Sony is bringing 360-degree sound mapping to its latest soundbars

It has a new set of wireless rear speakers to help you make the most of it.


When Sony debuted its premium home theater gear for 2021, the company's pricey HT-A9 speaker set had a key feature that its soundbars didn't. It's called 360 Spatial Sound Mapping and it creates "phantom speakers" to help the actual speakers produce room-filling sound. Today at CES, Sony announced that it will offer an upgrade to both the HT-A7000 (7.1.2) and HT-A5000 (5.1.2) soundbars that adds the 360-degree audio mapping later this spring.

360 Spatial Sound Mapping first uses a combination of Sound Field Optimization tech and built-in microphones to measure the height and position of both a soundbar and rear speakers. Once that's done, the setup creates virtual speakers by positioning sound waves based on the collected location information. Sony says the result is a "wide spatial sound field" capable of filling a room and it promises that everyone will get "the same sound experience" no matter where they're sitting. The company also reminded us that an Acoustic Center Sync feature on Bravia XR TVs will work with the sound mapping to become a center speaker that enhances dialogue. Both the A7000 and A5000 already support Sony's 360 Reality Audio for more immersive music listening.

Sony SA-RS5 speakers

To help you make the most out of the soundbars' new ability, Sony is debuting a new set of wireless rear speakers. Unlike most rear satellites that connect wirelessly but rely on a cord for power, the new SA-RS5 speakers are totally wireless and can be charged out of sight. The company says you can expect up to 10 hours of use when they're fully charged and 10 minutes will give you 90 minutes of play time if you forget to replenish the batteries. They also feature up-firing speakers, wide directional woofers, dome tweeters and dual passive radiators for a more robust soundstage and better clarity. The SA-RS5 can run Sony's Sound Field Optimization with the press of a button so they're easily calibrated with your soundbar each time you reposition them. Lastly, the cylindrical speakers have a flat back side so they'll sit nicely against a wall.

You'll need a set of rear speakers to employ the forthcoming 360 Spatial Sound Mapping upgrade on the aforementioned soundbars — hence the new model. If you can live without all the bells and whistles of the SA-RS5, the SA-RS3S is also compatible. They're a plain ol' set of two-way rear satellite speakers in comparison, but they'll save you some money over the upcoming model at $350. And based on my experience, they should get the job done just fine.

The new SA-RS5 wireless rear speakers will be available this spring for $600. That's $250 more than the SA-RS3S that debuted alongside the HT-A7000 last year.

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