Soundbar

Sony HT-ST7 Sound Bar

ARTICLE INDEX

The Sony HT-ST7 Sound Bar In Use

None of this matters if the Sony doesn't sound good. Putting on Drive, the Sony HT-ST7 shows what it can do. I moved between Movie and Standard modes on the HT-ST7 bar. The Standard mode is more confined to the bar while the Movie mode adds a bit more ambiance to the presentation. Adding this ambience causes a bit of loss in vocal clarity and I bump the Voice setting to 2 or 3 to compensate.

In the Standard sound mode the vocals and sounds are distinct and clear. Background sounds and noises are well defined and not muffled while dialogue is easily understood. Sound effects like a helicopter-flying overhead the subwoofer comes in and really provides some good low-end response. The integration of the two is effective as the helicopter flies overhead and the bass isn't anchored off in a corner.

The opening attack in Master & Commander is a strain for any system. The HT-ST7 sounds great with the Movie mode providing good ambience. It won't beat actual surround speakers, but the immersion carries to a bit behind me in my 12'x25' theater room. The flags flapping in the wind sound unmistakable and the cannonballs striking the boats carry a nice impact. Vocals are clear and crisp despite the sonic fireworks around them and pull me into the movie.

Wish You Were Here also sounds remarkable on the Sony. The sound of the opening solo guitar is hauntingly realistic and the stage in front of me is far wider than I expected. Instruments on the 5.1 SACD mix have wonderful separation and are easy to locate. What I didn't get was a thump in my chest from the drums at the 2:01 mark in the song. The sound is there, but the impact is lacking compared to a larger speaker setup or subwoofer.

Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm" provides a very nice feeling of being in the recording studio. I found myself having to pick apart the things the Sony doesn't do as well as my $8,000 separates. The guitar isn't quite as detailed and lacks a bit of the air around the notes. The separation and sound stage are also smaller, but the Sony costs $6,700 less and doesn't take up a whole room. The overall feeling and emotion of the song are there and communicated by the ST-HT7. It paints a wonderful picture that you'll need a more expensive and larger setup to beat.

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City remains a superb example of audio on Blu-ray. Picking a sound mode here presents a puzzle. Do I pick Movie as it's a 5.1 TrueHD soundtrack? Or Music as it is a concert? Perhaps just Standard to remain neutral? Movie provides a much more immersive feeling than the other modes, though the vocals really need to be pumped up to 3 on this disc. I crank the Sony well past my usual levels and it doesn't crack at all.

Imaging on "Two Step" is very nice and the song moves right along. Perhaps the sound of Tim Reynolds' guitar gets a little harsh as I push the Sony to extreme volume levels, but I'm really digging for complaints.

On the right side of the HT-ST7 you'll find an NFC connection for Bluetooth. Touching my Nexus 7 tablet to this let me instantly pair them and stream my favorite tracks from Spotify or Amazon Cloud Player right to the HT-ST7. While not everyone has bought into NFC yet (cough*Apple*cough), support keeps growing and it makes streaming music for friends far easier. You can pair with Bluetooth the usual way but using NFC will let you connect and start streaming music without needing a remote at all.

This made it easy to play back everything I owned on the Sony without wires. My Spotify playlists stream directly to it from my phone or tablet. Using an App for my NAS lets me stream my entire music library to it instantly. No cables. No Bluetooth access keys. I tap on the bar with my tablet and it works.

The one sound mode I found no use for is Football. Even with a football game off my TiVo, it sounded like I was in a large, cavernous stadium that echoed all around me. Instead of feeling like part of the crowd I feel like I'm a spectator in an empty arena. I went back to Standard or Movie for sporting events and found it much better.

With a variety of content, from Blu-ray to SACD and TV, the Sony moved right along and sounded great doing it. The Movie mode causes the vocals to vanish a bit too much but the Voice setting remedies it quickly. HDMI-CEC worked perfectly in my testing. Turning on a TV or Blu-ray player caused the Sony to spring to life and start playing back my media. I wish the cable access area was larger, and perhaps for a 4th HDMI input, but that is where my issues with the Sony in use stop.