Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sony HT-X8500 Review- Best Entry Level Dolby Atmos Soundbar?

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Sound
Features
Value for Money
The 128 Watt Sony HT-X8500 2.1 channel Soundbar has built-in subwoofer and eARC capabilities allowing Dolby Atmos & DTS:X to be downmixed and played over forward firing stereo setup. It partially delivers on its virtual surround promise, is great for movies and will appeal to those who prefer simplicity over control.

Verdict

The 128 Watt Sony HT-X8500 single unit 2.1 Soundbar at Rs. 24,990 with built-in subwoofer, Bluetooth 5.0 and HDMI eARC delivers good enough Dolby Atmos & DTS:X experience downmixed and played through forward firing stereo speaker setup. Sony has marketed it as a technology packed, futureproof yet simple solution for movie buffs in search for virtual surround sound. The Soundbar is able to partially deliver on its promise and is great for those preferring movies over music. Do not expect it to replace a true surround sound setup though. The Soundbar will appeal to those who prefer simplicity over control.

  • Simple and compact
  • HDMI eARC for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
  • 4K pass-through
  • Bass level adjustment
  • Virtual surround is good at near-listening only
  • No display
  • No room correction
  • Pricey

Introduction

Launched in September 2019, the Sony HT-X8500 is a single unit soundbar supporting Dolby Atmos & DTS:X. It is targeted at consumers wishing to enhance TV sound and enjoy movies in virtual surround without having to set up complex speaker systems. Its MRP is Rs. 30,990 and sells online at Rs. 24,990.

Sony has attempted to address a large and upcoming market with the HT-X8500 but has it succeeded? Does this end your search for the right soundbar for extensive movie and Netflix series watching with occasional TV viewing that you wish to enjoy in high quality audio? Let’s find out.

If you are interested in entry level soundbars to enhance TV sound, check review of Xiaomi MI Soundbar.

Sony’s HT-S350 is a very good entry level soundbar with wireless subwoofer.

Sony HT-X8500
Courtesy: Sony

What is in the Box

  • Soundbar (1)
  • Remote Control (1)
  • Batteries for remote (2)
  • HDMI Cable (1)
  • AC Adaptor (1)
  • AC Cord (1) Quick Setup Guide (1)
  • Instruction Manual (1)

No Optical cable has been provided.

First Looks

The Sony HT-X8500 is a compact 89 cm unit with a black metal mesh grille that wraps around its sides and a bit on the top. The body is black plastic mounted on a silver plastic bottom plate that runs around below the grille.

Sony HT-X8500

The overall plastic body has been given a faux leather textured feel which is nice to touch. The rated power of Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar is 128 watts and peak/reference power is 200 watts. See how it compares to the Sony HT-S20R 5.1 Home Theatre System Sound Bar.

The top has a touch console featuring POWER ON, INPUT SELECT, BLUETOOTH, VOLUME+ and VOLUME – buttons. On the top and just behind the touch console are placed LED indicators for TV, HDMI, BLUETOOTH input and the type of audio input namely DOLBY ATMOS, DTS:X and VERTICAL S. The LEDS light up depending on the type of connection and input available. The LEDs also double as volume level indicators. 

Sony HT-X8500

Both the sides have bass ports.

Two standard screw mounting holes have been provided at the back for wall mounting. 

The back of the Sony HT-X8500 has 24 V DC IN terminal. An infrared (IR) repeater port transmits the remote signal of TV remote control to TV and is used when HDMI CEC is activated.

At the back, placed in a recess, are the input terminals of TV OPTICAL IN and HDMI IN. Also placed in this recess is the HDMI OUT (TV eARC/ARC).

Sony HT-X8500
Courtesy: Sony

The IR remote is handy and functional with thoughtful features. The buttons have both short-press and long-press capabilities. Details are available in the Operating Instructions booklet that comes alongwith the Soundbar.

Separate INPUT selector button has been provided. Sound mode selector buttons have been provided for instantly selecting among VERTICAL.S, AUTO SOUND, VOICE, CINEMA, MUSIC, NIGHT, GAME, SPORTS, NEWS, STANDARD modes .

Additional features include DTS DIALOG, A/V SYNC and AUDIO. A large round dial-type rocker for volume adjustment has also been provided. 

Thick rubber pads for slip-free usage have been given at the bottom.

Sony HT-X8500
Courtesy: Sony

A total of 4 oval shaped speakers have been housed in the compact soundbar assembly. 2 high and mid-frequency speakers are placed on the left and right side. For low frequency bass subwoofer effect, 2 speakers have been provided at the centre. 

All 4 speakers are front firing.

All the 4 speakers are same sized (52 mm by 90 mm) but are differently designed depending on their frequency response duties and are driven by 3 digital amplifiers. This is why the Sony HT-X8500 has a 2.1 configuration.

In the Creative Technology’s Creative Stage V2 Soundbar, the subwoofer is connected to the soundbar unit through proprietary cable and is powered through this cable only, making it a clean installation.

