No matter how expensive your TV is, we will always recommend you to buy a separate audio system – not because the TV has inadequate sound capabilities, but because the TV’s audio usually doesn’t go beyond basic stereo sound.
So, to enjoy the feel of a proper home entertainment system, you’ll need a good speaker. Worry not, today, we are not here with speaker systems that are usually large, expensive, and complicated to pair with the TV.
Today, we have a quick-fix – a soundbar!
Soundbars come at many sizes, shapes, and prices; some are premium, while others come in the list of less-than-perfect ones; we call them mediocre soundbars, among such, the new Sony HT-X8500 soundbar, is one of them.
The Sony HT-X8500 is a 2.1-channel soundbar that boasts a built-in subwoofer; it’s list of features include DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, and virtual 7.1.2-channel surround sound.
This is our Sony soundbar review; if you are planning to buy one, then give a high-five, as this hands-on experience will break or make up your mind, you will be clear whether to go for the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar or not.
- All-in-one 2.1 design
- Great for movies and music
- Plug ‘n’ Play setup
- Dialogue enhancement and night mode available.
- Bluetooth compatible.
- Support for 4K passthrough, Dolby Atmos, HDMI-CEC, and DTS:X
- Integrated subwoofer
- Decent mid-range and low-end speaker
- No upfiring drivers and Wi-Fi support
- Not compatible with High-Res Audio
- Stripped backset
- Quite thick and muffled, lacking crispness and definition
- A bit confusing operation and LED-based prompts
- Vertical Surround mode is quite gimmicky
- No display and no correction feature.
The Sony HT-X8500 is perfect for dialogue and TV shows, thanks to its enhancement feature that may further improve vocal clarity. Being a boxy sound profile, it can still produce clear voices.
Don’t go after its size; it can produce enough sound to fill a large room, and just like most Sony soundbars, you can stream podcasts to it via Bluetooth.
This compact Sony soundbar boasts a wider soundstage, processing the courtesy of Sony’s clever Vertical S; its built-in subwoofer is a perfect beast.
Let’s quickly scan through its design, features, and performance.
Design & Features
Physically or aesthetically speaking, the HT-X8500 is neither weighty nor lightly; it’s just 89cm wide, suiting sets measuring between 49in and 55in. You can either hang this on the wall or can be kept comfortably in front of your TV. In either case, the ideal position is right below the TV screen.
Build quality is cool with twin front-firing woofers residing in a see-through grille; its grey trim adds a designer flourish. The built possess touch-sensitive buttons – for power, volume control, input selection, and Bluetooth pairing.
Three connections are given – one digital optical audio input, and twin HDMI – one an output with eARC, that is compatible with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG.
Here, those who want more HDMI inputs are not at an advantage, but it’s not a big deal, though, as it’s easier to connect the majority of your sources directly to your TV.
Beine at a mid-range, upper-budget price point, the HT-X8500 has no on-screen menus; the source (TV, HDMI, and Bluetooth) and audio format (Atmos, DTS:X, and Vertical Surround) reflect through a line of LED lights on the soundbar.
While checking, we found it hard to remember all the lights-combinations; we often had to refer to the manual when adjusting settings on the soundbar.
Stress not, most of the settings need to be configured once.
The ‘bar-like a slim (somewhat undefined) remote control, including source selection, Bluetooth, and a variety of sound modes (Cinema, Music, Game, etc.).
Following the market forte, the Sony HT-X8500 is a long, narrow slab speaker, with two wide-range drivers centered at the ends and dual subwoofers.
HDMI-CEC support is a bonus here, minimizing the need to change remotes for individual operations, as the TV (or any other source device) remotes is enough to control the power and volume of the soundbar.
The cosmetic finish of this soundbar has a sense of style. The front-facing array is hidden behind a smart rolled grille, topped up with touch-sensitive buttons, coupled with a metallic touch.
Overall, with HT-X8500, it is easy to live without a separate subwoofer, as it already has twin forward-facing woofers.
You must be thinking why Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar?
Ias it has opted for a stripped-back feature which keeps costs down. And yes, there’s no on-screen menu and no smart Wi-Fi connectivity.
The bar is operated by a thin finger-style remote control, making this system easy to live with, and even without calibration.
Straight from the box, it’s just plug and play. The HT-X8500 isn’t fussy at all; place it anywhere or hang without the threat of reflected sound.
Deep down the hood, there’s an S-Force Pro front surround audio processing, following the brand’s Vertical Sound Engine that restricts overhead effects. Instead, it paints a soundstage, towering other than a regular stereo system, and wraps audio around the enclosed environment.
Being a gutsy performer, it won’t run out of steam in your living room; while testing, we used the soundbar with the Android TV (using HDMI) and an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (using the passthrough feature).
The best thing is that this soundbar doesn’t only offer a volume booster, but also a fair amount of gain to the sound, so that you can listen more comfortably, even at higher volumes.
Sony promises this with its very own Vertical Surround mode, which lets you enjoy virtual 7.1.2-channel surround sound; it means seven regular channels (two sides, two front, two rear, and one center) and a subwoofer. For overhead speakers, there are two additional vertical channels too.
However, the company’s claim to have a sound field comparable to an Atmos 7.1.2 system is something of a stretch, but you will find the sound quite filmic.
We also found that the best results were achieved when the volume turned up; it’s not like that things sounded bad at low volume, but frankly, the Sony HT-X8500 performed well when given enough room to breathe.
Finally, we also used the soundbar with Bluetooth, which was not great; with Sony’s HT-X8500, audio tuning is better with video content than music.
Creating the tall sound field, the sound of this soundbar may stretch right around the listening position in a broader setting, but for the price and the size, the precision, three-dimensionality, and openness is quite impressive.
What you don’t get with this Sony’s creation – a sense of overhead sound steerage. This bar can’t mimic the results of a full-blown AV receiver and dedicated speakers.
What you do get – a soundstage that looms with positivity, occasionally wrapping sound left and right in a satisfying effect.
If you are planning to buy a TV, don’t forget to keep some budget aside to get the right soundbar.
Though the Sony HT-X8500 isn’t a premium soundbar, it is decent enough to go well with most TVs and suit most everyday use cases. However, If you’re very particular about the sound quality, then look elsewhere.
The Sony offering also makes sense if you don’t have enough room for a subwoofer, and worth an audition if convenience is high on your priorities.
So, if you want a home theatre sound system without denting your budget, Sony HT-X8500 is probably the best option.