The Sony HT-X8500 is a part of its 2019 lineup. If you are wondering the reason for this review being so late, it is because the bar’s specifications seem too good to be missed. It is a 2.1Ch configuration with an in-built subwoofer and a decent 320W of output. The Sony bar isn’t trying to be a caboodle with the addition of satellite or height speakers but is focusing on getting the basics right.
We cannot say that the Sony HT-X8500 is without caveats, but can we get past them? Even without the frills, is it worth buying in 2020? Let us find out.
This is our Sony HT-X8500 review.
List of specifications
|Product Dimensions||34.9 x 2.5 x 3.9 inches|
|Wireless Audio Protocol||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Audio Decoding Codecs||DTS
Dolby Digital Plus
|Connectivity||1 x HDMI In
1 x Optical In
1 x HDMI Out
- The presence of Dolby Atmos gives it an edge over the competition
- Fulfils the basic soundbar idea with an in-built subwoofer
- Great value for money
- Lacks up-firing speaker
- Room correction is missing
What’s in the box?
- Sony HT-X8500 soundbar
- AC adaptor
- AC cord
- Remote control
- 2 “AAA” batteries
- Quick Setup guide
- HDMI cable
- Instruction manual
Design and build
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Sony HT-X8500 sound bar is a standalone product. It has been built keeping in mind the space constraint that most soundbar buyers suffer from, and it suffices them ably. The bar is a black and plain-looking slab that mixes with the background without being intrusive.
The body gets a covering of faux leather with the front protected by a metal grille. Due to the subwoofer’s integration, there are two ports on each side. Users can only choose one color – black and the brand gives it a matte finish on top, and the bottom gets rubberised texture feet to prevent unwanted movements. You will also find a greyish accent line running at its edges to give it a two-tone finish.
The bar measures 34.9 x 2.5 x 3.9-inches, and Sony had to make it wider to encapsulate the soundbar. It is not very wide and should fit between most 55-inchers’ legs conveniently. The soundbar isn’t very tall, and there should be no issues if you place it below your TV.
The back of the bar is relatively clean for bars with a built-in subwoofer. You get a small opening on the left side which houses the power cable. On the right, there is a cut out for input ports. Also present are universal holes for wall-mounting if you so desire.
The package is bereft of satellite speakers or a dedicated subwoofer. Overall, the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar is a well-built option for you. It follows a dual-colour finish and uses good quality plastic to ensure that you don’t question its mid-range price tag. We would have loved a more premium finish, but we aren’t complaining about the functional approach from the Japanese tech giant either.
The Sony HT-X8500 follows the minimalistic approach in all the departments, and it is evident here too. There is no LED display on board, but you get six lights (Atmos, DTS:X, Vertical Surround, TV, HDMI, and Bluetooth) that light up for signifying several settings. These light up even when you toggle the volume levels.
The soundbar has touch-sensitive buttons on its. These are subtle, but not soft enough to pick up accidental touches. The toggles are for Power On/Off, Change Inputs, Bluetooth, Volume Down, and Volume Up.
The Sony HT-X8500 package comes with a universal remote, which is a welcome addition. It is similar to its elder Sony HT-X9000 in form factor but lacks some options. It houses all the toggles that you will need to manage the bar and manage other products too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support a companion app.
The soundbar also has a Power Saving mode built-in and switches off itself after 20 minutes of inactivity. It has HDMI CEC allowing other IR-based remotes to manage its essential functions efficiently.
The Sony HT-X8500 soundbar comes with a limited set of inputs. There are three ports, HDMI In, HDMI Out, and the last one for Optical In to connect your TV. There is no USB or AUX cable onboard, which means you cannot connect your old devices physically to the bar. The subwoofer is built into the bar and requires no external connection to power it up. It doesn’t have any satellite speakers either.
As far as wireless connectivity is concerned, Sony’s choice can be termed ‘poor’. It follows the footsteps of its elder sibling, the HT-X9000F, and only has Bluetooth 5.0 for connecting external devices. The device is aloof of Wi-Fi, Chromecast, and AirPlay support, which is disappointing.
