Which sound bar brand?
Sony sound bars rated
By Daniel Nissenbaum
Article 7 of 8
Our expert guide to Sony sound bars. Find out whether the brand is right for you before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Where sound bars are concerned, Sony isn't a new presence in the UK, but rivals such as Samsung and LG have more models. The Japanese firm launches around three a year, and has quickly moved from offering a range costing £150-£350 to those that cost up to £1,000, joining top-end brand, such as Bose and Bowers & Wilkins.
Most of Sony’s sound bars are styled to suit TVs ranging from 40 to 55-inches in size, and all come with a wired or wireless subwoofer - a separate speaker that enhances low sounds. Its low and mid-range models typically comprise two or four speakers in a single bar, similar to those from other brands; its top-end sound bars will generally pack in more speakers. All provide a way to play music from a smartphone, tablet or laptop using a cable connection via USB or 3.5mm mini-jack inputs, while most also offer Bluetooth or Bluetooth NFC to stream music wirelessly. Like other brands, Sony includes different sound modes and surround-sound effects.
In the table below, we've rounded up some of the key facts about the brand to help you decide whether a Sony sound bar would be right for you. Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive ratings and verdicts in the table.
|Sony sound bars overview table|
|Number tested in the past three years||18|
|Number of Best Buys|
|Average test score|
|Brand reliability rating|
|Customer score (%)|
|Should I buy one?|
|Table notes||Average test score based on results of models tested that are still available in shops. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2016 of 145 Sony sound bar owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 5 June 2017.|
How much do Sony sound bars cost?
The average Sony sound bar costs £336, slightly more than the overall brand average of around £300. Budget options are available for under £100 though, the average is pushed up slightly by a few premium models, some pushing the £1,000 mark.
Choosing the best Sony sound bar
Sony's entry-level sound bars come with an external wired subwoofer – a separate speaker designed to provide big, full-bodied bass that adds punch to films and TV shows, while its mid-range and top-end models come with a wireless subwoofer, which links with the main sound bar unit wirelessly rather than with a cable. Sony’s soundbases, however, has all speakers built into a flat, reinforced box – it’s designed for small and large TVs to sit on top of it and can’t be wall mounted.
Many of these models have great connectivity for connecting many devices to the sound bar, particularly for HDMI ports, including a TV input and three ports for Blu-ray/DVD players, set-top boxes and similar equipment. While Bluetooth music streaming has become an increasingly common sound bar feature, Sony was the first manufacturer to offer NFC (near-field communication). This provides a one-tap method of wirelessly pairing the sound bar with an NFC-equipped smartphone or tablet to stream music, rather than the slightly longer-winded method of enabling Bluetooth, and then searching for and pairing the devices.
Sony surround-sound processing
All Sony sound bars offer several virtual surround-sound modes; Dolby Virtual Speaker creates an effect like a 5.1 multi-speaker system, while mid-range models with Sony’s ‘S-Force PRO Front Surround' include various ‘sound fields’, such as Standard, Movie, Game, Music, and Stereo. Most process Dolby Digital and DTS digital soundtracks commonly found on DVDs, Blu-rays, and TV broadcasts. ‘Night mode’ is designed to let you enjoy these even at low volumes by optimising loud and quiet sounds. 'Advanced auto-volume’ automatically balances the sound, and ‘Sync’ corrects any audio issues. It’s down to personal taste whether you use presets – in our tests we find the effect can sound unnatural, but you can choose ‘Standard’ to listen without any processing.
Like other brands, some models have a dedicated voice clarity feature to enhance speech even at low volumes; this can be effective but can sound unnatural. However, Sony’s top-end models use a centre speaker to achieve this instead of processing – these comprise up to nine speakers, whereas a typical sound bar has two or four.
Some sound bars do a great job with stereo and moving horizontal sound, such as a car speeding from left to right, but it’s hard to beat a surround-sound system for hearing a pin drop behind you. To learn more, read Sound bar vs home cinema vs surround sound system: which is best?.