Technophile

Sony HT-Z9F: Vertical sound from a horizontal bar

Kishore Bhargava | Updated on July 17, 2019 Published on July 17, 2019

This offering from Sony completes the home-theatre experience

These days, when you consider a home-theatre set-up, the first thing that comes to mind is that there will be disruption and wiring and other such stuff to get all the speakers set for an immersive experience. Well, not anymore. The soundbars of today are doing an amazing job of creating a virtual soundscape. The Sony HT-Z9F is no exception. It literally creates an envelope of sound around you, especially if you add the rear speakers. Three little drivers in the main soundbar, a nice decent-sized wireless sub-woofer and two wireless rear speakers, and you suddenly have a full theatre experience. All you need to worry about is having enough plug points to plug things in.

Glossy looks

As is to be expected from Sony, the soundbar is all gloss and matte. Subtle and black with clean lines. The subwoofer also has its share of gloss and overall it looks quite neat. There is a front grille that completes it. However, it is recommended to remove the grille while listening to music. While we didn’t kick the volumes to insane levels, we did not find the grille creating a buzz. Without the grille, the front looks downright ugly, so best to keep it on. The soundbar is about a metre long so it is best mounted on the wall right below the TV. However if you intend to use it on a table, you will need that much space for it.

One of the design cribs is the way the HDMI ports have been crammed together. If one is expected to use the new breed of thick HDMI cables and connectors, then it would not be possible to connect them because the space is really cramped. There is also an HDMI out, which supports ARC (audio return channel) and if your TV has an HDMI ARC or eARC port, then you are in luck. Without ARC support, the set-up can get a little more convoluted and complex, but with ARC, it is trivial and it took us less than 15 minutes to unpack and have the whole thing up and running.

Easy set-up

The set-up itself only involved plugging the HDMI output to the TV HDMI and the existing devices connected to the TV connected directly to the soundbar. The set-up process is all displayed on the screen and literally takes a few minutes. It shows three sections — Watch, Listen and Setup. The first lets you set up your TV and HDMI inputs, the second has all the audio stuff and Setup lets you make more changes and tweaks. The wireless sub-woofer and rear speakers join the network and come on automatically as well. Many home-theatre set-ups require complex calibration to get the sound right, this one just gets it straight out-of-the-box.

During the set-up, it also asks if you wish to enable Chromecast and this comes as a pleasant surprise. The soundbar actually has many nice features built-in. You can stream content via Bluetooth, Chromecast, Spotify, if you have a premium account and finally Alexa integration as well. We did test all of these and they worked great. You can just ask Alexa to “Watch Mirzapur” and it would kick in the TV, the soundbar and away you go. For the Alexa integration, one does need the Sony Music Centre app, but once it is set up you do not need it again for anything.

Simple use

In case you still need more, there is also a 3.5 mm audio jack and of course it would not be complete without a USB port. Everything you need to enjoy audio or video content is all in one place.

The front of the speaker does have a little display window, which shows messages and the mode while in operation. For some strange reason though, other than messages that are built-in, the display is truncated to five characters.

Coming to the most important aspect, the sound. No complaints there at all. The soundbar has a very balanced sound both for audio (music) and video content. Listening to podcasts and news feels very real as mid-range is very well presented. The remote has a very prominent “Vertical S” button in the centre, which when switched on tries up mixes for tracks that are not really Dolby Atmos.

The biggest issue would actually be in finding sufficient content. While many of the streaming services now offer a lot of 4K content with Dolby Atmos, the titles are still limited. Amazon has very few and for Netflix, one would need to be on the higher priced plan.

In all, the Sony HT-Z9F is certainly a step in the right direction, and as more 4K content is added and as people upgrade their TVs, this will certainly find a way into their homes as a companion.

Price: ₹62,990 including sub-woofer (box price); rear speakers ₹10,990

Pros: Ease of set-up, great features and great sound.

Cons: Expensive, not enough 4K content, ugly without the grille

Published on July 17, 2019
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