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Sony HT-ST7 Measurements & Conclusion

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All measurements were taken in-room utilizing an OmniMic measurement system. 1/12th octave smoothing was employed. A 5ms blended response was used to help remove room interaction from low frequencies.

Unlike measuring a speaker, which is typically pretty straight forward, soundbars require some experimentation. I tried setting it on the edge of my TV stand and taking measurements with the mic placed at various heights and distances. I also set the soundbar on the floor, facing straight up, and took measurements at 1m, 1.5m, and 2m. In the end, the general curve was the same, with two exceptions, no matter how I moved things around. When facing upright while on the ground, the soundbar exhibited a 10dB dip at 400Hz, this was not present in the measurements taken from the TV stand. Second, when on the TV stand the soundbar rolled off at about 260Hz but when on the floor it rolled off closer to 150Hz. According to the manual the soundbar is only rated down to 200Hz. Below 300Hz the accuracy of the results is questionable because of room interaction, so the actual crossover point is hard to determine.  However, I would favor the 260Hz measurement as the soundbar was getting boundary gain when located on the floor and I measured it down to 150Hz.

ST7 average FR

Sony HT-ST7 In-room Averaged Frequency Response

Still, the measurements showed me exactly was I expected in terms of high frequency response. The boost in treble over 3kHz certainly attributed to the thin vocals or slightly harsh sound I heard at times. Same goes with the bump at 1.5kHz. The steep drop around 200Hz shows where the subwoofer takes over, which was about where I was expecting from listening tests and measuring other soundbars.

ST7 Sub FR2

Sony HT-ST7 Subwoofer In-room .5m Groundplane Frequency Response

Measuring the subwoofer was more straightforward. Each line represents a different subwoofer tone setting. I was not able to isolate the subwoofer apart from the soundbar, as the soundbar has to be on to measure the sub. That’s why it looks like the sub plays up to 20kHz. Moving the mic closer to the active driver boosted output over 60Hz. Moving it closer to the passive radiator increased FR below 60Hz, showing the benefit of the passive radiator. The graph speaks for itself, but suffice it to say that this subwoofer does not dig low nor does it exhibit a  very linear response.  However the boost in the 40-60Hz range does help to provide a fuller sound for the system.

Suggestions for Improvement

Functionally, the HT-ST7 performed very well. The subwoofer never dropped the wireless signal from the soundbar, there were no HDMI handshake issues, the remote operating range was good, and the sound never fell apart in any catastrophic manner. My main gripe comes down to the EQ adjustments. At Audioholics, we often advocate for a flat frequency response, maybe with a slight tilt upward in the lower registers and a slight roll off in the upper registers for a more laid back sound (my preference, anyway). When a speaker has some anomalous peak or dip in its frequency response or other design flaw, it can make for a product that sounds good with some material and bad with other material, rather than sounding consistently solid.

 

ST7 Buttons 

Sony HT-ST7 Top Panel Controls

With completely active systems, like the HT-ST7, manufacturers tend to get creative. By offering adjustments like subwoofer tone, and soundbar voice and sound mode options, users are given a tremendous amount of power to manipulate the sound. While this can be good, it was mostly annoying for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Sony included these adjustments, but I was never able to find a single setting that worked well across all material. I was constantly flipping through different sound modes and adjusting the subwoofer up or down based on the source to get it to sound the way I wanted. This shouldn’t be necessary. A user should be able to just leave a product on “standard” and only have to make occasional, minor adjustments to the EQ of the system to dial it in the way they want.  Additionally, I would have preferred to be able to turn surround simulation on or off without affecting the EQ of the entire system.

So, in the end, my advice to Sony would be to keep the features and core functionality the same for next year, but rethink the tuning and manual sound adjustments. Oh, and beef up the subwoofer too. Let’s try to get some good SPL down to the 30Hz range and also get more usable low frequency output from the soundbar to increase vocal clarity.

Conclusion

ST7 Logo

The HT-ST7 is not perfect, but it does have some real strengths. The dialogue is never hard to hear, the soundstage (when in movie mode) is massive and it works great for every day TV viewing and certain genres of music. Bluetooth, NFC, HDMI pass-through, and IR repeater functionality also bolster its attractiveness. However, a lackluster subwoofer and over emphasized upper frequencies mean that it’s not well suited for all music and it can’t deliver deep, gut wrenching bass. To be fair, none of the soundbars we have ever measured have been packed with a stellar subwoofer, so don’t think that a similarly priced offering from the likes of Bose or Samsung will fare any better. Still, I enjoyed watching movies on the HT-ST7, it was able to handle large dynamic swings and reach loud volume levels. So, is this the right soundbar for you? Only you can answer that question. There are a lot of offerings on the market and none of them are perfect. The HT-ST7 has enough to offer that it’s worth checking out, but like with most audio gear, you will want to get some hands on experience before pulling the trigger.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Audio PerformanceStarStarStar
FunctionStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Ease of Setup/Programming/IntegrationStarStarStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarhalf-star
About the author:
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Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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