Rated 5 out of 5
by Multimediographer The New Standard for Audio in my Home
Over the past few years I’ve been in the process of building the “perfect podcasters studio” in my home office. The latest addition to my set-up is the Sony HT-ST5 sound bar. I’ve never owned any sound bar prior to this one so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of sound quality. Especially considering the sleek low-profile size of the unit. I’ve grown up thinking big speakers mean big sound, right? Wrong.
I own several Sony products, so I was certain build quality wouldn’t be an issue, but the idea that cinema quality sound could come out of a device that occupies such a relatively small footprint made me very skeptical. Also, in my livingroom I have a full 5:1 premium built-in sound system. My thinking was — how could this thing ever compare?
In short, it did more than just compare. It made me really question the expense I incurred by getting that built in system.
THE BOX! TETRIS IN THE HOUSE!
The unit showed up in a box that looked like a “Tetris” piece. The box is an “L” shape, to accommodate both the oblong sound bar as well as the square-ish subwoofer. The box was a bit heavy, but even though the packaging indicated that it should be handled by two people, I was able to easily move it around by myself.
After the box arrived, I let the box sit, sealed, in my office for a few days. I was waiting until I had a good amount of time to dedicate to getting it all wired and configured in my home office. And I just “knew” a trip to Best Buy was in my future to snag some essential missing cable or something. Thankfully, none of this was the case.
Sony packaged the device very well, but it was easy enough to open and unpack. In fact, I had the unit out of the box and sitting on the floor waiting for installation in about 5 minutes.
From there, it was really “scarily” simple to set up. The configuration essentially consisted of this; 1. unbox the unit, 2. put it on my desk and plug it in, 3. connect the audio input, 4. plug in the subwoofer. 5. play some music and sit back and listen.
I can’t stress enough that there was pretty much ZERO configuration with this device. Setting it up really only consisted of plugging it in. And the wireless subwoofer made my day. No pairing, no hassle, no nothing… I just plugged it in and turned it on. The sound bar automatically found the sub and everything just… worked. This is how technology should work.
THE REMOTE AND ENERGY SAVING
The remote control is delightfully simple with just a few buttons to operate it, and the sound bar automatically powers itself off after a period of dormancy. I do wish that it would auto detect an incoming audio signal and turn itself on as well, but it doesn’t. Once it goes to sleep, a trip to the tiny remote control is in order to power it back on. But it boots up within a few seconds and is ready for action.
In a word, WOW. For context, this device replaced a set of M-Audio AV-40 monitor speakers that I had connected to my Mac. These speakers sounded just fine, but lacked the low frequencies. Meaning podcasts, Skype calls and Google+ Hangouts sounded just fine, but the lower frequencies present in music and other audio were almost non-existent. Conversely, the audio out of the Sony HT-ST5 sound bar blew my socks off. The bass response is outstanding, with crisp highs and clear mid tones. My podcast studio finally sounds like an actual studio.
THE BOTTOM LINE
My eyes have been opened to the quality possible from the Sony sound bar line up. It’s simply amazing that such rich and cinematic sound can come from such a sleek and low profile device. I’m now planning on purchasing one for the master bedroom. And have cancelled plans to have built-in speakers installed in the ceiling.
I realize I’m using this device somewhat outside of its intended purpose (home theater), but if Sony hasn’t considered the home office/studio as a possible use case, it should. The Sony HT-ST5 sound bar has added a depth of sound quality to my office that I had not previously thought possible… especially not at this price.
I highly recommend the Sony HT-ST5 sound bar to anyone looking for premium sound — in any room.
September 3, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5
by DianaElizabeth Excellent + stylish upgrade from previous setup
Previous surround sound set up (might be similar to yours): Power plug from wall to Subwoofer --> Subwoofer cable to Receiver (Disc player/Radio) AND small speakers with thin wires --> Receiver cable to TV. Lots of cables everywhere, all nestled by the TV as all must be connected.
For reference - my TV is 46" and it is perfect size where it matches the length of the sound bar.
> Less wires. Sound Bar cables - (1) optical out to TV, (2) HDMI cable to Receiver (disc player/etc), (3) power outlet. Much simpler, I was looking for a better solution.
