Sony's HTST7 takes on highend soundbars, melds HiFi with connectivity

As of late, Sony's home theater soundbar offerings haven't catered to the higher-end of the market, but that changes today. The company's aluminum-clad HT-ST7 aims to take on speakers that cost much more, while offering NFC-enabled Bluetooth pairing and a plethora of wired connectivity options. The unit features nine drivers powered by seven independent amplifiers, with an included wireless subwoofer that houses dual bass drivers. Sony even opted to have Academy award-winner Paul Ottoson give audio-engineering input, no doubt figuring his golden ears could help the bar better reproduce movie dialogue. AptX and AAC are baked in for wireless music streaming, as is other audio tech including DTS and Dolby Digital for simulated surround sound.

Aside from all that, there's a built-in IR repeater, dimmable LCD info-screen, a trio of both HDMI and Toslink inputs, as well as a single analog audio input and an audio return channel. The HT-ST7 will run space-concerned home theater enthusiasts $1,299 starting today, which includes a nifty collapsible remote. Check out the quartz-inspired design in the embedded galleries and find more details in the press release after the break.

Gallery | 28 Photos

Sony HT-ST7 soundbar

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The new Sony HT-ST7 soundbar delivers the best audio for both movies and music.

The ST7 meets the needs of today's multifaceted consumer:
• HDTV has changed the home entertainment landscape.
• The transition from CRTs to Flat Panels affected sound.
• Sound quality wasn't included in the design equation.
• High quality sound is necessary to complete the picture.
• Consumers desire both sound quality and convenient operation.
• A growing number of consumers desire better sound quality and simplicity. This is why, according to NPD, the soundbar market increased 70% this past year, with about 3 ½ million soundbars expected to be sold in the U.S. this year.
• Consumers also want greater convenience, which is why they're purchasing soundbar models that offer options for more wireless connectivity (including wireless subwoofer).
• As a result, nearly 20% of all soundbars sold today are priced above $1,000.
• Home entertainment and mobile devices are rapidly converging.
• Consumers also want to enjoy their mobile entertainment at home
• iOS and Android devices are the primary technology platform sources for music today.

Understanding these three trends, Sony saw there was still something missing in the market:
• Most soundbars were created to merely enhance the sound from TV; they were not designed to create a compelling audio listening experience.
• They often sacrifice sound quality for design.
• Many support only a few of the many audio codecs (Dolby, dts, linear PCM, etc.) that are included in today's Blu-ray movies.
• Most aren't flexible enough to provide the connectivity options that are necessary to support a wide range of home and mobile entertainment devices.

This is why Sony created the HT-ST7 soundbar, which provides three key benefits:

• Superior sound The ST7's sleek aluminum design incorporates 9 independent speaker drivers, 7 discrete amplifiers, Dolby and dts decoding HD codecs delivering the master quality sound experience, and a high quality dual driver wireless subwoofer. All of this has been designed to deliver the best home theater and music reproduction possible, with great imaging and a wide sound stage traditionally found in larger component based home theaters. Additionally, the ST7 was even "fine-tuned" by Academy Award winning sound engineer Paul Ottoson, who was responsible for the sound in such films as Zero Dark Thirty, Hurt Locker and Spiderman 2.

Each of the 9 drivers are precision mounted on the L-shaped aluminum front panel to insure its correct phase alignment, for the best audio performance. The electrical circuit board is also mounted in the back of the chassis, to minimize electrical noise and totally isolate it from any speaker's diaphragm. Every electrical and mechanical component – such as electrical ground management, mounting of each element – was hand selected and checked through listening with master ES and AR product engineers.

• Convenient flexibility The ST7 uses advanced technologies like Audio Return Channel (ARC) and HDMI for convenient set up with just one cable. Unlike other comparably priced models, it also includes 7 inputs (3 HDMI, 3 digital audio and 1 analog), making it flexible enough to support a variety of AV components.

• Mobile connectivity The ST7 can serve as the perfect audio solution for streaming all of your music from any music service, thanks to its built-in wireless Bluetooth connectivity [version 3.0 with support for AAC and AptX]. No need to go through a complex IP network setup, time consuming firmware updates, or special apps to download. Simply connect your iPhone, iPad or Android phone/tablet through a single press of the "Bluetooth Sync" button. There's also NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, which enables you to instantly transfer your music simply by "bumping" the ST7 against a compatible mobile device.

Sweating the small stuff:
• Despite all of its features, the ST7's remote has been pared down to just a few key buttons. And with Audio Return Channel (ARC), you can even put it away in the drawer and let your TV remote control it all. Try that with other premium brands that do not have HDMI connectivity.
• There's also an IR repeater that automatically sends the TV signal through to your television. Without this, a soundbar could block the IR receiver on the TV. With our experience in the custom installation market, we know the importance of simplicity and usability.
• Using our Sound Optimizer technology, the ST7 automatically equalizes the loudness curve so that you always hear the full movie dynamics at any volume level. Additionally, the Voice button on the remote lets you hear the dialogue more clearly, while reducing the sound effects to a minimum. Perfect for when using the soundbar when the kids are sleeping.
• Some consumers want a soundbar to be heard and not seen. So the ST7 includes a special LCD screen that can be dimmed or turned off to make the soundbar literally disappear. It only shows you the input selected or volume level when you need it.
• Just as you would expect from any high quality loudspeaker, you can remove the speaker grille.
• Last but certainly not least, the ST7 comes with a simple, easy to understand quick start guide.

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Sony's HT-ST7 soundbar melds HiFi with Bluetooth and NFC for $1,299