If we talk of codecs, the situation is far better here. The HT-X8500 comes with a proper assortment of codecs. It includes DTS, DTS Digital, DTS-HD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS:X, and Dolby TrueHD thanks to HDMI eARC on board. Its optical port can stream Dolby Digital, and DTS to connect to your Blu-ray and other devices.
The midrange soundbars usually skip 4K support, but the Sony HT-X8500 doesn’t. It can pass through 4K @ 60Hz and HDR10 streaming abilities, which should be sufficient for most. The sound bar cannot do 10-bit or 4:4:4 signals when connected to your devices.
Overall, the Sony HT-X8500 fares well in terms of connectivity. We would have loved to see some more input ports or compatibility with Chromecast and voice assistants, but we choose to not sulk about it. If you can look past the omissions, the choices are decent and sensible.
The Sony HT-X8500 is a 2.1Ch configuration capable of emulating 7.1.2 surround sound, as the company would like to describe it. It upscales everything thanks to the advanced digital signal processing onboard.
The device is not very capable of handling bass. The sound is neutral out-of-the-box, and you can tune it to your liking to some extent. The loudness is above-average, and it reproduces dialogues brilliantly. The presence of Atmos enhances its case, and the inhouse Sony tech further boosts its chances.
The Sony HT-X8500 soundbar has an integrated subwoofer, and it doesn’t perform as well as a dedicated one. The bar fails to create a deep thumping bass, and the output lacks enough sub-bass. Also, the soundstage is pretty narrow, and the soundbar doesn’t do anything to widen it. The imaging is okayish, and we had a difficult time to locate the exact area from where the sound is coming.
The soundbar has a higher-than-average loudness which is good enough for average-sized rooms. There is no room correction on board, and it would not be enough for crowded spaces or loud rooms. Thankfully, it handles maximum volume well, and we did not find compression creeping in to worsen the experience.
There is no dedicated center channel which means that the bar uses the other speakers for dialogues and ends up creating a diffused image. But the voices are clear, and we did not have issues in figuring out their source.
The channel constraints make up for a poor surround performance. It supports Atmos but has to downmix stereo content to play them. But it results in an experience that is not as immersive due to the boxy soundstage and hardware limitations. Even though the software tries to upscale everything to 7.1.2Ch, the lack of height and rear speakers doesn’t help its case as well as we would have liked.
The Sony HT-X8500 suffers from poor sound enhancement features. It doesn’t come with room correction, and you can manage its output to an extent. You can control the bass levels and virtual surround impact, but there is no option to tweak the EQ manually.
It is uncommon to see a 2.1Ch configuration to have Dolby Atmos compatibility. The Sony HT-X8500 has that going for it. But the overall sound is average and doesn’t steer ahead of the competition. Let us compare them to understand where it stands –
Bose Solo 5
The Bose Solo 5 is a compact bar similar to the Sony HT-X8500. The latter gets an edge due to the presence of Dolby Atmos, EQ presets, and HDMI ports. The former has 3.0Ch configuration which allows it to perform better. Also, the build is better on the Bose Solo 5. Sony wins some points due to the weird sound adjustment omissions made by Bose (there are none at all).
Even though the Sonos Beam and the Sony HT-X8500 fall in the compact category, they both have different approaches in almost every aspect. The former gets a discrete center channel, whereas the latter opts for a subwoofer embedded in the bar.
The Sonos Beam has support for Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay to improve its compatibility, whereas the Sony bar gets a Full HDMI Out, Atmos support and EQ presets to toggle the sound output.
The category in which the Sony HT-X8500 falls is for those who have an absolute space constraint and can do nothing to change that. They buy a bar which doesn’t come with any other accessory and improves on their TV sound considerably.
The Sony bar does so with ease. It is a good option for mixed usage and shines while reproducing dialogue-based content. It supports all the audio codecs and has a decent set of connectivity options.
But for what it’s worth, there are better options in the market which reproduce bass better and have better control on the overall output. It has a mediocre soundstage, and the side speakers do barely enough to enhance it.
The loudness is enough for a small family but will fail to cater to a house party. So there are corners cut to maintain the overall form factor and the pricing constraints, but if you can get past them, the Sony HT-X8500 is a viable option.