How much would you spend on a surround-sound system? A thousand dollars, perhaps? While multiple speakers and a receiver would get you "there" in terms of performance, the biggest downside is that it can take up a lot of room.
In contrast, a sound bar is both cheaper and occupies less of your living space. You can buy great sound bars for $500; heck, Sony's own costs only $250, and that's with HDMI switching! So despite the fact it will still cost less than a full system, is there any point in spending more? Say $1,000?
The Sony HT-ST5 doesn't quite answer this question, but it hopes to distract you instead with its good looks and hefty feature count. In terms of sound quality, however, this Sony is solid but not spectacular for the money.
For a bit less, we actually preferred the sound offor movies, and for quite a bit more the beats them both. But if all you're looking for is an easy-to-set-up, decently performing movie system, then the Sony HT-XT5 is not a bad choice.
As the price of sound bars approaches $1,000 and beyond, you start to see some improvements in build quality -- plastic replaced by real metal, for example -- and this is the case with the HT-ST5. Like thebefore it, the ST5 is a striking-looking sound bar with a cabinet composed of a steel grille, brushed-aluminum top and plastic sides. While not quite as stylish as the Definitive Technology W Studio with its solid aluminum billets, this is nonetheless an attractive sound bar.
The Sony is quite tall, too, at 4.75 inches and as such may block your TV's IR sensor (or screen!) if placed in front. However, Sony addressed this issue, like Yamaha before it, with an IR repeater on the rear of the device -- but it isn't enabled by default. The sound bar is 40.6 inches wide and will suit TVs of 46 inches and above.
Behind the nonremovable speaker grille, the HT-ST5 features a LED display that lists the input and volume level and can be adjusted in brightness. While the ST7 has nine drivers, there are seven on the ST5, though they are still powered by seven discrete amplifiers.
The separate, wireless subwoofer is a large rectangular box measuring 9.6 inches wide by 14 inches high and 16 inches long that hides a 7-inch bass woofer.
The remote control is out of the ordinary for a sound bar. It's a long thin wand that slides open like a Pez dispenser to reveal further controls. Unfortunately it's not the most ergonomic design, with some oft-used commands hidden under the sliding flap.
When CNET attended briefings for this product back in September 2014, Sony told us the the ST5 was a "cut-down" version of the ST7 with a slightly less fussy build and fewer drivers, but similar in sound quality. That's basically true.