> Subwoofer plugged in anywhere in the room (can be hidden) and is wireless.
> Different settings for what you are watching - game, movie, football, etc. A
> If updating from something similar to my previous surround sound set up, you will need a new DVD/Radio Receiver since mine was ancient and had no HDMI or power outlet.
> Connecting from a smartphone/tablet, you switch on Bluetooth - setting BT AU to sync. Will prompt you to download a free App (instructions in manual). Once set up I didn't know how to play the music, hitting all kinds of buttons, essentially the App just allows you to use your smartphone as a remote (but couldn't make it play from my iTunes). Use the hand remote and hit "BT AU" once again for the speakers and it will play. Careful on sound settings on your iPhone and speakers, I almost blew my ear drums out.
> In future to play songs from smart phone/tablet turn on sound bar "BT AU" so it's on, and connect bluetooth (select device) and play iTunes.
This is my first experience with a sound bar. I do enjoy that subwoofer no longer needs to sit by the TV (again, my previous set up was probably 6+ years old).
The only reason for 4 instead of 5 would be the size (and , but again, I'm not sure if it would be possible for a sound bar to be slimmer. I enjoy this view better than all the dated speakers I had before.
September 2, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5
by BeJay2 HIGH TIME WE UPGRADED OUR SOUND
Over the years we’d gotten comfortable with what we had in place — know what I mean? Our living room has an L-shaped sectional couch at its focal point so that’s where we had placed an antique armoire – to hold and to hide our entertainment components.
Then two years ago we swapped our older technology TV for a 46-inch Full HD 3D-capable LED unit and a new Blue-ray 3D DVD player. They fit inside that armoire along with our old sound system, which was a circa-2000 Amplifier/6-CD/AM&FM Radio music center with a wired subwoofer and pair of duplexed micro cube speakers….
After a while our new components revealed how outdated our sound system actually was; besides, it didn’t do surround sound, etc.… The question then became what to replace it with that had: quality sound; was flexible enough to connect with many devices; and looked good in our living room (that is, fit without showing). We were drawn toward the compactness and ease of installation of a high-quality sound bar rather than discrete components.
We had looked at several models, including Sony’s top-of-the-line HT-ST7 Sound Bar and we had liked its premium sound and capabilities. So, when Sony’s brand new HT-ST5 Sound Bar recently became available it gave consumers like us the option of a premium device at a lower price point but still delivered ST7-like sound quality and features. Frankly, we couldn’t hear the difference.
Checking the HT-ST5’s specs, it had more than enough power (380W) for our 13ft x 23ft living room with 8ft ceiling; 7.1 channel surround sound; 7 mid-range, 2 tweeters and a sealed subwoofer; and several HDMI 2.0 inputs for our LED TV, Verizon FIOS cable box, and our Blue-ray DVD player. Perfect!
The HT-ST5 arrived in a sturdy L-shaped foam-padded carton. Installation was as straightforward as expected using an included optical cable and two HDMI cables that we already had. The HT-ST5 fit neatly into our armoire two shelves below the HD LED TV (see photo), so we don’t need to use the built-in IR repeater. The unit has removable rubber feet that tilt it upwards about 30 degrees, which seems to maximize the sound path for our particular layout. And the subwoofer, being wireless, was easily stashed out of sight behind our couch. The sound bar and the subwoofer paired automatically – no muss, no fuss. The HT-ST5 installation actually took less time than it took to dismantle and set aside our old equipment and cabling!
We’ve been enjoying the HT-ST5 and we don’t miss our old component system. In fact, we are astonished by the presence and clarity of Sony’s theater-like surround sound in our space. [We’ll leave it for technical reviewers to compare arcane specs like S Force Pro Front Surround, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, aptX and AAC codecs, and stuff like that.]
We can hear the difference compared with our old system: cable channels, streamed movies, DVDs, and even our legacy collection of classical music CDs are more satisfying and enjoyable now – it’s as if our entertainment center has, well, come alive!
Speaking of “hearing”, one feature that we had under-estimated on the HT-ST5 is Sony’s three Voice settings for dialogue clarity – it really does help eliminate those dreaded “Honey, what did they just say?” They are in addition to seven levels of Sound Field settings (Standard, Movie1, Movie2, Music, Game, Football, and Clear Audio+), which are convenient presets of equalizer and other settings.