Installation and Wiring

The installation of Sony H-X8500 is as simple as it can be. 

You can place the soundbar in front of your TV on the TV unit. Alternatively you can hang it on the wall using 2 screws.  

Since the subwoofer is built-in, you don’t have to worry about any extra set of wires.

Power up the soundbar by connecting the 24 V laptop-like power adapter with the help of the jack provided at the rear. 

Next we have to connect it to the audio source. 

Connecting with TV

To enjoy audio of the highest quality (Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, etc), make sure to connect your TV as explained here. 

TV with ARC/ eARC

Connect the HDMI IN of the TV to HDMI eARC OUT of the soundbar using HDMI v2.1 cable. The HDMI cable will carry video to TV and audio to soundbar. No other connection is required. You will have to enable HDMI control on TV otherwise there will be no sound from the soundbar.

TV without ARC

Connect HDMI IN of TV with HDMI OUT of soundbar using HDMI cable to carry the video to TV. Additionally, connect OPTICAL OUT of TV to OPTICAL IN of the soundbar to carry audio. 

Sony HT-X8500
Courtesy: Startup Guide and Operating Instructions of Sony HT-X8500

For details of formats and connections, refer to the table given at the end of this review.

Do keep it in mind that the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar will not work if your TV does not have HDMI ports.

Connecting with Other Devices

Sony HT-X8500
Courtesy: Startup Guide and Operating Instructions of Sony HT-X8500

To enjoy audio of highest possible quality (Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, etc) when connecting to Blu-ray player or STB (set top box), disconnect the device from TV and connect it to the HDMI IN jack of the soundbar.

IR (Infrared) Repeater Function

This is a thoughtful feature though it may not be put to use on most installations. If the soundbar is obstructing the remote control sensor of the TV, press and hold STANDARD on the Soundbar’s remote control for 5 seconds to set the IR REPEATER function to ON. This will allow you to control the TV with the TV remote control. The Soundbar’s IR sensor will take in the TV remote’s signals and relay them onto the TV’s IR sensor through the IR port at the rear of the Soundbar. 

Review of Sony HT-X8500

Features

Sony has used impressive sounding names like ‘S-Force Pro Surround’ and ‘Vertical Surround Engine’ to market HT-X8500’s features. Here is a list of key features.

  1. HDMI eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel): Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are object based audio formats. HDMI eARC supports uncompressed high definition Dolby Atmos and DTS:X transmitted over single HDMI 2.1 cable. Full marks to Sony for offering the latest in movie transmission formats
  1. Simulated or virtual 7.1.2 surround sound: Sony claims that the Soundbar is packed with its advanced DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology allowing you to enjoy overhead sound as well as experience horizontal surround audio, all using just front firing speakers. This feature will appeal to movie buffs
  1. 4K HDR 18 Gbps passthrough capabilities: This means the Soudbar can process all the latest digital formats like HDCP 2.2/ 2.3 Dolby Vision, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma)
  1. In-built subwoofer with bass level control: This allows clutter-free setup and allows you to set bass level
  1. Convenience of choosing sound modes using remote: Movie, Music, Game, News, Sports 
  1. Bluetooth: The Soundbar has Bluetooth v5.0 connectivity
  1. Control for HDMI: Explained below

Sound: Movies

The Sony HT-X8500 delivers impressive audio for its size while playing movies. The treble does not seem harsh and at the same time the bass sounds like roaring cars or falling bombs are quite good.

The horizontal surround-effect fills the space in front of you but falls short of entirely enveloping you from behind. You can make out the sound source to be in front of you. The sound stage is wide and diffused and not able to reproduce the effects created by physically placed rear surround speakers.

The height experience i.e. Atmos or DTS:X audio is better as compared to horizontal surround. Its vertical surround feature activates if the soundbar detects Atmos or DTS:X content. The height channel audio is down-mixed to stereo and played through forward firing speakers hence the height experience does not replicate an upward-firing or ceiling-mounted speaker setup. 

The closer you are to the Soundbar, the better the surround works. The virtual surround sound effects are not perceivable at far off seating positions.

The sound is distortion free and clean. All in all, this Soundbar is a definite improvement over your TV speakers and is sufficient for small rooms.

It is to be noted however that amidst all the action packed audio, the Soundbar tends to give preference to bass and dialogues sound subdued and unclear at times. 

Overall, the Soundbar gives a very good movie experience in a small setting.

This Soundbar gives better movie experience as compared to Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System.

Sound: Music

The stereo frequency response of the Soundbar is good. The bass level can be increased to some extent using the remote. At peak bass levels, the Soundbar holds well and does not start to vibrate. 

Bass is always a trade-off with space and convenience, as is the case with all non-subwoofer soundbars. The Sony HT-X8500 partly catches up in the bass department however it will not be able to satisfy those preferring thumping loomy bass.

Stereo soundstage is passable. While the sound fills up the room, channel separation is not great. Sound objects appear from the front but you will not be able to pinpoint its location.

