Unlike their predecessors, the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles run on the cutting edge of today’s AV technology. The 4K at 120Hz and the variable refresh rate features they support between them (although we’re still waiting for VRR to go live on the PS5) goes beyond what many secondary AV equipment does. – including televisions – are able to do. Fortunately, however, some AV brands are starting to catch up. Including, finally, some manufacturers of sound bars.
Two brands recently unveiled new all-in-one soundbars equipped with high-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports capable of supporting all of the latest gaming features – as well as 8K video at 60Hz refresh rates though. Xbox Series X and PS5 are now starting to deliver rather aging 8K promises to them. (Or if other 8K external sources appear one day.)
The American brand Klipsch was the first to come out of the traps, with two PS5 and Xbox Series X compatible soundbars: The Cinema 1200 and Cinema 800.
The first of these is a 54-inch soundbar system that comes with a meaty 12-inch wireless subwoofer and Dolby Atmos certified wireless rear speakers, and pumps out 1200W of audio power over 5.1. 4 “real” (rather than virtual) channels of sound.
The Model 800 is a 48-inch soundbar that comes with a 10-inch wireless subwoofer, but loses the wireless rears. The system outputs 800W of sound on a 3.1 channel configuration in its default state, but can decode 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundtracks. You can also choose to add two Klipsch wireless rear speakers to create a 5.1 system.
These two PS5 / Xbox Series X compatible Klipsch soundbars also support Dolby Vision HDR pass-through, have two HDMIs for external sources, can be added to Alexa, Google Assistant and Spotify Connect smart home systems, and support eARC, enabling lossless reception of Dolby Atmos / DTS: X from eARC compatible TVs via the HDMI output.
Klipsch confirmed to me that none of its new soundbars equipped with HDMI 2.1 are affected by the dreaded HDMI “bug” which prevented some of the first HDMI 2.1 compatible AV receivers from being able to switch to 4K at 120 Hz from the Xbox Series X..
Both of these Klipsch soundbars will be available from August, with the Cinema 1200 priced at $ 1,699 / £ 1,449 / € 1,499, while the Cinema 800 is expected to be available for $ 879 / £ 899. / 999 €.
The other new soundbar offering compatibility via HDMI pass through with the latest PS5 and Xbox Series X graphics capabilities comes from a brand that has skin in console gaming: Sony.
The Japanese brand’s new HT-A7000 comes standard as a single soundbar equipped with 7.1.2 channels. These are two ascending speakers, two beam tweeters, five front speakers (for a wider surround effect) and a dual subwoofer. You can also add optional subwoofer and rear speakers if desired.
Two subwoofer options are available: the SA-SW5, which delivers 300W of low frequency sound from a 180mm driver / passive radiator assembly, or the SA-SW3, which delivers 200W from a system 160mm bass reflex. The optional rear speakers are the SA-RS3Ses, which can be wall mounted and add a total of 100W more to the soundbar system output.
If you don’t add additional speakers, the A7000 system can use Sony’s Virtual Surround Engine processor to support Dolby Atmos and DTS: X object-based sound, as well as the 360 music system. Sony Reality Audio (which is now available on Amazon Music HD, Deezer, nugs.net, and Tidal).
The soundbar’s omnidirectional block concept also finds room for built-in mics that it can use to optimize its output to suit your room layout, while Acoustic Center Sync technology allows the soundbar and Sony televisions joining forces to function as a center channel in a larger home theater audio system.
The A7000 also lets you enjoy an integrated user interface experience when connected to a recent Sony Bravia TV, can stream using Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Apple Airplay 2, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi , and supports voice control through devices compatible with Google Assistant with Chromecast built-in or devices compatible with Amazon Alexa.
It must be said that Sony’s information to date on the A7000 does not explicitly mention support for variable refresh rate. Perhaps this is not surprising given that Sony still hasn’t added a VRR to the PS5 or any of its Bravia TVs. If VRR support is not already available on the A9 system, it could very well happen, given that we are still waiting for the promised VRR support to appear on other Sony AV devices.
The HT-A7000 will be available soon for $ 1,299.99 / £ 1,200 / € 1,300.
Joining the A7000 to support 4K / 120Hz and 8K HDR (and Dolby Vision HDR) passthrough (VRR is not explicitly listed) is Sony’s unusual HT-A9 audio system. This does not follow the typical soundbar model, but includes a compact control / connections unit and four separate identical speakers designed to be placed in all four corners of your room.
Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound System uses a combination of sophisticated room monitoring and audio processing to deliver up to 12 ‘phantom’ speakers from the four real speakers to create what Sony claims to be not only The widest sound field ever provided, but a full 360-degree immersive soundstage.
This kind of full surround effect is of course crucial for getting the most out of the Dolby Atmos and DTS: X object-based sound systems that the A9 supports as well as, again, the new 360 music format. Sony’s Reality Audio in mind.
The A9’s speakers use X-Balanced speakers that deploy a unique rectangular shape to maximize the diaphragm area, resulting in richer bass, better sustained sound pressure, and improved vocal clarity.
Inside the distinctive shape of the A9 speakers are also wide directivity woofers that optimize the bass they can produce from their relatively shallow concave shape, and capable 19mm soft dome tweeters. to produce high crystalline frequencies. Additionally, crucially, there are speakers that mirror sound from the ceiling for overhead effects.
As with the A7000 soundbar, you can add one of the SA-SW5 or SA-SW3 subwoofers to the optional A9 pack.
The A9 joins the A7000 soundbar by supporting Dolby Vision via its HDMI loop; playback of high resolution audio formats; an integrated user interface experience when connected to a recent Sony Bravia TV; and voice control via devices compatible with Google Assistance or Amazon Alexa.
The Sony HT-A9 will be available from September in the UK and Europe, and October in the US. The price should be $ 1,800 / £ 1,600 / € 1,800.
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