The HT-ST5 is now the hub of our entertainment system. We’re still trying out the HT-ST5’s many settings and exploring all the options so our listening experience is actually getting even better as we learn to tweak it. That said, if there is anything we wished Sony had done differently with this product it would be around the Startup Guide and User Manual – they ought to be more user friendly and in-depth. Perhaps coupled with a set-up video?
Sony’s engineers also included NFC (Near Field Connectivity) for devices with that level of Bluetooth technology. I’m a fan of NFC, I already use NFC to pair my Xperia Tablet Z with my RX100/II Cyber-shot digital camera, so connecting this sound bar with my tablet was a snap – just press the unit’s Pairing button and “tap” their NFC logos together to connect. Also installed Sony’s free SongPal™ app on the Tablet Z to navigate content, control the Sound Bar (see photo), and stream the tablet’s audio output.
However, we are quite comfortable using the neat little remote and its “hidden” buttons. There’s even a button to dim/turn-off the HT-ST5’s front panel display to enhance the mood – I kid you not.
So, if you are also looking for a premium sound bar in the $1K price band, I can heartily recommend purchasing an HT-ST5. Then pour a glass of your favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy the thrilling sound of this remarkable new sound bar. Cheers, Sony.
August 31, 2014
Rated 3 out of 5 by mfe1 not impressed
not easy to understand the control bar , the bass may as well not even be there
December 9, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by CircaRigel Digital Dynamo! Total Immersion!
I come from a family of engineers, including a multimedia engineer (not associated with Sony) for a father. As such, I picked up a few things along the way, and became an audiophile.
Prior experience with soundbars led me not to expect too much when I received the HT-ST5 from Amazon to review as a member of their Vine program. I should have expected more. In fact, I was blown away. The following is the review I wrote for Amazon:
Digital Dynamo for the Audiophile! Total Immersion!
By CircaRigel VINE VOICE on August 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If you're an audiophile, as I am, but don't have a space conducive to an elaborate 7.1 surround setup, or even for proper placement of a 5.1 system, the Sony HT-ST5 Soundbar / Wireless Subwoofer may be the perfect alternative.
In my experience, most soundbars tend to have a rather flat, weak sound, without the rich tone spectrum one comes to expect of decent surround systems. The typical soundbars aren't meant to replace surround systems, but are a space-saving compromise for those who can't afford a decent surround system, or just don't have the space for one.
Sony is attempting to change that, and not doing too badly, either.
***** Background: One of the most common failings of the typical soundbar is that it isn't deep enough to provide the rigid chamber necessary for rich sounding sound. A deep, rigid chamber isn't always necessary, though. I grew up around magneplanar speakers, ones that were millimeters thick, yet could sound as rich as a concert hall, without the 5.1 surround... but also insanely expensive.
So, is there a middle ground? Sony tries to bridge the gap through the use of seven digital amplifiers enhancing the sound quality of the 9 speakers in this 7.1 system. While the quality still isn't that of high-end 7.1 and 5.1 systems, it's a HUGE improvement on most soundbar systems and even improves on moderate 5.1 systems.
***** Appearance: The quartz crystal design is attractive, and may be set up with the grille on or without the grille, depending on personal preference. The Subwoofer size can't be helped without some loss in bass quality. The bar measures in at 40 inches, making it suitable for a 44 inch or larger television. The display is large and easy to read, even from across the room. The display has a night mode to enhance viewing experience at night, reducing any interference its light may have on that emitted by your television. There are also keyhole brackets that permit the user to mount the soundbar on a wall, if they so choose. Doing the math, one can determine that the 7 digital amplifiers are each 40W, compared with the 50W amplifiers of its sibling, the HT-ST7. The Subwoofer is identical to that of the ST7 at 100W.
***** Setup: Setting this system up took mere minutes, but if connecting to an HDMI system, you do need to supply your own HDMI cables. Since placing the soundbar in front of the television can block the IR sensor, the soundbar has an IR repeater function to bypass the potential difficulty of your television remote not working.