Stereo sound dynamics are good. The soundbar can play at loud volumes and is easily able to fill a small to mid sized room. You will however have to work through the preset EQs to find what best suits your ears depending on volume level. 

The vocals are not that refined and you cannot listen to the music over long periods over the Soundbar.

Overall the Soundbar is not made for enjoying quality music. As volume increases, the sound increasingly starts sounding boxy and coming from a confined chamber. The bass overpowers the mid-range as volume is increased.

Sound: General

The Sony HT-X8500 is quite adequate for daily TV listening, sports, and news. Voices are clear and audible at low volume as well.

NIGHT mode is very useful as it reduces sound dynamics and bass levels to ensure a quiet late night watching experience.

The Sony HT-X8500 does not have any room correction feature. It has several EQ presets to help you match sound suiting your preferences.

Control for HDMI Function

This is a useful feature to have. With the help of this function, you can control the Soundbar using your TV remote. This is called HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronic Control) and it allows HDMI devices to control each other. 

To enable this function, press and hold VOICE for 5 seconds. Although some TVs automatically enable HDMI CEC, you can manually enable this feature through your TV’s menu. The feature is auto-enabled in Sony Bravia TVs. 

Once HDMI CEC is enabled, the Soundbar switches ON automatically once TV is switched on and the TV sound is output from the Soundbar. The Soundbar volume can be controlled using the TV’s remote. Depending on the TV, the sound volume number is displayed on the TV.

Bluetooth

The Sony HT-X8500 is equipped with Bluetooth v5.0 working on 2.4 GHz through which TV or mobile can be connected using the INPUT button on the remote as well as the BLUETOOTH button on the soundbar. 

Press and hold the BLUETOOTH button on the Soundbar for 2 seconds. The Soundbar goes into pairing mode and the BLUETOOTH LED flashes quickly. Pairing is completed by selecting “HT-X8500” on mobile or tablet. The default password is “0000”. Once paired, the indicator turns BLUE. 

The Soundbar can store upto 9 mobile devices and 1 TV. 

To get the best quality sound through Bluetooth, press AUTO SOUND on the remote and AAC codec will be turned on. This will work if the connected Bluetooth device supports AAC codec.

Sound output through Bluetooth is smooth and without issues.

Remote

The infrared remote is small and handy. All available features can be controlled using the remote. 

Sony HT-X8500

Bass level can be controlled using the BASS button. The remote features dedicated sound profile buttons.

The remote lacks music playback functions like track forward-backward, play, pause. But this should be fine because there is no SD card, USB or AUX input anyway. In comparison, the Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System comes with a much more useful universal remote.

Specifications of Sony HT-X8500

FeaturesSpecifications
No. of Speakers2 way 4 speaker system, Bass reflex speaker 
Front Left & Right Speaker: 52 mm x 90 mm
Subwoofer: 52 mm x 90 mm
Amplifiers3 channel, digital
Power Consumption32 Watt, 0.5 to 2.0 Watt on standby depending on whether HDMI & Bluetooth are connected
Speaker Power Output (Rated)128 Watt (Rated)
Front Left + Front Right: 32 Watt+32 Watt (at 6 ohms, 1 kHz, 1% THD)
Subwoofer: 64 Watt (at 3 ohms, 1kHz, 1% THD)
Speaker Power Output (Reference)200 Watt (Reference)
Front Left + Front Right: 50 Watt+50 Watt (at 6 ohms, 1 kHz)
Subwoofer: 100 Watt (at 3 ohms, 1kHz)
SubwooferYes, internal
Input PortHDMI ARC, HDMI eARC, OPTICAL IN, USB (only for updates)
Output Port1 HDMI eARC
BluetoothYes, v5.0
FM RadioNo
Dimensions890 mm x 64 mm x 96 mm (Length x Height x Depth)
Weight3.1 kg

Audio Formats Supported by Sony HT-X8500

FormatHDMI
HDMI
eARC
HDMI
ARC
OPTICAL
LPCM 2 chYesYesYesYes
LPCM 5.1chYesYes
LPCM 7.1chYesYes
Dolby DigitalYesYesYesYes
Dolby TrueHDYesYes
Dolby Digital PlusYesYesYes
Dolby Atmos – Dolby TrueHDYesYes
Dolby Atmos – Dolby Digital PlusYesYesYes
DTSYesYesYesYes
DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1YesYesYesYes
DTS 96/24YesYesYesYes
DTS-HD High Resolution AudioYesYes
DTS-HD Master AudioYesYes
DTS-HD LBRYesYes
DTS:XYesYes

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7 COMMENTS

  1. […] The Soundbar is Dolby enabled which increases the overall audio experience. HDMI ARC allows for multi-channel audio but you will not be able to enjoy surround because this is only a 2.1 channel Soundbar. The multichannel Dolby audio is downmixed and delivered through 2.1 channels only. It also does not have surround sound processing technologies of Sony’s Soundbars like the Sony HT-X8500 Dolby Atmos Soundbar. […]

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