Today I’m going to introduce the Sony HT 8500 soundbar. It’s a budget Dolby Atmos soundbar, but is it any good? We’ll find out soon.
So this is Sony’s entry-level Dolby Atmos，DTS:X all-in-one soundbar. It’s a 2.1 system with built-in subwoofers and includes Sony’s vertical sound engine. First impressions of the soundbar are very positive. The soundbar measures 890mm long, 64mm high, and 96 mm deep, which sits very nicely under my 50-inch TV.
It has a lever effect to finish to top and sides with a metal grill to the front. On the top are several indicator lights and touch-sensitive buttons. There is a remote control too, which makes things a little bit easier. But there is no display, which is one of the negatives.
As for connectivity, it has two HDMI ports to the rear, with one being arc, a single optical port. It’s Bluetooth 5.0 as well. The soundbar can be wall-mounted, and a paper guide for fixing is included in the box.
The setup was pretty straight forward, but there are several things you need to consider when doing so. By that, I mean only specific audio formats work with certain cabling arrangements. If you want to utilize that Dolby Atmos or DTS X, you need to use HDMI earc or optical cable. But the latter will only give you Atmos, not X. If you go for standard HDMI, you will not get access to Atmos or X but will be able to use older formats like standard Dolby Digital and DTX. For Bluetooth connection and you’re stuck with AAC format.
For my setup, I used an HDMI cable from the TV into HDMI earc the sandbar and then added my ps4 into the sandbar via the spare HDMI slot.
Now onto the first dilemma. Atmos or X-content and how you’re going to get that. There are limited ways you can use Atmos or X right now, and you need a specific device to access them. These include 4k blu-ray players and some newer TVs, AppleTV, 4k Xbox ones, and firestick 4k.
Without a compatible device and the correct cable arrangement, the soundbar won’t receive Atmos or X audio formats. The second issue is finding the content to watch. Sure there is a relatively large variety of 4k blu-ray discs, but the content is limited on major streaming services right now. Amazon and Netflix they only offer a handful of movies or TV shows that provide the Atmos or X audio experience.
As for performance, it’s excellent, and it’s brought so much joy to me watching my movies over the last few weeks. The dialog in movies is crystal-clear and loud enough so you can hear what people are saying. The bass is excellent, considering this doesn’t come with a separate subwoofer. The bass blends in very well. However, it didn’t rumble on my sofa. It packs a punch.
It’s advertised as a 2.1 system, but you can see four drivers from the front, left, right, and two essential bass drivers. Overall it’s a well-balanced powerful soundbar at the mid to high light volumes.
Along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, the H8500 includes Sony’s vertical surround engine, which allows the soundbar to process standard audio and upscale it to simulate a 7.1.2 surround sound effect. That does not offer a true Atmos or X experience. Nothing ever indeed will without speakers above and to the rear. But I was surprised when I played one of the Atmos sample videos created by Dolby. There was a sense of surround and directional sound around me. It did a reasonably good job of simulating audio rotating around me. It’s added to the surround sound experience for me. But I know it’s not true Atmos or X. It’s not an ideal situation and won’t represent the quality very well.
The H8500 is not just for movies. It caters to general TV sports and gaming too. With the touch of a button, you can select one of these preset profiles, and the sound will change to suit that content. There is also a night function, so if you have little kids and don’t want to wake them up, hit that, and it brings everything down a bit, so it’s not so distracting.
I also listen to some music via the Bluetooth option, and it was good. It would fill my living room very quickly. It’s very directional. By that, I mean, you have to almost sit directly in front of it to get the best audio experience. If you’re sitting elsewhere in the room, it’s perfectly fine, but it’s not as right now.
Opinion about Improvement
The first being the bass. Although I said it was perfect earlier and is at the mid to high volumes, but not at 100% volume. The soundbar cannot deliver enough bass, and it’s very obvious. That’s when you need a separate subwoofer.
Secondly, the control lacks a screen. The indicator lights work, but it’s straightforward to get in a muddle, and you can get lost. In th process, you’re trying to undertake. Some of the final audio configurations require several button presses, and it’s not the easiest.
Lastly, it turns itself off. I would regularly pause whatever content I’m watching, go back to it after 15-20 minutes, hit play. The content will play, but there is no sound. I then need to turn the soundbar back on. It doesn’t sense the audio signal like it does when you first turn the TV on. While researching this before I purchased, I read about audio sync issues, where there would be a second or two delays. I’ve not had that issue with touchwood, but there is an AV sync option which allows you to adjust the timings. I’ve not looked into it too much as I haven’t needed to, but it’s good to know, and if the problem comes up, there should be an easy solution.
I think this is a cracking soundbar. It’s worth every penny. Sure it’s not perfect, and of course, there are better soundbars out there. But at this price point, it will take some doing to beat it. Yes, the Dolby Atmos and DTS X is a bit of a flop but adds something to the experience. It’s just not an accurate representation of the multi-speaker, multi-directional experience.