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Sony HT-A9 Home Theatre System review: Amazing wireless surround

Sony HT-A9 Home Theatre System review: Amazing wireless surround

Sony HT-A9

I have always wanted a home theatre system, but the thought of wiring everything up is sufficient to deter me. That's why I was intrigued by the Sony HT-A9 Home Theatre System. Its four wireless speakers promise to simplify matters by adapting to your room, and not the other way round. When it works, the HT-A9 produces an all-encompassing dome of sound that's extremely immersive, but there are several caveats to consider, the least of which is its S$2,699 price tag.

Quick specs

  • Four wireless speakers and one control box
  • HDMI (eARC), HDMI input, LAN, S-Center output
  • 360 Spatial Sound Mapping, Dolby Surround, Nural:X virtual surround technology
  • Support for Chromecast, Air Play 2 and Spotify Connect

The HT-A9 consists of four wireless speakers (power cable still required) and a control box that links them up and does all the “magic” i.e. spatial processing and tuning. Setting up the system is straightforward enough. Each speaker has been assigned a position e.g. front right (marked as FR at the base of the unit). Place the speakers around your couch accordingly, connect the control box to your TV via HDMI (ARC/eARC) and start the setup process using its remote control. The system will optimise the sound to your room using the speakers' built-in microphones. In addition to the four speakers, Sony also sent me the optional SA-SW5 wireless subwoofer. Personally, I feel a subwoofer is required for the best experience. Without the subwoofer, the HT-A9's bass is decent, but pales in comparison. Note that I mostly tested the HT-A9 with the subwoofer for this review.

Sony HT-A9
The S-Center output is reserved for a handful of Sony TVs with speakers that can work as a central channel with the HT-A9. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

I was impressed by the 360 Spatial Sound demo that follows the initial setup. The 360 Reality Audio tracks that I streamed via Tidal were also quite outstanding in terms of the soundstage and surround effect. Switching to movies, I could hear the actors' voices coming centrally from the TV, despite the fact that the actual speakers were some distance away. Dolby Atmos effects were great, too. The missiles firing from the hovering aircraft in the opening battle sequence in Dune (2021) sounded as if they came from above my TV. The soundstage was definitely much wider than any soundbar I have tried. I felt enveloped in a cocoon of sound. In short, the HT-A9 is definitely better than a soundbar, while requiring less effort to set up than a traditional home theatre system.

Sony HT-A9
The position of each wireless speaker is determined out of the box. For example, the RL here indicates the Rear Left speaker. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

But the HT-A9 also feels, for lack of a better word, temperamental. I experienced audio skips or dropouts, possibly due to connection issues between the speakers and the control box. Sony addresses this on its troubleshooting page. It happens randomly, which is frustrating. To be fair, my speaker arrangement is not ideal. All four speakers are at different heights and one of them is probably placed too close to my router. But given that there are a number of similar complaints online, I'm inclined to think Sony's system isn't rock stable. For one, I have never experienced any skips with my Sonos wireless sound system. I also feel that you need to push the volume to a certain level before you get that awesome surround feel. Keep this in mind if your neighbours are less forgiving about noise.

Of course, the final caveat is the price tag. At S$2,699 (without a subwoofer), the Sony HT-A9 is anything but cheap. To be fair, a similar Sonos wireless setup — Sonos Arc and two rear speakers will also cost around S$2,200. Add in the SW5 subwoofer (S$999) and this Sony wireless home theatre system is likely to be as expensive as a premium TV like the Sony A80J, which incidentally works as an additional center channel (Acoustic Center Sync) with the HT-A9. If the pricing and potential audio dropouts do not deter you, you still have to wait till April. The HT-A9 is currently out of stock on Sony's website and Lazada. But I guess that just means there's plenty of time to hear the HT-A9 for yourself at a Sony store.

See Also
Oppo Reno8 Pro

Note: Review unit provided by Sony.


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Verdict



CAN BUY...BUT

Pricey but immersive surround sound, if you don't encounter audio dropouts.

Available at Lazada
Buy it from Sony

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