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First impressions: Sony's 2024 Bravia Theater soundbars & 360 sound system

17 Apr 2024 | Rasmus Larsen |

Sony has unveiled new Bravia Theater Bar 9 and Bar 8 soundbars, Bravia Theater Quad, and an upgraded Bravia Theater U neckband speaker. Here are FlatpanelsHD's first impressions.

Sony is rebranding its home audio products under the Bravia name to align them with the brand used for all Sony TVs. The 2024 audio products support both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X under IMAX Enhanced, pending a future firmware update.


Sony 2024 soundbars

- "By unifying TVs, soundbars and other home audio technologies under a single brand, Sony aims for customers to have a one-stop destination to enjoy that ultimate cinematic experience of dazzling picture quality and evocative sound as the filmmaker intended. The matching features and design of BRAVIA TVs and BRAVIA Theater home audio products make it easier for consumers to choose and combine a complete home entertainment package for an outstanding cinematic experience," said Sony. Also read: Exclusive preview: Sony's next-gen 2024 miniLED LCD TVs, refreshed OLED TVs Both new soundbars remain compatible with Sony's existing SA-SW5 and SA-SW3 subwoofers as well as the SA-RS3S and battery-powered Sony SA-RS5 rear speakers, allowing users to add additional units immediately or at a later time, much like Sonos, although Sonos still offers the most flexible options on the market.

Bravia Theater Bar 9 and Bar 8

Bravia Theater Bar 9 (HT-A9000) features 13 built-in speakers including two front-facing tweeters, a center tweeter, four woofers, two passive radiators, two up-firing speakers, two side-firing speakers, and two beam tweeters. Bravia Theater Bar 8 (HT-A8000) features 11 speakers. It "lacks" the passive radiators and beam tweeters of the Bar 9. During a launch event in Los Angeles, FlatpanelsHD had the opportunity to listen to Bar 9 paired with rear speakers and a subwoofer. Our first impression was that it represents an advancement over HT-A7000, despite Bar 9's slightly more compact and streamlined design.

Sony Bravia Bar 9

Sony Bravia Theater Bar 9 (left) next to HT-A7000 (right). Photo: FlatpanelsHD

Sony Bravia Bar 9

The components in Bravia theatre Bar 9. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

The sound was pleasingly robust, with a notable surround effect, helped by Sony's 360 Spatial Sound Mapping system, which aims to virtualize additional 'phantom speakers' throughout the room. However, we need more time with Bar 9 to reach a verdict. Sony highlighted that previously both a soundbar and rear speakers were necessary to create the phantom speakers effect, but Bar 9 and Bar 8 can now achieve it independently, to some extent. This feature was not demonstrated during our time with the products. We were only given a brief demonstration of Bar 8, where Sony wanted to demonstrate its ability to maintain convincing surround sound even at lower volume levels—a common limitation for soundbars. Again, it was convincing but we need more time with the soundbar.

Voice enhancer that actually works

A new feature is Voice Zoom 3, which employs an AI algorithm to recognize and extract human dialogue to let the user either enhance or reduce the dialogue level via menu settings. Having experienced Voice Zoom 3 on two occasions, first in Tokyo last year and again in Los Angeles this year, we left impressed after both demonstrations. Despite years of TV makers touting similar features in both TVs and soundbars, this time it appears to actually work, across various content formats including 2.0 stereo, 5.1 surround and object-based audio such as Dolby Atmos. We believe this feature will prove beneficial to many viewers. Voice Zoom 3 comes integrated in 2024 Sony TVs but is also compatible with the 2024 soundbars when used in conjunction with 2024 Sony TVs (Bravia 9, 8, 7, 3) or certain older Sony TV models, pending a future firmware update for the new soundbars. Sony further noted that settings for Voice Zoom 3 can be adjusted via a new Bravia Connect app, again pending a firmware update (for the TVs).

