How effective is Sony’s HT-ZF9 3.1 Dolby Atmos soundbar?

posted on Monday, 15th January 2018 by Steve May

Dolby Atmos  Soundbar  CES 2018 

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Sony will introduce a new, low-cost Dolby Atmos soundbar this Spring. The HT-ZF9, to be priced at £600, is an unusual 3.1 design. While it has no upfiring drivers, it employs a new Vertical Surround Engine to create an immersive soundfield. Sony will also introduce a pair of SA-Z9R rear speakers for the system, to create a traditional surround sound configuration.

HT-Z9F_ZF9 Crop

We auditioned the HT-ZF9 at CES, to discover just how effective this three channel soundbar can be playing Atmos content. Certainly there was no doubt that it’s a rather fine sounding TV speaker system. Integration with the wireless subwoofer is seamless, and there’s excellent definition. Sony’s Vertical Surround Engine creates an impressive, high soundstage. However, we struggled to hear a genuine sense of Atmos-style surround immersion at the demos held on the Sony booth. As yet, the optional rears are not available. Of course, the bar may well be room dependant, so we look forward to hearing the sound system in a regular domestic setting. That said, the HT-ZF9 is considerably cheaper than last year’s HT-ST7000, a 7.2 solution.

In addition to Dolby Atmos compatibility, the HT-ZF9 will also decode DTS:X soundtracks, and play High-Resolution audio formats.

Connections include three HDMIs (two inputs), which support 4K HDR and Dolby Vision pass-through. It’s also Wi-Fi enabled, with Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and USB playback. It also has Chromecast built-in, for easy streaming and multiroom usage. It can also be integrated with Google Assistant for basic voice control.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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