Sony HT-X8500 soundbar: Mid-level offering to enhance home entertainment

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on June 26, 2019

With a little more fine-tuning, this one could have been almost flawless

Soundbars are convenient. And that is a big reason behind their growing popularity and practical appeal. Put them anywhere — under your TV to amplify its audio, mount it on a wall, or just leave it on your desk and play music from any device. The fact that it provides a size-friendly audio enhancement is why it makes sense over a traditional home theatre system, even though the end-result may not always be the same.

The Sony HT-X8500 soundbar, recently launched, isn’t exactly a budget option, hovering over the ₹30,000 mark. So at the outset, I would recommend buying this depending on how much you’ve spent on your TV — if that is your primary use case. That being said, the sound quality this one puts out ensures that it is a multi-use option, but more on that later.

The design and form factor of a soundbar is limiting and there are no prizes for guessing what the HT-X8500 looks like. Long, black, narrow, and built like a slab cut from stone, it fits any contemporary, bare-minimum or usual home décor. I set it atop my bookshelf, just below the TV, to make it convenient to operate.

The top of the gadget has soft touch buttons for input, sound, Bluetooth controls, etc. Atop them sit tiny lights that twinkle like fairy lights to depict various functions. I did miss a display and at this price, Sony would have done well to include one, because the tell-tale lights, as nice as they are to look at, need quite some self-tutoring from the manual before you can begin to decipher them correctly. And soundbars are all about ease of use, so a display was sorely missed.

Initial set-up, not being so dependent on the flashing lights, is straightforward. It supports HDMI sound input as well as Bluetooth, so getting it hooked to the TV was not a puzzle. Something odd that kept happening was that when connected to my TV set via Bluetooth, after about five to seven minutes, the sound would just stop. The TV said it was still connected to the soundbar. Initially, I felt this was the TV’s fault, but the same thing repeated itself even when I tried to stream music via Bluetooth from my phone, and the phone too said it was still connected to the soundbar. But, this sort of a glitch could be a one-off with the unit I received to review.

That being said, at this price (given that it isn’t too expensive and hence will be used by those who aren’t too into relatively sophisticated connection methods), a good old 3.5 mm jack would have been great, and I found myself missing it dearly, especially when the Bluetooth connection was awry.

The sound from the 2.1 channel HT-X8500 is really good. The moment the sound from the show I was streaming started emanating from the soundbar, I found the watching experience elevated, thanks to the deep, rich sound. Dialogues had depth to them and were crystal clear, and the right amount of enhanced bass gave the background music a personal theatre-like effect. The mid-range is strong and the Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround Technology on the HT-X8500 ensure an experience where you feel like the sound is coming from all around you and not the soundbar unit itself. The HT-X8500 is equipped with Dolby Atmos and dts X, which makes the entertainment experience wholesome and rich, despite this being a 2.1 channel system. It also comes with preset sound settings for cinema, sports, game, and even news, and on trying them all, I found there are subtle but noticeable differences in the experience. For example, in cinema mode, everything sounds a tad deeper, maybe to mimic a theatre. The soundbar sounded particularly good and lucid at mid and high volume levels, though the loudness and clarity also depends on the input device. If only there was a display and more input options, this one would have won hands down. It still does, but with caveats.

Price: ₹30,990

Pros: Great sound, no-nonsense sharp looks, Dolby and surround sound experience good for the price, useful preset sound modes

Cons: Bluetooth connection had glitches, no display, indicator lights difficult to decipher

Published on June 26, 2019

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