If you find the very idea of a simplified 3D soundbar preposterous, you’re not alone. We all know that Dolby Atmos relies on height information to create a truly immersive soundstage, but like its more expensive HT-ZF9 predecessor, the new Sony HT-X8500 uses advanced DSP audio processing to compensate for the lack of dedicated up-firing drivers.
The HT-X8500 soundbar doesn’t only offer brilliant value for money, it also brings the multiplex home in a way few will find difficult to live with.
While it’s only a 2.1 system, the impact of Sony’s inventive DSP post-processing for that surround sound effect is genuinely impressive.
Sony Ht-X8500 Overview
Soundbars have become popular over the past couple of years to compensate for the lackluster quality of sound output from TVs.
Today, soundbars pack in quite a punch in terms of sound as well as features. From having smart assistants built-in, being modular in nature and even boasting of a complete home theatre experience, soundbars today have become an exhaustive category in themselves.
Over the past year, we have seen a lot of brands launch Soundbars without a subwoofer such as the Mi Soundbar (review), Bose Soundbar 700 (review), and more. Today we have with us a new addition to this category – the Sony HT-X8500.
The device is compact, comes without a subwoofer, and is the first soundbar we’ve tested that boasts of eARC. Priced at Rs 29,900 is the Sony HT-X8500, a worthy contender, or are you better off looking at other soundbars in the sub 30k price range? Let’s find out!
Sony ht-x8500 Design
The HT-X8500 is a self-contained audio system. There’s no separate wireless subwoofer, nor extraneous wireless surround speakers.
The subwoofer may be built-in, but the bar remains pleasingly slim. A modest 89cm wide, it’s suitable for TVs measuring between 49-55-inches.
The cosmetic finish has a sense of style. The front-facing array is protected by a smart rolled grille, while a gunmetal grey trim adds interest. Up top are touch-sensitive buttons, for power, input selection, volume, and Bluetooth pairing.
Connectivity is relatively sparse, limited to just two HDMIs, one an input, the other an output with eARC. There’s also an optical digital audio input, for when ARC isn’t available. The 4K HDMI board is compatible with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG.
Overall, the HT-X8500’s compact design is easy to live with, with no separate subwoofer to claim floor space. Instead, we get twin forward-facing woofers. Perhaps, surprisingly for a Dolby Atmos soundbar, there are no up-firing drivers and HDMI connectivity is limited.
Sony Ht-x8500 Features
Sony has opted for a stripped-back feature set here to keep costs down. There’s no smart Wi-Fi connectivity or on-screen menu. Instead, the soundbar communicates via LED lights, which signpost Dolby Atmos and DTS-X sources, as well-chosen inputs.
The bar is driven by a thin finger-style remote control, which despite its dimensions is not shy of buttons.
All the various sound presets are given prominence, alongside processing modes. Such simplicity makes this an easy system to live with.
As it doesn’t depend on reflected sound to create its virtual surround effects, you can simply sit it in front of the telly, or wall mount.
Sony Ht-x8500 Performance
Any reservations we had about the performance of this mid-ranger were blown away when powered up this soundbar is convincingly cinematic.
The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine. Working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allows Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.
Even better, Vertical S doesn’t just work with immersive codecs, either – it can be used as an up-mixer for two-channel and conventional 5.1 sound sources too, to similarly good effect.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the internal subwoofer. It may be modest, but this all-in-one thumps like an ogre’s headache.
With a bass response down to 50Hz, the rumbles aren’t seismic, but they’re persistent. Some may even find the balance of those twin forward-facing woofers a little overbearing at times, but their sheer enthusiasm is hard to fault.
Sizing It Up
Physically, the HT-X8500 is a middleweight. Just 89cm wide, it’s most obviously suitable for sets measuring between 49in and 55in, and slim enough to sit comfortably in front of most of them.
Build quality is good enough. Touch-sensitive buttons are provided for power, input selection, volume control, and Bluetooth pairing.
Some might want more HDMI inputs, but if you connect the majority of your sources directly to your TV, and listen via the Audio Return Channel, the specification here isn’t too difficult to live with.
When it comes to connectivity options, the soundbar has an HDMI port for eARC/ARC and one HDMI pass-through port that supports 4K HDR pass through.
In the same price range, we have seen soundbars like the JBL SB450 (review) with 3 HDMI passthrough ports with 4K HDR passthrough.
The Sony HT-X8500 also has an optical port and has Bluetooth 5 connectivity. Speaking of formats supported, the speaker does boast of support for DTS-X and Dolby Atmos which is nice.
However, without top-firing speakers or rear speakers, we were interested to see how the object-based surround sound works on this bar. There is no Alexa or Google Assistant support with this speaker either.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Sony soundbars any good?
Well-built design. Sony soundbars have a generally sturdy build, thanks to their plastic and metal design. Good for dialogue. Most Sony soundbars are well-suited for dialogue content, especially when combined with their Dialogue Enhancement feature, and the audio produced is clear and accurate.
Are Dolby Atmos soundbars worth it?
Atmos soundbars are worth it if you want a completely immersive audio experience. Atmos adds a vertical dimension to the audio output. The extra cost of stepping up from your standard 2.1 or 5.1 soundbars to an Atmos soundbar does warrant further consideration.