Good dialogue clarity
Satisfying bass without a sub
Easy upgrade path for subs and surrounds
Only a good fit for smaller rooms
Add-ons diminish the value proposition
The lack of inputs is a big bummer
Many of its competitors at around this price offer more in terms of pack-ins, with a lot of them including at least a subwoofer and some of them adding surround speakers. With the A3000, that expandability costs extra. You can connect to your choice of a couple Sony wireless subwoofers (the $400 SA-SW3 or $600 SA-SW5) and wireless surround sound speakers (the SA-RS3S at $350/pair or the SA-RS5 at $550/pair) to create a full 5.1-channel setup. But many of its direct rivals do come up short in terms of online connectivity and support for services like AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Chromecast, all of which are onboard here. It also features 360 Reality Audio, if you subscribe to a streaming music service that supports that format.
Although the soundbar doesn’t have up-firing speakers to bounce immersive audio effects off your ceiling, its Sound Field Optimization feature does a pretty good job of creating an enveloping listening experience, assuming you aren’t sitting too far away. Put it all together and the HT-A3000 doesn’t exactly break new ground in terms of bang for the buck, but if you’re tight on space, and especially if you already own a Sony TV, it’s one to consider.
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About the Sony HT-A3000 Soundbar
- Price: $700
- Height x Width x Depth: 37.5 × 2.625 × 5.125 inches
- Weight: 10 pounds, 3 ounces
- Speaker channels: 5 individual drivers, including 2 side-ported front-firing bass drivers
- Amplification: 250 watts peak power
- Wireless connection: Wi-Fi, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth (AAC, SBC, and LDAC codecs)
- Wired connection: HDMI ARC/eARC out, digital optical, USB
- Sound formats: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Dual mono, DTS, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, DTS:X, LPCM 2ch/5.1ch/7.1ch, LPCM fs -192kHz/24bit, DSD(.dsf / .dff ), DSD 5.6MHz, WAV, FLAC, ALAC(.m4a, .mov), AIFF(.aiff, .aif), HE AAC, AAC, mp3, Monkey Audio, WMA, Ogg Vorbis
- Video support: None
- Warranty: 1 year
The A3000 features three oblong drivers for left, right, and center channels, as well as two rectilinear bass drivers and two side-firing ports. It’s slim enough that it will likely fit beneath most TVs without obstruction, but it also has optional IR repeaters (which can be turned on in the setup menus), should it interfere with the signal between your remote control and TV. In addition to the HDMI eARC port, the soundbar only has two other physical connections: a digital optical and a S-Center Output. The latter is for use with higher-end Sony XR TVs (like the Sony X95K) whose screens can be used as center speakers in a surround sound setup. Higher frequencies from the center channel are reproduced by transducers built into the screen, whereas midrange and and lower frequencies will still be handled by the A3000.
Packed in with the A3000 are a mid-sized remote with two AAA cells, literature to help you with the setup process, a power cable, and an HDMI cable to connect the soundbar to your TV. At 60 inches (roughly 1.5 meters), that cable should be long enough to reach the connections on most TVs, especially if you have a Sony TV, whose inputs and outputs are on the same side as the soundbar’s (left, if you’re looking from the front). But with an 85-inch Vizio TV, whose connectivity is on the opposite side, the pack-in HDMI cable wasn’t quite long enough to reach. With a 75-inch Vizio, it was pretty much precisely long enough, but not much longer.
What we like
Good dialogue clarity and full-bodied sound without a sub
If you’re shopping for a soundbar of this size, chances are good that your main objective is getting more sound than your TV speakers can deliver and, perhaps, more importantly, increasing the intelligibility of dialogue from your favorite shows and movies. The HT-A3000 excels in both respects. Its output won’t blow your hair back if your room is much bigger than average, but in a 20’ x 25’ den, I found its output more than sufficient to enjoy the latest episode of Amazon’s The Rings of Power. Without the soundbar on, an 85-inch Vizio TV in that room failed to deliver anything resembling a satisfying listening experience. It took turning the volume of the A3000 to its maximum to make the sound truly satisfying, but it was up to the task.
In a smaller den, roughly 17’ x 19’— likely somewhat closer to the intended room size for this model—it only took a volume setting of around 78% to reach satisfying levels. And in a smaller, 12’ x 15’ bedroom the volume readout rarely got above the upper 60s.
It was in that last room where the A3000 really started to shine, especially with Sound Field processing turned on. It’s curious that Sony leaves this processing off by default, as it opens up the sound of the bar and adds a reasonably convincing immersive effect without changing the quality of the sound too much. For the most part, the balance between bass, midrange, and treble frequencies remains roughly the same, but the sound spreads out and becomes more engaging.
Oddly enough, the only programming material I found that didn’t sound quite right with the Sound Field processing turned on was my favorite recording of thunderstorms, which my wife and I play as we drift off to sleep every night. That could be because the bulk of that recording is, effectively, noise, and the processing is geared more toward music and movies. But for whatever reason, I preferred it with the Sound Field off.
Sitting within about 6 feet of the soundbar with Sound Field engaged and more traditional contenting—from Netflix’s The Sandman to my favorite Björk albums via Spotify Connect—I won’t claim that I heard sound effects coming from behind my head, and certainly not from directly overhead. But the sound nevertheless felt like it was coming from places other than the slim rectilinear box under my TV.
