Sony HT-AX7 portable theatre makes 360 audio personal

posted on Thursday, 6th July 2023 by Steve May

home cinema  Hi-fi 

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Sony is making immersive audio personal with the HT-AX7, a (trans)portable surround sound system that employs 360 Spatial Sound Mapping. The system comprises a main sound system with two removable satellite speakers that can be undocked from the main unit and casually placed behind the listener.

The HT-AX7 isn’t intended as a replacement for a traditional AV system or even a soundbar, it’s designed to provide better audio to those that might be watching a movie or listening to music on a smartphone or tablet. Connectivity is over Bluetooth.

Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology creates phantom speakers front, rear, and overhead, to engulf the listener in sound.

The HT-AX7 does not decode Dolby Atmos or any other native surround format. Instead it receives a stereo feed and upscales it using an upmixer algorithm. This upmixer analyses sound in real-time and separates individual objects, redistributing them around its virtual soundstage.

The system requires no special setup. You need only sit in front of the main driver array and have the two satellites somewhere close behind.

Sony HT-AX7 portable theatre system review

Sony HT-AX7 Satellite Speakers In Hand

I’ve taken the Sony HT-AX7 for an exclusive early spin, and have been impressed with just how engaging it is to listen to. Immeasurably better than relying on a portable device’s own speakers, it’s a more practical (and social) alternative to listening to shows, podcasts or music on headphones. The system is capable of excellent dynamics, has a decent bass response, and impressive faux steerage.

Playing Gravity, a movie known for its spatial sound design, there’s a genuine sense of objects in the round, with dialogue locked centrally. Similarly Bond blockbuster No Time To Die, demonstrates just how exciting the system can sound. The famous DB5 car chase surrounds you with squealing wheels and gunfire. While you’re not listening to the actual surround mix, it does a more than passable job aping it.

Music proves a little less convincing. While the algorithm extracts crowd noise from a live concert and places it to the rear, there’s a phasey-ness which I found a little distracting.

Thankfully, the system can also be put in a standard party mode, wherein the satellites play the same content as the main unit, with no virtual surround processing. This mode works a lot better, and allows the HT-AX7 to double as a fun music system; the rears can be placed anywhere in a room, as they’re behaving like diminutive Bluetooth speakers.

Fully charged, the HT-AX7 offers 30 hours of battery life.

Innovative and different, the HT-AX7 ships in August, and sells for £499 (€550).

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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