2017 looks to be a big year for Dolby Atmos and 3D immersive audio in general. Atmos is going mainstream thanks to new soundbars that support the popular format that’s capable of rendering a dome of sound around listeners for a truly cinematic experience. One of the best new models I demoed at CES 2017 is the Sony HT-ST5000 (price TBD).
This model relies on a combination of two elevation channels that bounce sound off a ceiling for height effects—it can handle ceilings up to seventeen feet high—and virtual surround to render 7.1.2 total channels. It handles various DTS and Dolby surround formats including DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital, Dolby True HD, PCM audio, and DTS:X will be available in the future with a firmware update.
There are three HDMI inputs plus one HDMI output with ARC (audio return channel) support. All the HDMI ports handle 4K video with HDR. The Sony HT-ST5000 also accepts USB, and and has an optical input.
Twelve total drivers—two full-range upfiring plus seven forward-facing full-range drivers and three supertweeters (mounted concentrically in front of three of the full-rangers) provide the immersive sound. Each driver gets its own amp for a total of 800 watts of power.
The wireless subwoofer sports an active plus passive driver, and although the rep did not know the driver size or power specs, it was substantial for a soundbar sub.
During the presentation, Sony used its UBP-X800 UHD Blu-ray player as the source. The demo room was of modest size and rectangular.
The demo audio was clear and powerful, totally immersive, and absolutely effective at rendering audio above, to the sides, and even behind the listener, despite being a single chassis (no rear channels). Plus, the effect worked great whether I was centered to the screen or standing off to the side. A spaceship fly-over genuinely sounded like it started behind me and went over my head.
A clip from The Magnificent Seven demonstrated how well this system handles effects like flying bullets. It possessed an uncanny ability to place sounds all around the room. This is proper 3D immersive audio from a very simple, attractive device. Plus the bass had plenty of impact; the subwoofer is not an afterthought here, it’s quite capable.
The HT-ST5000 has its own GUI that lets you adjust settings including ceiling height, channel levels, and more. Also, it handles Google Cast content thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity.
Bravo to Sony for putting together an immersive soundbar that is simple, effective, and even wall-mountable.