Hot on the heels of the release of its pricey $1,300 flagship HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar, Sony is back with a more affordable option. The $900 HT-A5000 packs almost as many features as its more expensive sibling, but does so in a smaller, lighter, and more wallet-friendly form. At that price, it goes head-to-head with the $800 Sonos Arc and the newly released $900 Bose Smart Soundbar 900, both of which can add Dolby Atmos to any TV in your home. The A5000 is expected to be available in the early fall 2021.
At 47.75 inches wide, the A5000 is only slightly narrower than the 51-inch A7000, and Sony has still managed to squeeze nine drivers into the cabinet, including two up-firing height drivers, two subwoofers, two front-firing beam tweeters, and dedicated drivers for left, right, and center channels. This arrangement lets the soundbar deliver a full 5.1.2-channel surround sound experience. It’s also compatibile with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Even when you’re not listening to content created in these 3D immersive formats, Sony’s Vertical Surround Engine can effectively upscale other kinds of audio into a 360-degree sound field.
If you spring for the optional $350 SA-RS3S rear wireless speakers, the A5000 can use Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping to create what Sony refers to as “up to 12 phantom speakers” — in other words, the soundbar can use some special software trickery to mimic the presence of more speakers in your space.
Speaking of 360 sound, the A5000 works with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio (360 RA) format, which you can stream from services like Tidal HiFi and Amazon Music HD. It’s also compatible with lossless hi-res audio from these same services, or personal music from your home network. You can also load the music files onto a thumb drive or hard drive, which can be connected to the included USB port.
Other ports include an HDMI ARC/eARC for connecting the A5000 to your TV, an optical connection in case your TV doesn’t support ARC or eARC, and a single HDMI 2.1 input that can passthrough 4K at up to 120Hz and 8K at up to 60Hz, plus Dolby Vision. For the moment, variable refresh rate (VRR) and auto low-latency mode (ALLM) signals are not supported in this HDMI input, so Sony recommends you connect any PC or console gaming rigs that need it directly to your TV.
If you’re fortunate enough to own one of Sony’s compatible Bravia TVs like its flagship 4K OLED, the A90J, you can connect the A5000’s dedicated center channel output to the TV. Doing so lets the TV’s built-in sound system enhance the on-screen audio for a much more immersive experience.
On the wireless front, the list is comprehensive: You get Apple AirPlay, Google Chromecast, Bluetooth, and Spotify Connect. You also get Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec so you can stream high-quality audio from a compatible device without needing Wi-Fi. The A5000 can also be used as a Bluetooth transmitter — just connect a set of wireless headphones and you can listen to any audio stream privately.
Interested in upgrading your TV’s sound? We’ve got a full guide to the best soundbars.