I strongly recommend reading both the Startup Guide and Operating instructions, for while the physical setup is simple, optimizing the settings to one's components isn't as intuitive. The first step is to establish the Secure Link connection, which will link the system into a cohesive unit and prevent interference from other wireless devices operating in the vicinity.
***** Use: The HT-ST5 is loaded with features. They are so numerous that I won't be able to touch on all of them. For those with a "Bravia" sync compatible television (not me), this system is compatible with those features, including the power-saving mode that turns the HDMI off when not in use. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you may prefer to control it using it, for you won't need to scroll through features and settings the way you must with the very simple remote. The "Songpal" feature is used for pairing. I, personally, am using a Logitech Harmony 700 remote with it, for it likewise can bypass the scrolling. As there is yet to be programming for the HT-ST5, I programmed my remote with settings to its nearest sibling, the HT-ST7.
There are a TON of sound field modes, more than I've seen listed for any other Sony Soundbar system: Standard, Football (Stadium), Music, Game, Clear Radio +, and Movie 1 and Movie 2. In addition, there are three voice modes. ClearAudio + automatically selects the suitable setting for the sound source. The movie modes are optimized for movie viewing, with Movie 2 offering a stronger surround-sound effect than Movie 1. Music and Game modes are likewise optimized for those sources. Football mode seems to increase reverb to a point where it mimics the acoustics of a football stadium during game play. Standard is optimized for TV programs. Of the voice modes, Type 2 and Type 3 enhance dialogue range, with type 3 designed specifically for the elderly and hearing impaired.
I have now tested the HT-ST5 with my Roku 2 streaming video and my Samsung Blu-ray player. Blu-Rays tested on it were the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Avatar Ultimate edition. With the Roku, I chose to view X-files on Netflix. To test Bluetooth capabilities, I streamed music from the Peter Gabriel concert version of "In Your Eyes," and Yanni's "Voices" album from my Kindle HD 8.9". I also attempted to stream through my Onkyo A/V receiver, but was disappointed when I got video, but no sound- but I determined that to be due to limitations of the receiver rather than the HT-ST5, for its HDMI output appears to be video-only.
In all cases, the performance of the soundbar and subwoofer exceeded that of my old system. The bass and midrange were both quite robust (and I did adjust the subwoofer levels to optimize the experience), with the treble being slightly TOO bright. This mild inequality can be compensated for to some extent through the use of a decent equalizer. The bass was clear and crisp, without the break-up one can hear in some systems that don't provide adequate enclosures. I attribute the richness of the bass to the very ample and extremely rigid enclosure Sony has provided for it. I did find that it tended to sound better with the subwoofer placed near the soundbar- if only because the lower end of the midrange does extend slightly into the range provided by the subwoofer... but the crossover isn't noticeable unless specifically looking for it. Otherwise the surround effect may be slightly compromised for the low midrange.
The surround effect is substantial for a soundbar, the main limitations being that unlike stand-alone systems, one cannot place rear speakers of a sound bar behind where one is seated. I found it very easy to track sound sources to the right and left of my screen. When I played music through my Kindle, the sound was clear, crisp, and rich throughout- although still a little bright on the treble end.
***** Verdict: I would recommend this soundbar system for anyone who wants the quality of most moderate sound systems with the space-saving attributes of a soundbar system. It won't replace a high end 7.1 or 5.1 system, but it is decent enough to impress most people... It definitely impressed me, in spite of my substantial background. While it still doesn't have AirPlay, the Bluetooth functionality definitely tries to set the standard for what others should strive for. The variety in Sound Field and voice settings means that there's someone for everyone, from the gamer, to the sports nut, to the movie buff and even the concert-goer.
September 7, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by davearn2000 Turns a living room into a surround sound theater
I bought a new Sony 4K widescreen and this soundbar from BestBuy; and the soundbar really complements the amazing picture of the top of the line Sony TV. Movie 1 and 2 settings both sound great; and this bar with its subwoofer rival my old Polk Audio 5-channel and ridiculously heavy subwoofer rated at three times the power. A beautiful component; this soundbar looks as cool as it performs.
January 21, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by samtheman2013 Premium Sound!
