money

It’s not just you who find the concept of a simplified 3D soundbar ridiculous. Dolby Atmos creates a fully immersive soundstage by using height information. The new Sony HTX8500, however, uses advanced DSP audio processing, which is not the case with its HTZF9 predecessors.

Despite its shortcomings, the $299 (PS350 / AU$599) HTX8500 was a top soundbar in 2019. It deserves to be in the top 2021 soundbars. You can actually find it for a lower price now that it’s a little older. It is a more appealing option.

Design

The HTX8500 audio system can be used as a standalone unit. The HT-X8500 audio system does not come with a separate wireless subwoofer nor additional wireless surround speakers. This soundbar is unique and smart, and can be used anywhere.

Although the subwoofer has been integrated, it is still quite slim. It is a small 89cm in length and can be used with TVs from 49 to 55 inches.

The cosmetic finish is elegant. A cleverly rolled grille protects the front-facing array, while a gunmetal grey trim adds style. The top has touch-sensitive buttons for power, volume and input selection. Bluetooth pairing is also available.

There are two HDMI ports, one for input and the other for output with eARC. In the event that ARC is unavailable, an optical digital audio input can be used. You can use the 4K HDMI board with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, as well as HLG.

Its compact design makes it easy for users to use the HT-X8500. The HT-X8500 does not need a subwoofer, which takes up valuable floor space. Instead we get twin forward facing woofers. Surprisingly, the Dolby Atmos soundbar does not have an up firing driver, and HDMI connectivity is limited.

Features

Sony reduced the number of features to reduce costs. There is no smart Wi-Fi or on-screen menu. Instead, the soundbar communicates with Dolby Atmos and DTSX using LED lights.

The bar can be controlled by the remote control. It is small and finger-shaped. It is tiny, but it has many buttons. There are many sound presets and processing modes that you can choose from.

It’s easy to use. Virtual surround sound effects do not depend on the reflected sound. It can be mounted on a wall or placed in front your TV. It doesn’t require calibration.

Performance

We were blown away by soundbar’s cinematic performances, regardless of any reservations.

The HT-X8500’s impressive performance is due to Sony’s Vertical sound engine. It creates an impressive surround sound illusion with Dolby Audio and DTS:X. Dolby Atmos movies that contain a broad range of audio content can be played with clear senses for greater height and width.

Vertical S can be used to combine 5.1 sound sources with two-channel audio sources.

The bar isn’t perfect. Sony claims the HT-X8500 produces a soundfield similar to Atmos 7.1.2. However, this seems a stretch.

The HT-X8500 doesn’t produce as much overhead sound as a 7.1.4 system, but it creates a soundstage as large as it is wide. The sweet spot is an area designated for listening, and we were seated there so the sounds could be heard from both sides. It is quite chilling to be called Everest (Bluray in Dolby Atmos). When there’s a major storm, the HT-X8500 can release ice projectiles all around.

After they are processed by Sony’s vertical sound processor, there is not much difference between 3D movie mixes and advanced channel codescs such as DTS-HD MA or Dolby TrueHD. This bar was the basis for a powerful DSP technology by Sony.

 

Perhaps the most remarkable subwoofer is the internal. This all-in-one sounds small but it is a beast. Although the rumbles aren’t seismic, they have a persistent 50Hz bass response. Some people might find the forward-facing speakers a bit too loud. Their enthusiasm is difficult to fault.

These soundbars might be of interest to you as well

If you can live without Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam is an option to the HT-8500. Although the Sonos Beam is not as compact or bulky as other Sonos wireless systems, it offers high-performance and low cost. It combines musicality with lively performance.

The Panasonic SC-HTB900 is an American-made system that uses 3.1 technology. It is also available in other countries. The subwoofer can also decode Dolby atmos and DTS:X. It uses sonic processing to compensate for the absence of an upfiring driver. The subwoofer will cost you more, even though it produces great sound with most sources.

Verdict

Sony’s HT-8500 soundbar is a great choice, especially considering the fact that Dolby Atmos compatible soundbars sell for twice as much. Although connectivity and features may reduce costs, what’s really surprising is how great the HT-8500 sound. This is the best home theatre sound system this year.

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