2nd generation 360 speakers

The company also introduced the Bravia Theater Quad to succeed the unique HT-A9 360 sound system, which we praised in our review back in 2022. Still comprising four wireless (excluding power) speakers, which users can position more freely around the room thanks to a an automatic room calibration feature called 'Sound Field Optimization,' Bravia Theater Quad has a new streamlined design, as seen below. The new Quad speakers appear less bulky compared to the notably large HT-A9 modules.

Sony Bravia Quad

Sony Bravia Theater Quad. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

In contrast to its predecessor, HT-A9, which featured 12 speakers divided between 4 units, Quad features 16 speakers spread across 4 units. Each unit houses a woofer, midrange, tweeter, and an up-firing speaker. Having experienced the Bravia Theater Quad in action, while we are not entirely certain yet if it surpasses HT-A9 in terms of sound quality, it undeniably offers the best out-of-the-box surround experience of the bunch. However, it is worth noting that it is still not possible to expand the setup with additional surround speakers, which is a shame. It does support the optional SA-SW5 or SA-SW3 subwoofers for improved bass, though.

Sony Bravia Quad

The connection box controlling the Bravia Quad wireless speakers. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

An upgraded neckband speaker

Lastly, Sony previewed a new version of its neckband speaker, Bravia Theater U. It has 12 hours of battery life in use, according to Sony. An upgraded Bluetooth module in both the neckband speaker and 2024 Sony TVs (other TVs require a transmitter) enables users to connect two neckband speakers to the same TV, each with individual volume settings. Our expectations were modest, but the sound experience proved surprisingly clear, with some degree of surround sound.

Sony neckband speaker

Sony Bravia Theater U. Photo: Sony

It is a new solution to a different segment of buyers and while it cannot match the performance the new soundbar systems, Sony sees potential in it as a solution for TV watching, movies and even gaming, as it also connects directly to PlayStation 5. It is not possible to pair Theater U with a Sony subwoofer. With the exception of the neckband speaker, Sony's 2024 audio products still support Acoustic Center Sync, allowing users to use a compatible Sony TV as a center speaker in a surround setup. Sony's 2024 Bravia Theater sound systems are available for pre-order in select countries, starting today.

2024 Sony Bravia audio products – specifications

Sony Bravia Bar 9 Sony Bravia Bar 9 Sony Bravia Theater Bar 9 (HT-A9000): - 13 speakers built-in - Supports Sony wireless rear speakers (SA-RS3S, Sony SA-RS5) & subwoofers (SA-SW5, SA-SW3) - 360 Spatial Sound Mapping and Sound Field Optimization - Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X, DTS HD-HR, multichannel LPCM (7.1) - 1x HDMI input - 1x HDMI eARC/ARC - 4K60 4:4:4 plus HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision passthrough - Voice Zoom 3 (firmware update required) - Compatible with Bravia Connect app - Built-in WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.2 - Spotify Connect - 1300 x 64 x 113mm, 5.5kg Sony Bravia Bar 8 Sony Bravia Theater Bar 8 (HT-A8000): - 11 speakers built-in - Supports Sony wireless rear speakers (SA-RS3S, Sony SA-RS5) & subwoofers (SA-SW5, SA-SW3) - 360 Spatial Sound Mapping and Sound Field Optimization - Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X, DTS HD-HR, multichannel LPCM (7.1) - 1x HDMI input - 1x HDMI eARC/ARC - 4K60 4:4:4 plus HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision passthrough - Voice Zoom 3 (firmware update required) - Compatible with Bravia Connect app - Built-in WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.2 - Spotify Connect - 1100 x 64 x 113mm, 4.7kg Sony Bravia Quad Sony Bravia Theater Quad (HT-A9M2): - 4.0.4-channel system, 16 speakers - Supports Sony subwoofers (SA-SW5, SA-SW3) - 360 Spatial Sound Mapping and Sound Field Optimization - Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X, DTS HD-HR, LPCM - 1x HDMI eARC/ARC - 4K60 4:4:4 plus HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision passthrough - Voice Zoom 3 (firmware update required) - Compatible with Bravia Connect app - Built-in WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.2 - Spotify Connect - Control box required, included
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