What the update is adding is a feature called 360 Spatial Sound Mapping that allows everyone in the room to feel like they're sitting in a fully-encompassing bubble of sound with front height and front back audio cues – a feature we first last on the $1,999 / £1,599 / AU$2,499 Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System.
According to Sony, the HT-A5000 and HT-A7000 use built-in microphones to ingeniously measure the relative height and position of the soundbar and rear speakers and then generate multiple phantom speakers by synthesizing sound waves based on the positional information.
That said, to get either of the soundbars to do this you will need to connect your soundbar to a pair of rear speakers - in this case, either the SA-RS3S wireless rear speakers or the new SA-RS5. You might have bought them alongside your soundbar when you made your purchase, otherwise they're currently sold separately.
Analysis: Sony’s flagship soundbars get an OTA update
One major pain point with Sony’s AV products in the last few years is that they promise a ton of features at launch - only to delay the release of those features for months.
That’s exactly what happened with VRR support on Sony TVs that were promised last year and didn’t arrive until December. This feature, though previously unannounced, is arriving months after the launch of the soundbars.
These are free over-the-air updates, so it’s not like they’re difficult to get once they become available, but it certainly would be nice to have them available when the product launches rather than several months down the road.
We originally mistook Sony 360 Spatial Sound Mapping for 360 Reality Audio, a spatial audio format that Sony is developing. The article has since been updated with the correct information.
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.