If you don’t have room for a subwoofer or just don’t want one cluttering up your floor, you might like the fact that the HT-A3000 doesn’t absolutely need one to deliver appreciably rich bass. Even watching action films, I never felt like the lack of the very lowest frequencies hurt my viewing experience. With music, the A3000 was able to reproduce the lowest notes on a cello without much effort, and with no audible rattling or rumbling that can often happen when slim plastic boxes attempt to create deep bass. Mind you, it couldn’t render the lowest notes on bass guitar loudly enough to keep up with the rest of the music until I added a sub. But if you’re sitting close to it in a smaller room, the A3000’s bass output is plenty sufficient on its own.
Upgrades are easy
Another nice thing about the HT-A3000 is that you don’t have to decide now whether you want to add a subwoofer… or surround speakers. I listened to the soundbar for a few days on its own before adding the SA-SW3 sub, and I was rather surprised by how many hoops I didn’t have to jump through when pairing it with the system. A day later, I added a pair of SA-RS3S surround speakers, and again, all I really needed to do was plug them into power (with the provided 80-inch power cords), and re-run the unit’s Sound Field Optimization, which plays a series of sounds picked up by a mic built into the soundbar and balances the sound of the system as a whole.
That includes adjusting the level of each speaker to keep the overall sound well-balanced, although you can adjust the loudness of the surround speakers and subwoofer independently if the automated results aren’t to your taste.
The sound processing is impressive
Sound Field Optimization can also compensate for less-than-ideal speaker placement—for example, if you can’t place your surround speakers symmetrically in the room with reference to your main seating position. Just for kicks, I moved the right surround speaker forward about three feet and perched it up on my mantle, about two feet higher than the left surround, just to see how awful it would sound and how well the Sony could compensate. Frankly, it did such a good job that I’m not sure most people would hear the sub-optimal placement.
Sound Field Optimization also improved the sound of the SA-SW3 subwoofer significantly, transforming it from a burping bass box sitting in the corner to a nearly seamless extension of the soundbar itself. And it made a big difference in the A3000’s ability to create a convincing Dolby Atmos effect once the SA-RS3S surround speakers were plugged in.
The A3000 doesn’t include up-firing speakers, but it features three different options for its 360 Spatial Sound Mapping processing. If you want a more active immersive sound experience that favors surround effects over a more balanced and natural sound, Sony Vertical Surround Engine or DTS Virtual:X/Neural:X will probably be a better fit for your preferences. If you value a more neutral sound profile over spatial whiz-bangery, Dolby Speaker Virtualizer is probably more your speed. You’ll have to dig around in the setup menus to find this option, but it’s worth playing with.
Good wireless connectivity
The A3000 unsurprisingly includes Bluetooth connectivity (transmission and reception), but one bonus that I wasn’t expecting was support for AAC (Apple’s compression codec) and LDAC (Sony’s version for high-resolution audio) in addition to the standard SBC. The soundbar also plays well with Amazon Alexa devices, has Chromecast built in, and is compatible with Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, and Sony’s Music Center app.
What we don’t like
Its lack of inputs can be frustrating
For all its connectivity and upgradability, though, one curious omission from the A3000 is an HDMI input. Its only HDMI connection is an eARC port, which means that if you have a compatible TV, it will be able to pass high-quality sound from connected devices back to the soundbar. But that also means that you’ll have to use your TV to switch between any external devices. If you only use the apps built into your TV, this isn’t a concern. If you have a gaming console, streaming media player, or disc player of some sort in regular usage, though, the lack of inputs feels constricting.
If this were a $300 soundbar, you could forgive the lack of any additional inputs. But for $700, some flexibility in terms of physical connectivity would be nice. Then again, the pricier Sonos Arc features only an HDMI eARC connection, so it’s hard to complain too much.
Its small size limits its functionality in mid- to large-size rooms
A more significant concern for many, I think, is the fact that the HT-A3000 really wants to reside in a smaller room. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given its relatively narrow 37.5-inch width, but the farther you get away from the soundbar, the less engaging and immersive it sounds. Without the add-on surround speakers, I found that beyond about 6 feet away from the soundbar, the Sound Field started to sound less like surround sound and more like straight stereo. Indeed, sitting at roughly 8 feet away, I could toggle the Sound Field option on and off and not really tell much difference aside from a slight tonal shift. Beyond about 9 feet, even the stereo effect started to fall apart and the sound became essentially monophonic.
Should you buy the Sony HT-A3000 soundbar?
Yes, if you’re tight on space and value wireless over wired connectivity
On its own, the HT-A3000 is a feisty little overachiever that delivers a rich and enveloping listening experience, assuming you’re sitting within its sweet spot, which maxes out at around 6 feet. Dialogue sounds clear and, in a smaller room, it delivers suitable bass regardless of what you’re watching. The Sound Field Optimization makes setup easy, even in less-than-ideal situations.
The interesting contradiction about the Sony soundbar is that it really comes alive with the addition of a subwoofer and wireless surround speakers, but the addition of those accessories tacks $750 onto the price of this small $700 soundbar. All together, the system isn’t quite worth $1,450. If Sony had simply added a wired subwoofer output, giving you the option of adding your own cheap sub to the equation, it would have been a much better value overall. You could spend a lot less and get a lot more. The Vizio M512a-H6, for example, sells for right at $500 and includes a subwoofer, rear speakers, and an additional HDMI input. And it sounds quite good.
Which leaves the A3000 as a more viable option for someone who doesn’t want to fuss with additional speakers, but wants to leave the door open for adding them down the road.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Originally a civil engineer and land surveyor by trade, Dennis has made a career of reviewing audio electronics and home automation since 2002. He lives in Alabama with his wife and their four-legged child Bruno, an 80-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who has never met a lap he wouldn’t try to fill.
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