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Sony bucks inexpensive soundbar trend with $1,299 HT-ST7

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Sony soundbar resized
Sony soundbar resized

Manufacturers like Vizio, LG, and Sonos are aiming for the average consumer with their respective home theater soundbars, and for good reason: the market is taking off. Sales of space-saving soundbars are rapidly outpacing traditional "home theater in a box" solutions. And now Sony is offering up its latest take on what a soundbar should be, but the company is taking a decidedly different, pricier path. Under the belief that consumers appreciate and will pay for top-notch audio quality — even in a soundbar form factor — Sony is today introducing the HT-ST7, a $1,299 unit that it says has been designed with equal focus on music playback and movie immersion.

Designed for optimal music and movie performance

For the former, Sony has included NFC pairing to make playback from an Android phone effortless. (iOS users don't need to work much harder, but a visit to the usual Bluetooth setup menu is required.) Housed within the HT-ST7's aluminum casing are nine speaker drivers along with seven discrete amplifiers. Sony's soundbar supports a full range of Dolby and DTS audio codecs, and designers called in sound engineer Paul Ottoson, whose work includes Zero Dark Thirty and Spiderman 2, to help "fine tune" the sound output. Further, the company is touting its reputation for delivering unrivaled hardware, claiming that "every electrical and mechanical component" has been hand picked and sound tested with its product engineers. Even still, a soundbar itself can only do so much, so Sony also includes a wireless subwoofer in the package to handle the lower frequencies.

You'd hope a $1,299 home theater component would deliver some ear pleasing results, and the HT-ST7 impressed in our demonstration at Sony's New York headquarters. Granted, we saw the product sampled under tightly controlled, ideal conditions, but Blu-rays of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City and Spider-man 3 both delivered punchy audio with an impressive soundstage. Like all soundbars, this is no replacement for a genuine 5.1 or 7.1 system — particularly when it comes to surround sound — but Sony's latest ranks as among the best we've heard in the category. Is it worth the near-double premium over the Sonos Playbar? That may be a harder sell, but you can compare and contrast the two beginning now: the ST-T7 is available at the Sony Store and various retailers nationwide.

Update: As some of you have astutely pointed out, whereas Sony includes a wireless subwoofer in this package, you'll need to cough up $699 alongside the Sonos Playbar to get a similar setup — essentially leading to price parity between the two.