Sony´s HT-ST9 flagship soundbar must be good, right? It´s quite big and looks like it would fit very well under a 50+ inch TV, and it´s filled with features and technology that increases our expectations even more.
When we review soundbars and all-in-one systems we´re primarily concerned about the audio performance, and although features and functionality is important, it all falls flat if it´s not combined with good sound quality.
The concept of a soundbar has both advantages and disadvantages; easy to install and operate while taking up a minimum amount of space, but often lack the flexibility and level of performance you get with a traditional multi-channel system. So, for the home theater enthusiasts a soundbar may seem uninteresting, but the quality is getting better with each new generation and there are some really good ones on the market today. The question is if Sony HT-ST9 is one of them.
HT-ST9 is a soundbar with a wireless subwoofer, something that is getting more common these days. Sony has filled the soundbar with just about anything a modern media consumer needs, such as hi-res audio, LDAC bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, Multi-room listening with the SongPal App, HDMI (ARC), 4K pass-through, and the list goes on.
With dimensions of 44.49 x 3.46 x 5.24 (W x H x D) inches and a weight of 15.7 pounds, the HT-ST9 fits well with TVs of 50 inches or larger. The front houses seven speaker drivers for the mids and highs while also having super tweeters added to the center and far left / right drivers for added high frequency extension. The soundbar also houses Sony´s S-Master HX digital amplifiers and a digital signal processor, and a small LCD display lets you know what input / source is active. On the right side you´ll find a USB socket for an external USB drive. A big plus is that the input sockets offer plenty of space for high quality cables.
The subwoofer connects to the soundbar wirelessly and all you need to do is to plug in the power cord and turn it on. The soundbar automatically searches and connects to the subwoofer when you turn it on. We like the wireless approach as it gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to subwoofer placement. The subwoofer measures 9.80 x 15.87 x 16.77 (W x H x D) inches and weighs 35.27 pounds. The subwoofer driver is a 7.09 inch passive radiator placed at the bottom and we did not experience any lag between the sub and the soundbar.
Having three HDMI inputs allows you to use the HT-ST9 as a HDMI switch (between a Blu-ray player, video game console and a Set Top Box for example) with one HDMI connected to your TV using the HDMI (ARC) output. This also allows you to use the OSD of the soundbar on the TV while also improving convenience and usability. If your TV isn´t ARC (Audio Return Channel) compatible we suggest using the optical digital input instead.
Movies, Music, Games and... Football?
Sony offers a variety of listening modes they call 'Sound Fields'; ClearAudio+, Movie, Movie 2, Music, Game Studio, Music Arena, Football and Standard. The names indicates when they should be applied.
The Movie modes were a little too much and overblown, and overall the Sound Fields added something that made it sound less natural. The Music Arena and Football Mode are supposed to emulate the acoustics of the O2 and Wembley Arena in London, respectively, but since we´ve never been to any of those we cannot tell how accurate these Sound Fields are.
The ClearAudio+ mode is quite interesting and for some reason it emphazises the mid and upper frequencies. Again, we found it sounding a bit odd, but we also admit it can provide some improvements to certain audio recordings. The Movie modes can be convenient and also improve the experience of some movies, but ultimately it comes down to personal preferences. The Music Arena and Football mode were just weird, and we struggled to find any value or use for it. For this reason, we ended up using the Standard and Music modes for the duration of the test as those provided the most natural results.
Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE)
The HT-ST9 comes with Sony´s proprietary DSEE HX which scales up compressed audio to near hi-res quality. We used a computer and the FiiO X3 to hear if we could spot any difference with the DSEE HX turned on or off. We could, and the sound often took on a calmer and more spacious character with the DSEE HX active. This feature can be very beneficial if you listen a lot to MP3 music.
With the DSEE HX turned off we noticed that most of our test music sounded a bit dull and undistinguished. We therefore tried to adjust the subwoofer level to see if we could shake things up a little, so to speak. This is easily done using the remote control and can be very useful when you quickly need to adjust the subwoofer level depending on the source material.
When we first turned down the subwoofer to its minimum, we thought that we accidentally switched the soundbar off and turned on the sound of the TV, because the sound was just as thin and meagre as the built-in speakers of the TV. The soundbar was in fact still on, but this indicated that the crossover frequency to the subwoofer was very high. Running a frequency sweep revealed that the crossover is set just below 200 Hz, which is too high since you can hear directional sounds coming from the subwoofer. This may not be a deal breaker if you primarily intend to watch movies and TV shows with the HT-ST9, but it´s a bigger issue when it comes to music.
