Best of CES 2018: Sony HT-Z9F 3.1 Soundbar with Virtual 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos Surround

Sony HT-Z9F Dolby Atmos Soundbar at CES 2018

It is completely fair to say that before I heard the Sony HT-Z9F soundbar demo at CES 2018, I had prejudged it as unlikely to impress. That is the hazard of judging a book by its cover, or in this case a soundbar by its compact and minimalist appearance. And yet there it was, a 3.1 soundbar system that advertised support for 7.1.2 immersive audio, including Dolby Atmos.

Before taking the demo, I interviewed Sony’s Lascelles Wisdom, who gave a general overview of what this new soundbar can do. And then, I took the demo. Upon hearing what it was capable of—in terms of rendering a virtual immersive sound field—I quickly deemed it an AVS Forum Best of CES 2018 winner.

Lascelles Wisdom from Sony talks about the HT-Z9. Apologies ahead of time, the audio is sub-optimal.

Soundbars these days surely benefit from the fact that audio engineers know exactly where each driver is located and what each driver is capable of doing. It would appear that DSP processing has been refined to the point where virtual soundfields can compete with the reflected sound approach when it comes to creating a believable sense of audio envelopment.

With its HT-Z9F soundbar, Sony appears to have cracked the code and created a simple system that works. Indeed, because it is not dependent on reflecting sound to create height effects, it’s likely the HT-Z9F will offer greater placement flexibility than Atmos-enabled models can offer. Based on what I heard, I can’t wait to get one in for review.