Eighteen months ago, Yamaha introduced the first Dolby Atmos sound bar to the world. That remarkable contraption zapped sound effects from around and above you, with no room full of speakers required! Despite its undeniable innovation, the YSP-5600 did have its issues -- namely it was just too big and it was expensive.
Today Atmos bars are available to fit many wallets -- especially those wallets bulging with notes. Like the Yamaha, the Atmos-capable Sony HT-ST5000 is at the upper end of the scale, but it offers sound quality the Yamaha isn't capable of, in part due to the large subwoofer.
The HT-ST5000 follows in the footsteps of the excellent, open-sounding HT-NT5, showing a tight performance with music and movies. It offers 4K compatibility and also Wi-Fi music for easy streaming around your house, in addition to "Chomecast built-in" and Google Home ($129.00 at Dell Home) integration. It's a very classy package, if you can justify the price.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is on sale for $1,499 or £1,500, with Australian availability to be announced -- though you could expect it to be around AU$3,000.
Exposed tweeters give a unique look
All sound bars kind of look the same, but the Sony's mounted, coaxial tweeters help elevate the speaker from the other black rectangles out there. The 'bar is 46.5 inches wide, which means it will look best with TVs between 46 inches and 50. It's relatively tall at 3.25 inches -- with no IR repeater if it happens to block your remote sensor -- and very deep at 5.6 inches.
The sound bar has five 2.6-inch drivers across the front of the unit, three of which feature a coaxial soft dome tweeter suspended above them. In the top of the bar are two more upward-firing drivers. It comes with a metal grille if you prefer to protect the rather naked tweeters, though on the sample we received, the grille didn't fit properly. It's quite possible it warped during transit.
Meanwhile, the large wireless subwoofer consists of a 7.13-inch woofer that drives a passive radiator, and like the 'bar, the sub feels reassuringly weighty.
The onscreen menu is fairly straightforward with a list of inputs as well as a limited settings menu, including links to streaming services.
The remote is a shrunk-down version of the clicker that comes with the company's televisions. It's brightly colored where it counts, and it's pleasant to use.
Ins, outs and apps -- and Dolby Atmos
The Sony HT-ST5000 is a purported 7.1.2 sound bar -- three fronts, two overheads and simulated surround sound which offers compatibility with Dolby Atmos. though not DTS:X. For whatever reason, none of the "atmospheric" sound bars we've seen so far support the rival DTS:X technology, so if you have discs encoded in that format, Sony's own STR-DN1080 receiver and a set of compatible speakers is a better bet.