I am sure you have a television at home. And I can say with confidence that this television of yours, no matter how expensive it may be, will not exactly be very good as far as the sound experience goes. Believe me, it is not just a problem with your TV. This seems to be a standard rule across the board, very few exceptions aside. This immediately raises the requirement for a better sound system to be hooked-up to your TV, so that you can enjoy movies, music, sports and whatever else it is that you watch, to the fullest. This raises another issue. Not everyone wants a five-speaker setup at home, with wires snaking across the length of the room. Soundbars are, therefore, the best solution. And things really don’t get much better than the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar, which is priced at Rs 30,990.
Before anything else, what matters the most about this soundbar are the Dolby Atmos capabilities, and the support for its rivals DTS:X, which provide the perfect foundation to build the experience on. And there is a lot to build on with, to be honest. First up, the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar has what Sony calls the Vertical Surround Engine. A lot of behind-the-scenes geekery is involved in this, but the end result is that you not only get the wide surround sound experience, but there are times when you’ll feel as if the sound is coming from above you. For a single unit system such as a soundbar to be able to replicate that from time to time, is a perfect achievement. This is a 2.1-channel setup, where the “.1” means there is also a dual subwoofer integrated within the slim confines of the Sony HT-X8500 soundbar.
It is quite hard to imagine that Sony has managed all this and more within the confines of a form factor as compact as measuring 890 mm x 64 mm x 96 mm on the measuring tape. It is built well too, with the touch based controls and the notification lights at the top, and a wraparound grille effect giving the illusion of a wider design. That said, it still sits vertically higher than quite a few other soundbars, and that can be a bit of an issue of you have one of those TV’s which are table mounted and have a low-slung table-top stand. The connectivity options include optical input, HDMI input and also the HDMI passthrough. The latter supports the 4K 18Gbps passthrough and will work with HDR formats including Dolby Vision, HDR10 and Hybrid-Log Gamma. If however, you have one of those TVs that have a coaxial audio out port but not an optical audio port, then you better hope that at least an HDMI ARC port is available on your TV. And of course there is Bluetooth, as any modern day speaker system worth its moolah, must have. Your phone and tablet would be delighted.
Once this is set up, you can play around a bit with the sound, including the modes and the bass level. For bass, it has three preconfigured settings when you press on the dedicated key on the remote—low, medium and high. For most usage environments including movies, medium is more than adequate for the bass to really shine through. If you have any apprehensions about how good the built-in subwoofer might be, those fears are dispelled pretty much within the first few minutes of setting this up. That does not mean that the clarity of vocals and the overall detailing is sacrificed at all. In fact, they all work well to complete a package that surprises us with the sort of brilliance that we honestly didn’t expect. The Black Summer binge watch on Netflix just became that more fun with Dolby Atmos to go with the post-apocalyptic zombie plot. The surround sound promise is delivered upon too, and quite well actually. Sony says this soundbar delivers the 7.1.2 surround sound effect. You can argue about the specifications and what not, but the reality is that you will enjoy surround sound when the original content either demands it or provides the necessary multi-channel audio stream. Yes, the vertical surround claims are absolutely true as well. If for instance you are watching a movie scene in which a large aircraft takes off, you will truly feel the sound traveling towards your room’s ceiling and then back down towards you again. Immersive, to say the least.
For a soundbar, the remote doesn’t really need to have a complicated layout. The Yamaha YAS-103 and the Bose Soundbar 500 are some examples of those soundbars that come with small and simple remotes. The Sony HT-X8500 soundbar bucks that trend though. What you will hold in your hand is a busy remote. Lots of sound modes, surround control, volume level controls etc., all take up space. Not that this remote is difficult to use, but simpler could have been better.
All said and done, the Sony HT-X8500 doesn’t really have any rivals, at least at the moment. No soundbar at this price offers Dolby Atmos and such high levels of detailing with equally powerful bass. The sound signature and way Sony has tuned the sound on these soundbars, has to be heard to be believed. There are a lot of features packed into this soundbar, and none can be categorized as unnecessary. This really ups the game in terms of what a home theater soundbar should be.