We all have better televisions now, streaming high quality visual on their Full HD or 4K screens. But for audio on this high-quality content, most of us still depend on the tiny speakers on the sides of these displays. With the availability of stereo quality audio on streaming sites, many consumers are looking towards audio devices that can augment the experience in their living rooms. Thankfully, sound bars are also becoming more affordable.
Sony HT-X8500 sound bar
The Sony HT-X8500 looks like any other soundbar. It is sleek and could easily fit below my 42-inch television. It is another matter that my TV is surrounded by so much clutter that I had to make space for the bar.
The sound bar connects easily using an HDMI cable. But there is the added advantage of connecting via Bluetooth. In fact, I chose this option as all the content on my television comes through the Amazon Fire Stick and there was no need for any more cables to add to the clutter.
The bar has a touch panel on top with LED indicators for you to adjust most of the settings. There is no LCD display, so you will need to figure out a lot of things by reading what the LEDs are trying to say. There is also a full-fledged remote with more controls and this will clearly be your prime interface with the Sony HT-X8500. The remote lets you switch presets, and there are quite a few ones like Cinema, Voice, and Sports. While these are expected, what I really liked was the softer Night mode and the clear DTS Dialog mode.
While the Sony HT-X8500 is sleek and small it does pack a punch. The sound bar offers 320W total sound output, which makes this a beast at full volume. In fact, for those looking to rig a cinema room in their home, this could be a more viable option without affecting the experience at all.
While all kinds of music sounds good on the Sony HT-X8500, it is the movie watching experience that I would recommend this sound bar for. It is also because this is among the first soundbars to be powered by Dolby Atmos. I have always been a big fan of Atmos and the three-dimensional audio profile it offers, augmenting the art of story-telling. To get that experience at home, that too without an array of speakers is something else.
The Sony HT-X8500 offers a vertical surround experience which is unique and you almost feel a wall of sound rise up from the bar, shrouding the screen. You can feel the sound all around you, even some of it on the ceiling. The sound throw is such. While the Sony HT-X8500 is a 2.1 channel sounder, the experience is more akin to 5.1 because of the Dolby Atmos audio.
I tried Dolby Atmos sound tests. While the audio was certainly not the experience you get in a theatre with its 124-odd speakers, it was clearly the best audio experience that had come into my humble home. A few scenes from Iron Man and Baahubali 2 literally resonated inside my entire living room.
I also enjoyed my regular morning raaga on the soundbar and with this connected to my TV, I ended up listening to more songs on YouTube than I would otherwise. The music quality is rich and being a Sony sound system, there is always the option to add some extra bass. But using the presets you can enjoy all genres of music just the way you want. For instance, the DTS Dialog mode was perfect to listen to Carnatic vocals.
At the moment, the Sony HT-X8500 is among the best soundbars you can bring home, given that it performs excellently for both audio and cinema playback. The Dolby Atmos only takes this to a new level and certainly, there are very no sound bars in this price range that can offer this at the moment.