A new soundbar is on the way from Sony for folks who like dimensional and spatial sound, but it won’t be firing audio off your ceiling to make 3D noises.
Giving your TV a taste of better sound isn’t typically hard, but it does mean you may need to upgrade the minimal something your TV typically comes with. Speakers on TVs can be good, but they’re almost always anything but, and so upgrading them is often the first thing you can expect to do, with soundbars the obvious focus.
While there’s always the option of buying an amp or receiver, plus a bunch of speakers to connect it to, soundbars are often far, far easier due to them being just one gadget you plug in for the upgrade.
As the name suggests, a soundbar is a bar of sound, sometimes arriving with an external subwoofer, but not always. However, they’re usually built to contain everything you might need, and in recent years, that includes the tech to handle the 3D sound put out by Dolby Atmos and similar technologies.
To do this, soundbars often have upward firing speakers, bouncing sound off a ceiling to create what is essentially a bubble of sound around you.
That’s how 3D sound is often handled in a soundbar, but not always the case.
Another style of sound creates a virtualised version of ceiling speakers, and sometimes rear speakers, too. It’s something folks in the industry called “psychoacoustic” sound, whereby your brain is tricked into hearing sound timed in specific ways that makes it sound bigger, wider, and more spatial, rather than fired by bouncing audio on surfaces or with more speakers.
It’s not completely new — take a look at the Sonos Beam Gen 2 for psychoacoustic sound — but it’s something Sony is keen to play in, too, launching a speaker with that technology on-board in the Sony HT-A3000.
Another of Sony’s home theatre focused speakers, the A3000 is a single bar of sound covering 3.1 sound thanks to a built-in subwoofer, though can be paired with optional wireless rear speakers to create a wider surround sound using actual physical units behind you. There’s even an optional subwoofer you can find to boost the bass accordingly.
However, there are no upward firing speakers on the A3000, with Sony Australia confirming this is just a single bar of front sound, distinct to Sony’s other models, with the A5000, A7000, and A9 sound systems firing audio up. That makes the A3000 a psychoacoustic soundbar, using a virtual system (something Sony calls the “Vertical Surround Engine”) to get the sound of height, even if it’s simulated, based on head-related transfer function.
That should mean the spatial sound of Atmos will be heard when you’re aiming your head straight, though it may change if you shift the orientation of your head at times.
However, the Sony A3000 is more than just a soundbar. There’s music support, of course, and like many speakers these days, you’ll find microphones on board so you can talk to the soundbar using either Google’s Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and the soundbar also reportedly features Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, the DSEE Extreme technology used on its headphones, such as this year’s WH-1000XM5 noise cancelling pair.
Interestingly, Sony has the A3000 priced a little higher than other psychoacoustic Atmos nodels, with the HT-A3000 set to arrive in Australia later this month for $999, with the optional rear speakers costing between $599 and $849 depending on the model in question.
Meanwhile, Sony’s actual upfiring A-series soundbar in the A5000 will cost $1399 and is set for release in November 2022.