Sony HT-A9 review

₹ 1,97,980

(with SW5 subwoofer)

When Sony stumbles on liquid gold, it digs deep enough to leave a mark. The brand is no stranger to history-making tech and they’ve done it in recent times with their ANC headphones, OLED TVs and to a lesser extent, 360 Reality Audio. Finding traction on the same treadmill as Dolby may be hard, but Sony is determined to nudge its way into the Dolby Atmos ecosystem any which way. Enter the HT-A9 home-theatre system. It’s a unique system where four identical satellite speakers talk to a control unit wirelessly and aims to drench you in immersive sound. How does Sony achieve this? Thought you’d never wonder…


Just about qualifying as a HTiB (Home-Theatre in a Box) system, the HT-A9 isn’t the most compact, with speakers that are giants by usual satellite speaker standards. You could still hold one in the palm of your hand, but you better be built like an Austrian weightlifter. The optional SA-SW5 subwoofer is boxed separately, and although it’s not imperative that you include it in your purchase, if your goal is “immersive” sound, then imagine King Kong without the stomping and thumping and you’ll want one in a heartbeat. 

Although the satellite speakers are “wireless”, they still need power, so ensure you have enough power outlets around your room. A total of six outlets will be required to power the speakers along with the subwoofer and the control unit so yes, it’s a bit of an ask if you thought this system is similar to a Bluetooth speaker. No sir. 

Thankfully, the setup process is very user friendly, guided by on-screen instructions. The satellites are identical in size, design and driver configuration, but they’re still marked for their intended positions. So you get a FL (Front Left), FR (Front Right), SR (Surround Right) and SL (Surround Left). Messing this up will be flagged during the set-up process, so don’t sweat the little things. 

Since the A9 uses Sony’s top-shelf 360 Spatial Sound Mapping, there is freedom to move the speakers around without affecting the sound field. The way Sony compensates for the asymmetry is by Sound Field Optimisation, a process that uses the two built-in microphones per speaker to measure the room’s height and speaker distance and location in relation to the ceiling. All the data is processed by the control unit to then carry out monopole synthesis, which creates phantom speakers at various locations around the room based on the data collected. 

The SW-5 subwoofer is more straightforward in its principles and doesn’t indulge in any sorcery. Instead it uses one active bass driver coupled to a passive radiator and is powered by its own 300W amplifier that proves to be adequate. It too connects wireless to the control unit, but is best kept in the front plane to better integrate with the overall sonic tapestry.


Probably the most liberating thing about the HT-A9, even before you turn it on, is the knowledge that you can place the four satellite speakers asymmetrically in terms of height. The Sound Field Optimizer compensates for the level difference, but you need to have open space on top of each satellite for the top-firing X-Balanced speaker to work effectively. 

The 12 phantom speakers that this system creates is thanks to the height data collected by the output of the top firing driver on each satellite. Putting an actual count to the number of “virtual” speakers is impossible, but from the get-go, this definitely sounds more than just a four-speaker system for sure!

Jump into Kong, and right away the convoy of military choppers approaching Skull Island is replayed impressively, with the rotor blades panning across the room and in the space between. So yes, the “phantom” bit works well and the A9 instantly impresses with the effortless nature of its processing.

There is an Immersive AE mode too for when you want to engage the top-firing speakers even for normal stereo content. But if you play anything which is native Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or 360 Reality Audio, the top-firing speakers kick in automatically and fill the space with sound that is tonally well judged, high on impact, and truly entertaining with its immersiveness. 

Sony has conveniently opted for hot keys on the remote that let you control the rear channel and subwoofer levels on the fly, so dialling in just the right amount of fill is easy and especially useful if you’re seated in close proximity to one of the rear channels, for example.

An interesting addition is the ability to use some current Sony Bravia TV models and their built-in speakers as the centre channel with a supplied cable, if you really want to eke out maximum performance from this setup. We chose to go with the subwoofer instead (since we didn’t have a Sony TV on hand), and the SW-5 makes its presence felt, adding a layer of strong bottom end that just ties in the whole experience. 

Sony’s masterstroke here is to use identical speakers for all channels, so timbral accuracy is very high as the sounds move from speaker to speaker, causing no tonal-shifts and creating a bubble of sound around you.  

There are preset sound modes that are subtle in their differences and even a voice mode, but that just makes vocals and dialogues more sibilant. The A9 performs best when left in its default modes, and in fact makes a much larger listening environment than any soundbar ever can, with the exception of DSP-controlled microdriver led models from Sennheiser and Yamaha. The stereo separation that two physical L/R speakers offer is just more tangible, while the surround speakers make it easier to get that larger-than-living-room feel without much effort. We even had our surround speakers at different heights due to space constraints, but it never altered the coherence of the system’s sound in any audible way.


It’s not the most affordable solution for a Dolby Atmos system, but it’s also immensely more believable than almost every soundbar or “wireless” surround sound system out there. The Sony HT-A9 is truly a technological marvel, especially given how complex the actual physics are of producing high-quality multichannel sound from a system that is this easy to set up. It sounds good with music too, but if you love bingeing on streaming content, it really has the power to blow you away with its capabilities.

Stuff Says

Sony has hit a home-run with another tech marvel that is sophisticated, easy to use and works as advertised. Not cheap but also, not ordinary!
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Envelopment provided by the 360 Spatial Sound Mapping

  1. Easy to place, as long as you have power outlets around

  1. On-screen instructions let anyone install it themselves

  1. Consistency of sound due to identi

  1. Can get sibilant in voice enhancement mode

  1. Not the most transparent, compared to audiophile speakers

  1. Subwoofer is optional, but essential

Power output: 500W total
Driver size: 4 tweeters x 0.75in, 4 x X-Balanced full-range drivers, 4 x X-Balanced upward-firing m
Connectivity: HDMI x 1 input, 1 output, Bluetooth, ethernet, S-centre out
Speaker layout: 4.1.4 Dolby Atmos