My experience with the Sony HT-Z9F soundbar - first, I used to be really into AV equipment, Wasn't rich but tried to get best for my money, and spent a lot of time at the local higher end AV stores with my demo CDs. Mainly Denon and Nakamichi gear, with Def Tech front three speakers, sub, and def tech rear towers for surround. As life has moved on, the equipment went to my adult son as we moved, so now I'm looking for a good soundbar at a good price. I picked up a Sony HT-Z9F with $200 off at Best Buy when I purchased my Sony 65" 950G TV. I've been in analysis paralysis reading the forums here; every time I'd pick something, I'd read threads that would talk me out of it, Finally I said the hell with it and got the HT-Z9F.
After listening to it for a couple of weeks, I just returned it yesterday. There were a couple of minor issues: one, I had the cable box plugged into HDMI 1 on the soundbar to try to address some lip sync problems (issue #2
) I got when I plugged the cable box into the TV itself. My preference is to plug everything into the TV and the TV into the soundbar. That still didn't fix the lip sync issue 100% (nor did the adjustments on the soundbar) but it also meant that whenever I would switch from another HDMI (such as the PS4 in HDMI 3) back to HDMI on the TV, to get back to the cable TV, instead of showing the channel it was on, it gave me the Sony soundbar homescreen, which meant I then had to access the soundbar control to select HDMI 1 and hit OK to get back to the cable TV.
But the main reason for the return was the sound. I'm temporarily in an apartment so the room is not huge, (not tiny either.) The sound was better than the TV speakers, no doubt. And I could tell a difference when I turned on Vertical Sound, the sound was a bit less "focused" on the bar. Bur it really wasn't three dimensional at all. Note, this is buying the extra rear speakers. It was just like sound coming out of better speakers than the TV speakers. I tried a lot of sources and movies, TV, etc. but I never got the feeling the sound was coming from anywhere but those three speakers in the bar. I certainly never got any illusion of sound being overhead.
Again the sound was good for what it was, but honestly I didn't hear a ton different from the old Sony HT-CT500 soundbar I have from maybe 8 years ago. For comparison: while it doesn't have ATMOS the Bose soundbars I listened to had a more "spatial" sound than this one.
Perhaps you just really need the rear speakers for the "illusion" features of the Z9F to work, but for me I'm back to looking/listening again.