The feature list for Sony's flagship 2.1 soundbar is so long, it's almost ludicrous. Packed with 4K, HDMI, Bluetooth, Google Cast, high-resolution digital audio and more, there's very little this sleek-looking soundbar can't do. But are those features worth its steep $800 price?
The HT-NT5's eye-catching main soundbar includes two tweeters and a woofer on the left and right sides of the unit. It's designed to lie flat or be mounted on a wall, and at 42.5 x 5 x 2.3 inches, it doesn't have a large footprint. It easily slid beneath the slim clearance under my TV. The main soundbar pairs with a 15.2 x 15 x 7.5-inch wireless subwoofer to deliver bass and low-frequency effects.
There's no shortage of ways to connect to the HT-NT5. The unit includes one HDMI output and three HDMI inputs, all easy to access, as well as an optical digital audio cable if you prefer the video connections to go through the TV directly. It also has an analog 3.5 mm input.
Although the HT-NT5 includes Wi-Fi, it also allows for a wired network connection, which could be important if you're taking advantage of the 4K video pass-through or high-resolution audio — a wired connection will handle the large files better.
In addition to Wi-Fi, you can connect wirelessly via Google Cast — both video and audio — and audio via Bluetooth. The unit also supports Sony's SongPal Link for multiroom audio when used with other Sony speakers that employ the technology.
A rarity in soundbars, the HT-NT5 can play 96 kHz/24-bit digital audio files, which contain more data than you'll get from a CD-quality track. Compared to an MP3, there's no doubt you can hear a difference — the acoustic bass and saxophones on Charles Mingus' version of "Mood Indigo" had far more detail, as did the deep bass on St. Vincent's "Huey Newton" — but if you're a true audiophile, it's unlikely you'd choose to listen to high-resolution files through a soundbar. That would be like watching 4K video on a 720p monitor.
The HT-NT5 has a big and loud sound, spreading audio throughout the room to help create the illusion of a much larger speaker system.
When Rey and Finn fly the Millennium Falcon to elude TIE Fighters in The Force Awakens, the laser blasts sounded sharp and the subwoofer rumbled deeply to emphasize explosions. During the chase scene near the beginning of Deadpool, gunshots were crisp, but the subwoofer lacked detail — the floor vibrated but I couldn't make out the tires-on-the-road detail I'd expect from an expensive home theater system.
The soundbar helped make voices easy to hear, whether it was Winona Ryder's fearful whispers in Stranger Things or DJ Books' rap over Shaolin Fantistic's beats in The Get Down. However, I found the vocals to be tinny compared with the resonance that the Sonos Playbar produced — the Sony soundbar lacks the solid midrange frequencies that makes the Playbar one of the best all-around soundbars.
The HT-NT5 is positioned to be a music machine, too, and it delivered crisp treble and deep bass on Beck's eclectic "Wow." The tweeters produced the picked guitar on Big Star's "Thirteen" with detail and crispness, but the harmonies on that song and the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" again suffered from a lack of midrange.
The HT-NT5 has plenty of power to fill your living room. Rated at 400 watts, I measured it at 93 decibels at 5 feet from the speaker at max volume. In real-life use, I found that it was plenty loud at just about 50 percent volume.
The HT-NT5 connects to your TV by HDMI or optical digital audio. If you use HDMI, you can take advantage of the on-screen display to help with set up, such as connecting to a wireless network. I connected via HDMI and set up on the wireless network within 15 minutes.
The soundbar includes several preset sound modes, including Movie, Music and ClearAudio+, which boosts the dialogue. I found that ClearAudio+ neutralized the subwoofer and shortened the soundfield, so I used Movies for video content. You can also manually adjust the subwoofer volume through the remote. It lacks some of the advanced features you'll find on a traditional audio-video receiver, like autocalibration or setting the speaker distance from your listening position.
The HT-NT5 can't be beat when it comes to features alone — it rivals many stand-alone audio-video receivers. From 4K to high-resolution audio, it embraces the latest video and audio formats and makes it simple to use them. It sounds pretty good, too, with crisp treble and deep bass, though it's weak in midrange frequencies that are needed for full sound.
Most people opt for a soundbar as an easy and affordable way to improve sound from their television. The HT-NT5 is easy to use, for sure, but at $800, you can get improved audio for much less. Sony's own CT-790 is half the price at $400, while Vizio's newest soundbars top out at $500 for a 5.1 system, though the Vizio doesn't support 4K video. If you've got your heart set on a soundbar and need 4K and high-resolution audio, the HT-NT5 is an excellent choice; if you don't need those things, you can save yourself a few hundred dollars by choosing a less advanced unit.