I researched quite extensively for currently available sound bars. The Sony HT-ST7 came in at number 1. The HT-ST5 (this model)
is the younger brother and is about 300$ cheaper. However the HT-ST5 still is of premium quality although the max sound/bass is lower than the HT-ST7. This is a great looking device with premium quality brushed metal look.
Comparing the HT-ST7 to much more expensive(about 500-700$ more) Sonos, Definitive Technology and Bowers and Wilkins etc. the Sony just blew them away. The HT-ST5 also comes in very close
to performing at the same levels as these other sound bars I mentioned (the price difference is even bigger then as the HT-ST5 is cheaper than the HT-ST7). The quality of music is unbelievable and does not get distorted at the max volume.
I also have a Pioneer Amplifier (7.1 channel) and a Harmon Kardon Speaker system (8 speakers in total). This system is my main Home Theater and it is a mid-range system. So I cannot compare
that system with the Sony HT-ST5 as it would not be fair for the HT-ST5. However if you are looking for a sound bar that is extremely easy to setup with very good sound then the HT-ST5 is what you are looking for.
Setting up the system was a breeze (compared to my existing 8 speaker home theater). All you need is to connect two HDMI cables - one from your Blue Ray Player (IN) and then then the other to your TV (OUT). The Wireless Sub-Woofer connected
easily as well (although I had to use the setup menu to do this as I have a lot of other wireless devices in my house). The good thing is that Sony provides their own Wireless connectivity with the bar to the sub-woofer so that they do not interfere with your other wireless connections (and they have two frequencies you can use). When you turn on the sound bar the sub-woofer turns on automatically as well.
I also connected my Android phone (Sony Xperia Z1) and a IPAD and an IPOD thru the Blue Tooth audio. The sound was excellent! The NFC function (touching my phone to the sound bar)
worked without any issues and right away and they connected in about 2 seconds.
Something to note is the higher price of this Sound Bar compared to others like Samsung, LG (or Sony's own 2.1 channel systems) etc. You need to keep in mind that those systems are 2.1 channel (not 7.1 channel) so there is a big difference in the sound quality especially when watching movies. I really have to emphasize that the HT-ST5 and it's bigger brother HT-ST7 really blows all other sound bars away!
The Remote is compact and easy to use. However several other reviewers for HT-ST7 have complained about the remote as not having dedicated buttons for Inputs or being lighted at night. (note that the HT-ST5 remote is the same as HT-ST7) Although I agree with those reviews, you could just download the Songpal App
and that would solve all those issues. I just used my Xperia phone with SongPal and it is a great app to use and then you don't need the Remote and it has more functions on this App compared to the Remote. An added feature is that when the Phone connects over Blue Tooth the Sound Bar gets turned on automatically if you have this setting turned on in the App.
Below are some items that I ran across:
1) Although set up is very simple, the HDMI inputs are in a confined space at the back of the unit. If you have big Monster HDMI cables and have big hands it was a bit annoying. They need to increase this space
or just have the cables plugin directly in the back instead of sideways (I guess they designed it this way for wall mounting)
2) The surround sound is simulated so it won't be as good as a mid/high-range more expensive real home theater system (i.e. 8 speakers like I mentioned above). This is understandable as this is only a sound bar. But for a Sound Bar Sony has done an excellent job.
3) I could not find the SongPal App in Apple App store. However was able to find it in Google Play for Android.
4) Sony had some kind of a Tag/Sticker on the Sound Bar and it is glued heavily. That took the most of the time for the setup to take it off!
5) Had an issue with one Blue Ray movie (Indiana Jones - Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) where the movie would not display properly on the TV (Although it will when going thru my Pioneer Amp). The colors were distorted. However I think this is due to an issue with my older TV being 1080i and not 1080p.
I would recommend this Sound Bar without any hesitation! You won't be disappointed!
September 3, 2014
Rated 1 out of 5 by UnhappyRemote Remote Control Device is HORRIBLE
We received this as an early Christmas gift in December. In the short time that we have owned this sound bar, within 2 - 24 hours of placing batteries in the remote control, they cease working. We have been thru numerous batteries (which, by the way, are all recently purchased) in the past few weeks. This is absolutely unacceptable.
Please provide us with a resolution strategy in order that we don't have to return the sound bar....which we do not want to do.
January 7, 2015