In short, don´t use the soundbar without the subwoofer. Compared to other soundbars, both with and without any additional subwoofer, the HT-ST9 soundbar does not cut the mustard without the sub, and we don´t see any appeal in paying almost $1500 for a soundbar that doesn´t do a much better job than a built-in TV speaker.
The more soundbars we test, the more we realize that the digital sound processing will either make or brake it. It seems like Sony may have missed the mark a little bit here.
Sony may have missed the mark on the audio processing, but when it comes to the wireless connectivity - they´re spot on. Bluetooth allows you to connect your phone and / or tablet, while also allowing you to stream your music to a pair of wireless headphones, for example. Connecting to your home network is also a breeze thanks to Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
HT-ST9 supports Google Cast, which allows you to play music and audio from you phone, tablet or computer using various streaming services. You can also stream via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, while also being able to control the soundbar using your mobile device.
Sony HT-ST9 is filled with features and funtionality; Bluetooth, Network and Wi-Fi - everything you could possibly need. This makes it a good choice for those who have TVs with limited functionality and audio capabilities.
When it comes to sound quality, the HT-ST9 falls a bit short compared to its competitors, especially in this price range. If audio performance is your top priority we recommend you look elsewhere.
But, if you primarily intend to watch TV shows and want versatility and wireless (and wired) connectivity, the HT-ST9 is still an interesting choice. The wireless subwoofer and the convenient and easy installation works great, but as a replacement for a proper hi-fi or surround system, we would look at other options.
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- Current Price: $899.00
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- IN ThE bOX
- 800W 7.1 channel sound bar w/wireless subwoofer, HDMI with HDCP 2.2 to watch movies in brilliant 4K, Google Cast ready for easy streaming of your favorite music apps
- Expand your listening with powerful multi-room capability, Enjoy immersive music and movie soundtrack playback, LDAC for an optimized Bluetooth audio streaming experience
- Stream music from mobile devices w/Bluetooth & NFC connections, Stream audio from the bar to compatible Bluetooth headphones, Easy set up with 3 HDMI in/1 out and ARC support
- HDMI cable is included for the HTST9 7.1 Sound Bar
Size & Weight
- MAIN UNIT SIZE – BODY ONLY (W X H X D)
- 44.49 x 3.46 x 5.24 in
- MAIN UNIT WEIGHT – BODY ONLY
- 15.7 lb
- SUBWOOFER SIZE (W X H X D)
- 9.80 x 15.87 x 16.77 in
- SUBWOOFER WEIGHT
- 35.27 lb
- A / V SYNC
- POWER OUTPUT (TOTAL)
- 800 W
- AMPLIFIER CHANNELS
- S-FORCE PRO FRONT SURROUND
- S-Force PRO Front Surround
- LPCM (2CH / 5.1CH / 7.1CH) THRU HDMI
- SUBWOOFER TYPE
- Wireless subwoofer
- SPEAKER SYSTEM
- Passive radiator
- SUBWOOFER DRIVER
- 7.09 in cone
- INPUT AND OUTPUT TERMINALS
- Analog Audio In (Inc TV CEC), Bluetooth Reception, Bluetooth Transmission, Ethernet, USB-A
- WIRELESS CAPABILITIES
- Bluetooth®, NFC
- HDMI INPUTS
- HDMI OUTPUTS
- ANALOG AUDIO INPUTS
- Dolby® Digital, Dolby® Digital+, Dolby® Dual Mono, Dolby® TrueHD
- LPCM – 2 ch, LPCM – 5.1 ch, LPCM – 7.1 ch
- 96k/24 bit PCM
- DTS HD MASTER AUDIO
- DOLBY TRUEHD/DOLBY DIGITAL+
- YES / YES
- DTS, DTS-HD, DTS 96/24
- SOUND EFFECTS
- ClearAudio+, Movie, Music, Soccer, Standard
- DEEP COLOR
- HDMI PASSTHROUGH
- HDMI passthrough
- REMOTE COMMANDER
- Foot pad
- Color label for carton box (3 pieces)
- Customer Registration Card
- Warranty card
- Quick Setup Guide
- Instruction manual