The Sony HT-G700 has its features for delivering “cinematic surround sound” from a 3.1-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X soundbar and wireless subwoofer. Physically, these three channels are forward-facing and have nothing to do with surround, nor with the height channels usually associated with the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats. Instead of adding additional drivers for those channels, the Sony bar wants to provide both traditional and vertical surround through the magic of audio processing. This is our Sony HT-G700 Review.
Sony HT-G700 Review: Design
Sony’s soundbar is quiet and stylish: 98 cm long, with a matt grey top and a metal front grille that has been pierced with a lot of holes. Soundbars should be visually unobtrusive, while audibly obtrusive: ear-friendliness is essential, eye-friendliness secondary, and Sony ticks those boxes here. The height of the bar of 6.4 cm will keep it free of all, except the lowest, TVs of today, and it has a commendable collection of IR passthrough transmitters on the back, so even it blocks your TV’s infrared receiver, will allow the transmission of commands remotely.
This passthrough facility is not unknown to the competition but should be used much more often. The soundbar is accompanied by a wireless subwoofer, which is conveniently labeled ‘Wireless Subwoofer.’ This is a high slender unit – 38.7 cm high, 19.2 cm wide, with a depth of 40.6 cm being the longest. The unit fires as well as ports to the front so that it can be placed anywhere, even enclosed on all other sides, and nothing stops you from turning it down. It has a single 16 cm long bass cone, weighs 7.5 kg, and has 100W of power inside.
There are only two buttons on the back: power and ‘Link,’ chances are you don’t need either, because the sub is connected to the bar and comes on as soon as it receives a signal. During our test three times, we did not succeed in restarting the system, but a restart of the system did wake it from its sleep. Apart from that, your main task is to get the subwoofer in the right place for its bass in addition to the higher frequencies of the soundbar.
For this purpose, the bar has a set of three full-range drivers, each an oval of 45mm x 100mm. There are no separate tweeters. Also, there are no ports on the bar; this is a sealed box, which is a less efficient setup in terms of power than housing with ports. This could explain why Sony mentions an impressive 100W of power for each driver, although it does not give any measurement criteria for this figure. When quoted at 1kHz with a maximum of 1% THD distortion, the number drops to 60W per channel.
Sony HT-G700 Review: Connectivity
The plugs are located in two compartments on the back of the bar, with one compartment for the power cable, the second with an optical digital audio input, and two HDMI sockets: one to the inside to connect an external source, one to the outside to connect your TV. However, this outward-facing HDMI connection can be an essential incoming audio source as it supports both the Audio Return channel of HDMI ARC and the enhanced Audio Return channel of eARC.
If your TV is so equipped, you can play from streaming channels such as Netflix and Disney+ equipped with Atmos soundtracks and these can go to the soundbar via the HDMI cable, no other connections are required. If your TV even misses the original ARC, you can use an optical cable from TV to the soundbar, but whether it can provide surround depends on how your TV handles audio. The Sony bar is capable of receiving Dolby Digital and DTS-ES via this input (not Atmos and DTS:X, nor TrueHD and DTS-HD). Still, many TVs will only deliver stereo anyway.
It can also receive TV sound (in stereo only) via Bluetooth from compatible Sony TVs. Where some soundbars have networking and streaming capabilities, the Sony lacks the first, so it offers Bluetooth for the second. The Bluetooth specification has AAC to increase the quality of streaming for owners of Apple devices, but perhaps surprisingly not aptX or Sony’s own LDAC Bluetooth codec for the benefit of users of Android devices, including Sony’s own devices.
To support your connections, an HDMI cable is included, as well as printed versions of both the quick start guide and the user manual, and a well-designed remote control with sizeable central volume rocker switch and separate subwoofer level buttons. Most other buttons on the remote control control control access to the sound processing options. Many of them.
Atmos, DTS:X and Immersive AE
An important area in which Sony outperforms a large number of competitors is the acceptance of a wide range of audio formats via HDMI in and HDMI eARC. These cover the range from Dolby Digital via Dolby TrueHD to full-blown Dolby Atmos, and from basic DTS via DTS HD Master Audio to DTS:X. The two formats that can hold height information are Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. But just because the equipment accepts Atmos and DTS:X, it doesn’t mean it provides height information.
These object-based surround technologies are scalable to any size system – up to 24.1.10 in the case of Atmos consumer systems, should you be lucky enough to have an extended home cinema room that can hold 34 speakers. But in the other direction, it can also be scaled to smaller systems – up to mono! So if there’s Dolby Atmos or DTS:X on the box, it just means it can read and interpret a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X data stream – it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get height channels.
Here, as noted, Sony has taken care of them in a 3.1-channel system – so the physical channels only provide the left, right, and center front channels, plus the subwoofer. There is no real surround at all, and there are no speakers specifically designed to provide height information. Still, Sony can boast 7.1.2 – that’s three front, two sides, two surrounds, and two ceiling channels.
