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Top New Sony Soundbar Affirms Decline of the A/V Receiver

Sony HT-ST9 soundbar includes a clean onscreen interface.

Sony HT-ST9 soundbar includes a clean onscreen interface.

Sony today (Apr. 20) announced a fleet of four new soundbars and two A/V receivers aimed especially at pumping up 4K TV viewing, when they go on sale in May and July. Each has multiple HDMI inputs; both receivers and three of the four soundbars support at least one input with the HDCP copyright-protection standard that's needed to play most 4K content.

Based on specs such as 10 HDMI inputs and up to 165 watts for each of seven audio channels, Sony's new $500 and $600 receivers should be sonic powerhouses. But the quality I heard from the HT-STN, a $1,500, 7.1-channel soundbar made a strong case for ditching the A/V box and roomful of speakers.

MORE: Best Soundbars

With seven amps and nine speakers, the HT-ST9 is meant for the audio purists who wouldn't have been able to utter the word "soundbar" in the past. "High-end users are moving from receivers to soundbars," Aaron Levine of Sony's
home audio
division told me. Although he added that the receiver business is "not declining as much as might be expected."

Levine obviously chose carefully the material he used to show off the HT-ST9 soundbar in a sneak peek (or listen) last week — and it worked. I was sucked into a clip from the Brad Pitt WWII action flick, Fury — even though it wasn't a terribly interesting battle scene. Though the HT-ST9 includes a hefty wireless subwoofer, it didn't deliver the overpowering thump that subs often do. Instead I heard voices and the clanking of the gear on the tanks in high detail. 

The soundbar also impressed me with a high-res recording of an Eric Clapton-B.B. King guitar duet of the song Come Rain or Shine. I heard the strings clearly resonating and the slight scratchiness at the base of Clapton's voice. Speaking of scratch, $1,500 certainly is plenty; however a soundbar replaces not only the receiver but seven satellite speakers.

Other niceties on most of the gear include Bluetooth, both for sending audio to the receiver and for beaming audio to Bluetooth headphones for quiet listening. Most devices feature Google cast, for sending audio wirelessly from an Android or iOS phone or tablet or from a PC or Mac. 

Here are the key features and prices for all the new devices:

Soundbars

HT-ST9: wireless subwoofer, 800 watts, 7.1-channel surround sound, three HDMI inputs, HDCP 2.2, available July, $1,500. 

HT-NT3: wireless subwoofer, 450 watts, 2.1-channel stereo sound, three HDMI inputs, HDCP 2.2, available July, $700.

HT-CT780: wireless subwoofer, 330 watts. 2.1-channel stereo, three HDMI inputs, HDCP 2.2, available May, $450. 

HT-CT380: wireless subwoofer, 300 watts, 2.1-channel stereo, three HDMI inputs, available May, $350.

Receivers

STR-DN1060: 7.2-channels, 165 watts per channel, 10 high-definition inputs, HDCP 2.2, available May, $600.

STR-DN860: 7.2-channels, 150 watts per channel, 10 high-definition inputs, one with HDCP 2.2, available May, $500.

Follow senior editor Sean Captain @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide and on Facebook.

  • ubercake
    Before owning my Bose Companion 5 PC speakers, I didn't believe you could get good surround sound from speakers only in front of you. The Companion 5 offers 7.1 surround in a two-speaker and subwoofer physical configuration.

    These soundbars use a lot of advanced sound tech like this to make you think sounds are coming from all directions and you don't have to run speaker wires through your walls.
    Reply
  • jakjawagon
    Why would they make only one input HDCP 2.2 compatible?
    Reply
  • reactive
    Of course the receiver market is "not declining as much as might be expected."!

    I have my Yamaha AV amp connected to a pair of Q-Acoustics Q2050i speakers and a Tannoy subwoofer. A soundbar simply cannot create a genuine (as recorded) soundstage and smooth frequency response of a properly positioned stereo speaker setup. What's more, you're not going to get anyone with an interest in music using a soundbar to play their music - proper stereo speakers and a potent AV amp (that serve for both audio and TV use) provides the best possible solution.

    Soundbars remain a necessarily compact solution for flat TV's that can never accommodate the correctly sized cavities for proper loudspeaker sound reproduction, and/or for rooms that cannot accommodate proper loudspeakers.
    Reply
  • weaz1
    Location location location! I don't believe it one little bit. You can trick the brain but you can not change the way set sound devices deploy to the ear. Will be very well received if they somehow can tho. Dam them pesky wires!!
    Reply
  • Shawn Robak
    Sorry Tom's Guide - but your assertion that this or any soundbar poses any risk to the AVR market is severely off the mark. There is no soundbar - up to and including the Sony and beyond - that will EVER compete with even a mediocre AVR and component system.
    Reply