With numerous manufacturers entering the soundbar market in India, filtering out the best among the endless selection has become a back-breaking experience. Still, there are a few brands that consumers trust and that also helps them sideline the ones that are fairly new. More so, because products like a 5.1 home theatre systems aren't changed every year like smartphones.
Speaking of dependability, Sony still remains among the top names that cross my mind, especially for audio. They recently launched a 5.1 channel home theatre HT-S700RF in India for Rs 37,990. What makes it special is the feature called Indian sound setting, which means the R&D team has worked towards understanding Indian music taste and tuning the audio accordingly.
The soundbar has two speakers attached to either end of a central bar, having two tweeter units. A dedicated 20cm subwoofer takes care of the bass and two (left and right) tall boy speaker units that are meant to fill the room from behind.
At its price, the S700RF is slightly pricey, but those looking for a more affordable option can consider the S500RF for Rs 29,990. While you do get some really good options under Rs 25K mark, but many of them leave the audiophiles asking for more when it comes to overall experience. The S700RF promises to fill those gaps, but is it really worth shedding that extra amount? Let's find out.
Sony sticks to its subtle design language on the S700RF. It's sleek, boxy and robust. The black colour mixes well with most TV setups without spoiling the overall aesthetics of the room.
The soundbar can be laid below the screen, and the tall boy units can be placed at two corners opposite to the display, preferably behind the seating space. As the name suggests, tall boy speakers are 1200mm tall, but the depth and width is mere 78mm. So it's tall, rectangular and thin, where a detachable circular base helps it to stand firm on the floor. They also come with a hook on the back, if you like to mount them on a wall.
While the surround speakers don't occupy much space in the room, the subwoofer does. It works best when placed close to the soundbar, and that means it's always in front. The subwoofer measures 231x438x378mm and weighs 10.2kgs. But the company understands the fact that these are not just audio systems, they also contribute to the decor of the room and that's visible here.
All the speakers (soundbar, surround and subwoofer) are well built and have a uniform 'metal punching grille' design, which simply means they have rhombus shaped mesh on front. It is solid, doesn't flex and there are less chances of wear and tear compared to plastic or fabric.
The soundbar has three speakers and two tweeter, whereas the tall by speakers have one speaker and a tweeter. Due to its size and length, it fits comfortably in front of most TVs, and can also be attached to a wall underneath the screen.
While setting up the speakers is quite easy, the wired setup is one of the downsides here. Since it's not a wireless system, there's a lot of wiring involved. If you have carpet flooring in your room, the wires can run below the surface, but you can't hide them if the speakers are mounted on a wall or you have a hard floor at your home.
It has a dedicated remote that works with the subwoofer, where a tiny LED screen on the subwoofer displays modes and controls. It gets an input button, volume and bass control, modes, menu and music control buttons. It's compact and can be used from up to 5 meters.
There's nothing extraordinary here when it comes to features. It packs all the basic functions of a soundbar that's seen on other models as well. But nothing feels missing here, it's better not have such features if they're not put to use effectively. So it's good.
Still, you get to tune the audio using equalizer, change modes (movie, music etc.) and more. Also, it gets Sony's Music Centre app compatibility, which means users at faraway place can control audio easily through the app without even looking at the monitor.
The S700RF 5.1 can also be paired to a device over Bluetooth for wireless music playing. A button on the remote allows you to easily swap backwards and forwards between a wired and Bluetooth connection.
The Sony HT-S700RF is targeted specifically at movie fans. The bass capabilities and sharp trebles get a balance of both and high volume ensures room-rattling sound with clear dialogues. However, when listening to music, audiophiles might notice weaker mids.
You get loud, clear, bassy audio reproduction that overwhelms at times with its bass, but dedicated bass control on the remote is a relief in such conditions.
We found the soundbar was very capable dealing with bass-heavy alt-pop like Maggie Rogers’ Alaska, but fell slightly short on tracks that rely on warm mids, such as James Taylor’s soothing 'Carolina in my mind'.
So if you are buying these speakers specifically to listen music, you might like to explore dedicated speakers. For movies, the dynamic range and surround sound does the magic for an immersive movie watching experience.
We tested its capabilities with movies renowned for putting a surround sound system through its paces – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity war and several others on Netflix.
With Avengers: Infinity War, you could hear with perfect clarity the different whispered voices and soundtrack elements that are supposed to draw you into the action. The balance was very satisfying, and immediately immersive, exactly as a good surround sound system should be.
For the general movie and TV watching experience, the sound stage has clearly been optimized to bring out voices, and this is welcome in big action sequences in which you can distinctly hear dialogue over heavy scoring, and even lasers in the case of Star Wars.
The HT-S700RF 5.1 home theatre system isn't a difficult setup to recommend for movie buffs on one hand. On the other, it's not the best sounding audio system for music listening at its price either. It's easy to set-up, but what's not in favor here is the cluttered wiring. A wireless setup could have been better to complement the solid and aesthetically pleasing design of the HT-S700RF.
You must know what your need is. If you're looking to pair your new TV set with an audio system that does much more than just filling your room, then the HT-S700RF is worth considering. Its dynamic sound-staging and immersive audio reproduction is exactly what a complete movie-watching experience requires.