Immersive AE combines two Sony technologies in one: ‘S-Force Pro Front Surround.’ This focuses on mimicking virtual surround speakers behind you, and the ‘Vertical Surround Engine,’ which is described in the manual as “a high-precision digital sound field processing technology that produces the sound field virtually vertically in addition to a sound field in the horizontal direction.”
These are what Sony uses to deliver Dolby Atmos or DTS:X from just three speakers, and for an Atmos or DTS:X content source, they do so automatically; no user intervention is required. For all other content (stereo sound or higher), users can choose whether to activate the Immersive AE on the remote control to generate a more immersive surround sound experience artificially.
But there’s more because under a fairly deep setup menu (Menu/Audio/Effects), you can select one of three options, each of which disables the other. The first is ‘Dolby Speaker Virtualizer,’ which uses Dolby’s proprietary technology to create a surround effect for stereo or 5.1 Dolby surround signals – but not Atmos, says Sony Australia. This setting also disables both DTS:X sound effects and Sony’s own Immersive AE.
The second option is DTS Virtual X, which virtualizes DTS soundtracks, but not DTS:X, which ‘just works.’ Again, this setting disables “sound effects for Dolby format” and Immersive AE.
The third option, ‘Sound Mode On,’ enables Sony’s Immersive AE, which can then be applied to other formats. Only when this option is enabled, you can use the ‘Auto Sound Mode’ button on the remote control, which determines the most suitable processing of the ‘Standard,’ ‘Music’ and ‘Cinema’ options that would otherwise be selected by the user.
If you have selected Dolby or DTS mode, stay away from all these remote control buttons as they will immediately turn off your choice and return you to ‘Sound Mode On.’
So everything makes the pseudo-surrounding functionality a little more complicated than you’d hoped. Before you watch a movie, you should check the sound format, go to the settings, and choose the right ‘Effects’ option.
Sony HT-G700 Review: Performance
Such an attentive sound selection is just about worthwhile, as the Dolby setting under ‘Effects’ provided the cleanest and most accurate delivery of an extensive sound field under almost all conditions, even when the bar received Dolby Atmos content. We almost believed that the maple seed in the Dolby Leaf demo was behind us, the only setting when this happened. This setting also resulted in a significantly tighter bass component of the subwoofer.
But disconnecting the Dolby effects mode and switching to Immersive AE also produced an expansive and pleasant field that pushed further in terms of width than the bar itself. Vertical sound? Not to our ears. But we give it ‘captivating’ and ‘exciting,’ along with the versatility of the ‘Standard,’ ‘Music’ and ‘Cinema’ modes.
Test tracks are one thing; real content is another. Pixar’s ‘Onward’ streams in Disney+’s Dolby Atmos: the HT-G700 kept the dialogue clear without the need for dialogue enhancing settings.
Again, the Dolby setting was cleanest, but the Immersive AE added width, so the cavernous echo around voices before the gelatinous cube sequence was more extensive, the action effects and music more cinematic. However, when switching to Immersive AE, we also had to cut the subwoofer a few stops down to prevent it from dominating. When vocal clarity suffers, the ‘Standard’ sound mode makes things a little tighter.
Beneath that profound Effects menu, there’s also an ‘off’ setting, which turns everything off. This sounded rather boring for the movie content after the extension of Immersive AE. Still, it’s useful to make the music pure again, further than using the ‘Music’ button on the remote control, which takes the center speaker out of stereo music playback.
Standard’ puts it back: a bigger but messier sound. Immersive AE makes quite a mess of stereo music – you’ll hear the disorienting effects of any phase trick the system uses, with the treble getting spicier and more nervous. At its barest, the Sony is slightly above average with music for a soundbar, but it never gets to the core of the music, especially lacking the treble clarity to open a soundstage. We found it a bit tiring for music over long periods.
Price and Availability
You can pick up the Sony HT-G700 for $600 in the US, £450 in the UK, and AU$900 in Australia, and it is now available in all regions.
Sony HT-G700 Review: Conclusion
So this is a fun, sound-widening bar and subwoofer for movies and TV, if not our first choice for music. The promise of vertical and surround effects merely is overrated. While we accept the possibilities of a wall-sounding surround created by separate drivers, Sony’s Immersive AE doesn’t work that way. The drivers are facing forward, and the manual notes that it is “hardly influenced by the shape of a room because it doesn’t use the sound reflected by a wall.”
Instead, the sound processing path goes, and such a pseudo-surround from the front speakers is invariably ineffective or so destructive for brightness that it is unusable. This Sony bar doesn’t detract from that. It performed very competently with both TV and movie sound; it is not leading in the price, but it is an excellent little soundbar that fits perfectly with the Sony TVs in particular.
That’s it for our Sony HT-G700 Review. For more options, check our list of Best Soundbars in 2020
Sony's 3.1-channel soundbar delivers respectable TV and movie sound, as well as average music sound. The price is not leading in the class, and the claims for delivering virtual height and surround are overestimated, but it is a nice little soundbar that will be a perfect addition to Sony TVs in particular.
- Compact Atmos/DTS:X bar
- Immersive AE for lesser signals
- Bluetooth for TV and music
- No dedicated height/surround drivers
- Height/surround claims overstated