There are a few ways to build a Dolby Atmos home theater system. The best way (in our opinion) is to go the all-singing and all-dancing route, with a full surround sound package, including overhead speakers (or upfiring speaker modules) for that full immersive effect.
But for this AV system, we’ve decided to offer two slightly different options, both built around an award-winning C2 OLED TV packed with apps from LG.
Our first choice of partner isn’t a soundbar, nor is it what we’d consider a traditional Dolby Atmos speaker package.
In fact, the Sony HT-A9 is perhaps more accurately described as the inverse of a soundbar, as it has no center speaker at all – just what appears to be four satellite speakers connected to your TV via a clever box of technogubbins.
If fitting additional speakers is a little tricky, we’ve got a simple one-box solution in the form of another Sony product, in this case the all-conquering HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar.
TV: LG OLED65C2 (£1699 / $1699 / AU$3450)
‘soundbar’: Sony HT-A9 Surround System (£1799 / $1799 / AU$2499)
Total: £3498 / $3498 / AU$5949
TV: LG OLED65C2 (£1699 / $1699 / AU$3450)
sound bar: Sony HT-A7000 soundbar (£1099 / $1199 / AU$1499)
Total: £2798 / $2898 / AU$4949
Surround System: Sony HT-A9
The HT-A9 is a standalone system, priced similarly to several flagship soundbar packages, some of which also include satellite speakers.
You can place the four speakers in your room without having to worry about placement nearly as much as you would with a traditional 5.1 system. Setup is easy thanks to the automated calibration, and we were impressed in our review at how good the system sounded with the speakers in a variety of unlikely positions. You can also experiment with the extra manual adjustments to adjust the overall height of the sound field or shift it horizontally if your TV is off-center – all of which provide excellent flexibility.
At the heart of the speaker system is a control hub with HDMI connectivity, including eARC and pass-through that supports 4K@60fps and HDR in Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10 formats. The party piece is that all the speakers connect wirelessly to the hub (although they still require a wired power supply).
Believe us, we were skeptical before hearing this good solution, and we tried quite hard to understand it. The A9 is well specified for the various codec options, with Dolby Atmos (in the Digital+ and TrueHD formats), DTS:X, LPCM, hi-res wireless audio and Sony 360 Reality Audio. It’s a really impressive, easy-to-use option that will do a great job for a lot of people.
Sound bar: Sony HT-A7000
However, it is unconventional and expensive so may not be for everyone; that’s why we recommend the soundbar of the HT-A9, the award-winning HT-A7000, as a wonderful alternative. This is a Dolby Atmos soundbar that can handle things all on its own, without the need for additional satellite speakers, subwoofers and the like – although you can add those things at a later date if you wish.
This 7.1.2 soundstage features two upward-firing speakers, two beam tweeters, five front-firing drivers and a built-in dual subwoofer in one chassis. As with the HT-A9, setup and room calibration for the A7000 are a breeze, as is connecting to streaming services such as Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast and integration into a multi-room system – with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Home are all supported.
Sony has used a combination of driver placement and psychoacoustic techniques to improve the width and height of the soundstage, whether you’re watching immersive content or not; and it works very well. In addition to the upswept drivers, there’s the company’s Vertical Surround Engine (VSE), which up-mixes standard content to take advantage of the height channels. But key to the A7000’s performance are its widely spaced beam tweeters, which channel audio through a series of whistle-like rooms, and Sony’s S-Force Front Surround technology, which kicks in when the ‘Cinema’ and ‘Standard’ sound modes are selected. ‘ are selected. . So effective and transparent are the performance of these wide tweeters that while watching the opening of Gravity in Dolby Atmos we repeatedly check whether a speaker is not immediately on our side.
Television: LG OLED65C2
You’ll notice that we haven’t mentioned the TV in this system yet. That’s because there’s really no need to say too much about LG’s remarkable OLED65C2; the fact that this is our TV product of the year tells you everything you need to know. The well-specified C2 was the 2022 performance-per-pound champion.
While we wait to get our hands on LG’s 2023 TV line-up, it’s currently the TV we’d recommend to most people, thanks to its combination of excellent performance and price. It delivers a wonderfully punchy yet natural image, with excellent contrast and dark details. It also has all the apps you need to get the most out of both Sony sound systems.
Combined, the great LG and whichever of our two suggested sound solutions you choose – the HT-A9 or more conventional soundbar, the HT-A7000 – that best suits your space and budget will make for one stunning system.
Both offer more convenience than a traditional surround sound setup and both also deliver exceptional sound quality for their asking price, so whichever route you choose you won’t be disappointed.
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