Price (RRP): $698
I’ve got to write this bit before I unbox the Sony HT-X9000F: a soundbar for less than $700, yet UltraHD video passthrough, and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support? That’s what I’ve got to hear for myself.
Sony calls the HT-X9000F a 2.1 channel unit. It consists of a slim soundbar, measuring 930mm long but only 58mm high, and a subwoofer. The latter is less compact at 190mm wide, 382mm tall and 387mm deep. It’s also quite heavy for this kind of unit, at 7.8 kilograms.
Sony doesn’t say much about the tech inside the units. By dint of a torch and some careful peering through the fixed grills, I could determine that there are two oval speaker drivers inside the soundbar. Each is near one of its ends, and each measures around 75mm by 25mm.
The subwoofer uses a forwards-firing driver, around 130mm in diameter. The cabinet is bass reflex loaded, with the port also firing to the front.
For inputs, there’s a single HDMI socket and a matching HDMI output socket for connecting to your TV. Sony includes a short HDMI cable, 4K:60p-rated. There’s also an optical digital audio input, a 3.5mm stereo analogue audio input, a USB socket for playing back music on memory sticks.
Plus the Sony HT-X9000F supports Bluetooth connections.
The HDMI output works with the Audio Return Channel from most modern TVs. So, the HT-X9000F can easily reproduce the sound from TV programs (and streaming video, such as Netflix, showing on a smart TV).
The soundbar can be wall mounted or placed on the bench in front of the TV. It comes with an infrared remote control.
Except for one point, it’s hardly worth mentioning the setup of this system because it is so very easy to do. You plug your UltraHD Blu-ray player (or regular Blu-ray player, or DVD player, if you must) into the soundbar. You plug the soundbar into your TV. Then you plug both the soundbar and subwoofer into power and wait a few seconds. The lights flash briefly. The soundbar and sub connect wirelessly and then switch themselves off.
Switch them on again, and they’re right to go. At that point, I was almost shocked to see an on-screen menu from the soundbar appear on my TV. In my experience, that just doesn’t come at this – or even rather higher – price points. The menu conforms to Sony norms, with “Watch”, “Listen” and “Setup” master selections. You can use the setup to section to, for example, code in the distance between your seat and the soundbar, and then your seat and the subwoofer. That aligns the bass and treble in time. You can also set their levels.
Another setting allows you to have something called “DSEE” switched on. This is a processor which attempts to restore missing high frequencies. In general, I recommend against such things. It was switched on out of the box.
While Sony would obviously prefer you to use a Sony TV, I used the soundbar with my LG OLED TV.
Also important, do go and switch on the “IR-Repeater”. TVs are often low-set these days. That means the soundbar might block the little remote control sensor on the front of the TV. If you switch this function on, the soundbar will take the remote signal from your TV remote, and flash it out at the back to make sure the TV receives it.
Just one word of advice: it’s usually best to put the subwoofer in a corner if you can swing it. Unless you are highly expert at such matters, you’re unlikely to find a place in which it will provide smoother performance. Even if you are an expert, you won’t find a place where it can produce higher output levels.
The Bluetooth connection supports the AAC codec in addition to the standard SBC. That provides higher quality from most iOS devices. And, I’ve recently discovered, my Google Pixel 2 XL phone. As I’m writing this, I am playing the FLAC version of Hotel California, which is located on a NAS server in my office, on a DLNA music player on the Pixel 2 XL. The phone is connected to the Sony HT-X9000F soundbar by Bluetooth, so that’s where the music is playing.