Sony HT-G700 review: This Atmos- and DTS:X-enabled soundbar boasts a trifecta of virtual 3D modes, but no Wi-Fi

Sony doubles down on virtualized 3D audio with the HT-G700, a 3.1-channel soundbar that can deliver immersive 3D audio using not one, not two, but three competing audio technologies. While it lacks the upfiring drivers that most Dolby Atmos- and DTS:X-enabled soundbars employ for height effects, the HT-G700 simulates height and surround cues using virtual 3D solutions from Dolby, DTS, and Sony itself. The HT-G700 makes for an impressive showcase for how far virtualized 3D audio has come in recent years, yet it also betrays its weaknesses, particularly when it comes to Sony’s aggressive—perhaps too aggressive—implementation.

The HT-G700’s $500 price tag might sound enticing given its array of 3D audio functionality, but it’s also missing one huge feature: a Wi-Fi adapter. That means many of the wireless capabilities we’ve come to expect from soundbars in this price range—including multi-room audio, AirPlay 2 or Chromecast connectivity, direct support for streaming music services, and voice assistant support—are missing.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Configuration

A replacement for Sony’s 2.1-channel HT-X9000F, the HT-G700 arrives with more power than its predecessor (400 watts versus 300W for the X9000F), along with (according to Sony) a wider sweetspot, a larger subwoofer, and a new “Immersive AE” (Audio Enhancement) mode that’s capable of upmixing 5.1 or even stereo audio to virtualized 7.1.2 audio.

The Sony HT-G700 is a 3.1-channel soundbar, with a trio of 45 x 10mm oval-shaped cones in the main unit for the left, right, and center channels (the “3” in “3.1”) and a wireless subwoofer with a 160mm cone for low-frequency effects (the “.1”). Because the HT-G700 lacks the wireless capabilities of Sony’s pricier soundbars, it can’t be upgraded to a full-on 5.1-channel system using a set of wireless surround speakers; in other words, what you see (and hear) is what you get.

The HT-G700 supports 3D object-based sound formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but it doesn’t deliver height effects with upfiring drivers that bounce sound off your ceiling (which is itself an alternative to installing speakers in your ceiling). Instead, it uses virtualization to trick your ears into thinking you’re hearing sound from above (not to mention from behind, or from the sides). The soundbar actually supports three flavors of immersive 3D audio virtualization: Dolby Atmos with height virtualization technology, DTS Virtual:X, and Sony’s aforementioned Immersive AE, which employs a pair of other Sony audio technologies—Vertical Surround Engine for height cues, and S-Force Pro for side-to-side surround—to upmix 5.1 or even 2.0 audio to virtualized 7.1.2 sound.

In general, virtual 3D height effects lack the precision you’ll hear from those delivered by upfiring drivers (which, in turn, aren’t as precise as in-ceiling speakers), and they can also sound harsh and distractingly artificial if they’re applied too aggressively. That said, virtual 3D sound offers a key benefit over drivers that bounce sound off the ceiling: its performance doesn’t depend on the type of ceiling you have. To wring the best sound out of upfiring drivers, Dolby recommends a flat ceiling between 7.5 and 14 feet height, and vaulted ceilings simply won’t do. If the ceiling in your entertainment room is too high, too low, or anything other than perfectly flat, virtual 3D sound might be your best option, shy of actual in-ceiling speakers.

The Sony HT-G700’s main soundbar unit measures 38.6 x 2.6 x 4.4 inches, making it somewhat narrower than my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV, with the soundbar barely grazing the bottom edge of the screen from the vantage point of my living room sofa. Meanwhile, the 7.6 x 15.25 x 16-inch wireless subwoofer (which isn’t really wireless, since it requires a power cord) is about as big and bulky as those that come with competing soundbars.

Setup

The Sony HT-G700 takes only minutes to set up. You have the option of placing it in front of your TV or mounting it on a wall beneath your TV; a wall mounting guide is included, but no brackets or screws. I skipped the mounting process and simply plunked the soundbar down in front of my TV set.