Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System review: high-end audio without the hassle

This hulking home audio system is expensive but very impressive

Sony HTA9 Home Theater System
(Image credit: Sony)
Livingetc Verdict

The Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System is a pricey piece of kit that nevertheless impresses with a sleek design and a 360 Spatial Sound effect that truly fills the room. You'll need enough power sockets and space to either mount or place the speakers, but it will be worth it for true audiophiles.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Seamless wireless connection

  • +

    Outstanding sound quality

  • +

    Impressive spatial audio features

  • +

    Smart connectivity

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Only one input port

  • -

    Test speaker developed a power fault

Although many modern surround sound systems have streamlined their offering for smaller living spaces and added convenience, there's still very much a place for traditional multi-speaker setups that can truly boost an entertainment system. The Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System differs from many modern examples, consisting of four standalone speakers rather than incorporating a soundbar.

As Sony is one of the most established home entertainment names, we expected big things from its HT-A9 system. As said, this wireless surround sound setup consists primarily of four large speaker units, with a base station to connect to the TV and control them.

We were lucky enough to try the system out in our living room, with impressive results for the most part. Keep reading to see our thoughts, and head over to our best surround sound system guide to see how it measures up against the competition. 

Sony HT-A9: Key specs

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
  • Channels: 7.1
  • Subwoofer included?: No, sold seperately
  • Dimensions (per speaker): H12.3 x W6.2 x D5.7in
  • Weight: 30.8lbs

Sony HT-A9: Design

The first thing you'll notice is that the speakers are big - and we mean really big. Measuring just over a foot tall and weighing 6lbs, these units aren't exactly going to blend into their surroundings. So it's good that they're attractive in their own right, with a modern but inoffensive cylindrical design, a pleasingly textured plastic finish, and perforated metal speaker grilles.

The base station is also nicely compact, with a small but efficient display to show key status information, and you'll have no trouble fitting it into your entertainment center setup. However, you may have a little difficulty finding places to put the speakers if you don't use the included wall-mounting brackets, particularly as each one needs its dedicated power input. 

If you want some inspiration on where to place your speakers, take a look at our speaker shelf ideas guide.

Sony HTA9 Home Theater System

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony HT-A9: Performance

All that power is put to good use, though, as each speaker contains four drivers, including woofers, tweeters, and upward-firing drivers, which reflect sound off the ceiling. This is part of the HT-A9's '360 Spatial Sound' feature, which uses clever audio trickery and algorithms to mimic 12 'phantom speakers' spaced around the room to create a more immersive listening environment. 

It works astonishingly well, and movies with surround sound support benefit hugely from an almost cinema level of sound reproduction. Bass tones were deep and powerful, treble was clear and unmuddied, while mid-tones were crisp, full, and balanced. Music sounds particularly spectacular, thanks partly to the DSEE Extreme audio upscaling technology, which dynamically improves the fidelity of compressed audio files.

The HT-A9's night mode also works well; this clever function tweaks the volume of various frequencies and elements to ensure that quieter parts of a scene are still audible at low volumes while louder elements are more limited. We found this worked well for its intended purpose, allowing us to watch action-packed content into the early hours without the volume becoming loud enough to be disturbing. Unfortunately, the night mode is one of a slightly bewildering array of functions accessed via the system's high-quality backlit remote, including a range of EQ modes, including specific modes optimized for cinema, music, and voice delivery, as well as buttons for switching input sources, accessing the settings menu and controlling media playback.

The HT-A9 aims to be a fully-fledged home cinema audio system, so naturally, there's support for 8K HDR content and Dolby Vision, as well as 4K content at 120fps. That's a solid offering that should future-proof it for many years to come, and the content looks fantastic - which is why it's a little surprising that the base station only features a single HDMI input for connecting external sources such as games consoles or DVD players. Presumably, Sony's goal is that you'll also buy a PlayStation 5 (which the HT-A9 includes specific integrations for to optimize HDR content and the like) to play both games and Blu-Ray discs. Still, those with a range of sources may wish to invest in a more flexible A/V receiver.

For the more casual user, however, this system features a range of time-saving smart capabilities, including support for Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect, as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi streaming to play music from other devices on your network, such as a PC or connected drive. It also integrates with Google Assistant, allowing you to control music playback with voice commands.

Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony HT-A9: Our verdict

All in all, it’s a fabulous home cinema kit for those that want high-quality audio without the hassle of setting up a full 7.1 surround sound system. It offers a range of different capabilities without becoming too overcomplicated, and the audio quality is unimpeachable. However, if we have one major sticking point - aside from the number of power sockets it requires - it’s the price. At $2,000, this is an extremely premium setup, and those on a budget are advised to look elsewhere.

With that having been said, this is definitely more of a long-term investment. The wireless connectivity makes this system easy to move between houses, and the support for advanced formats like 8K and Dolby Atmos means that your content is guaranteed to look and sound great for years to come. We feel obligated to mention that one of the four speakers in our review sample died towards the end of our testing. Still, we’re confident this was an anomalous hardware flaw rather than an indication of any broader problems.

In almost every other respect, we were delighted with this system. If you’ve got the cash and want a system to deliver excellent results straight out the box, then Sony’s HT-A9 is the home theater system you’ve been waiting for. 

Adam Shepherd
Adam Shepherd

Adam is a technology journalist with a passion for devices, networking and gadgets of all kinds. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.  When not serving as reviews editor for one of the UK’s leading business technology publications, he is on a never-ending quest to make his home as smart as possible, and to build the ultimate home cinema system, along with spending far too much time on Twitter and obsessing about his broadband speed.