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Sony HT-Z9F Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Dec 17, 2019 at 10:46 am
Sony HT-Z9F Picture
7.6
Mixed Usage
8.6
Dialogue/TV Shows
6.9
Music
7.2
Movies
Channels
3.1

The Sony HT-Z9F is a good 3.1 soundbar setup that does a great job with dialogue thanks to its dedicated center speaker. It features a wireless subwoofer that helps give it some extra thump during action movies or bass-heavy music. While this soundbar is Atmos-enabled, unfortunately it lacks upwards firing or satellite speakers and uses Sony's S Force and Vertical Sound technology to simulate an Atmos surround sound experience. On the upside, it has two Full HDMI inputs that support all audio formats, and the soundbar also has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast built-in to listen to music wirelessly.

Our Verdict

7.6 Mixed Usage

The Sony HT-Z9F is a good mixed usage soundbar. This 3.1 setup does a great job at clearly reproducing dialogue, thanks to its dedicated center channel, meaning you should have no problem hearing speech over the background music and sound effects. Thanks to its dedicated wireless subwoofer, it has decent bass response, making it an okay choice for movies as well. Unfortunately, while this soundbar supports Atmos, its lack of satellites or upward-firing speakers means the soundstage isn't very open, and all objects sound as if they're coming from in front of you.

Pros
  • Premium, durable look and feel.
  • Lots of connectivity and audio format options.
  • Great dialogue-handling.
Cons
  • Mediocre job at handling Atmos content due to lack of speakers.
  • No treble or bass adjustment options; EQ presets only.
8.6 Dialogue/TV Shows

The Sony HT-Z9F is excellent for dialogue and TV shows. Thanks to its dedicated center channel, dialogue sounds clear and accurate, and you should have no trouble making out what is being said over background music or sound effects. This soundbar also features a dialogue enhancement setting, to bring speech out even more.

6.9 Music

The Sony HT-Z9F is okay for music. While it supports wireless playback, including Chromecast audio, the sound reproduction is only decent and it lacks low-bass, meaning fans of EDM or dubstep may be disappointed. This soundbar also lacks any room correction, or bass or treble adjustments, so the sound can only be customized via presets.

7.2 Movies

The Sony HT-Z9F is decent for movies. Thanks to its dedicated wireless subwoofer, it has decent bass response, though unfortunately, its LFE is a little high, but this shouldn't be too noticeable for movies. The 3.1 configuration means that dialogue comes out very clear and detailed, and there are even dialogue enhancement settings as well. Unfortunately, while this soundbar is Atmos compatible, the lack of necessary speakers means all objects sound like they're coming from straight in front of you, instead of from behind and above.

  • 7.6 Mixed Usage
  • 8.6 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 6.9 Music
  • 7.2 Movies

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The Sony HT-Z9F is a mid-range soundbar from 2018. It's a simple 3.1 setup that has the option to add two additional rear speakers. While it supports Dolby Atmos, due to its default 3.1 speaker configuration, it won't offer as an immersive listening experience as higher-end models like the 7.1.2 Sony HT-ST5000. The HT-Z9F's main competitors are the Samsung HW-Q70R, the LG SK9Y, and the Vizio SB36512-F6.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Sony HT-Z9F is a sleek looking bar that has a premium look and feel to it. It has a metal grille that holds in place with magnets and can be easily removed. The rest of the bar is made mostly of good quality plastic with a glossy black finish.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The sub is mainly made of wood, with the port in the front being glossy black. Unfortunately, the front of the sub is covered with mesh fabric as opposed to metal, so it may get dirty or ripped.

Design
Style - Satellites

This soundbar setup doesn't have satellites.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width 39.4" (100.0 cm)
Bar Height 2.6" (6.5 cm)
Bar Depth 3.9" (10.0 cm)

The Sony HT-Z9F is pretty wide and likely won't fit between the legs of most 55" or smaller TVs, unless they have very wide stands. While it's a bit taller than some other soundbars, like the Sony HT-CT800, it still shouldn't block the bottom of your TV unless it sits directly on the table, like the Sony A9G.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width 7.4" (18.9 cm)
Sub Height 15.0" (38.0 cm)
Sub Depth 15.2" (38.6 cm)

The subwoofer of the Sony HT-Z9F is pretty average-sized and is about the size of an average desktop PC. It's not too big and should be able to fit beside your TV stand or couch without any difficulties.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Sat Width N/A
Sat Height N/A
Sat Depth N/A

This soundbar setup doesn't have any satellites.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
Universal (holes on back)

The back of this soundbar has an opening for all of its inputs, and a second opening on the other end of the bar for its power cable. The mounting holes are on either side of the bar, and mounting brackets are included in the box.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

Since the port is on the front of the sub, the back is pretty plain with only the power cable on the bottom, and the pairing and power button at the top.

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
N/A

This soundbar setup doesn't have satellites.

8.0
Design
Build Quality

The Sony HT-Z9F soundbar is a well-made soundbar system that feels a bit more premium than the Sony HT-X9000F or Vizio SB36312-G6. The bar has a metal grille that can be easily removed as it's held in place by magnets. The rest of the bar is made of good quality plastic. Unfortunately, while half of the rear of the soundbar has a premium gritty plastic feel to it, the other half is glossy black and is prone to fingerprints. The subwoofer is mostly made of wood and feels sturdy, though the fabric cover may get easily ripped or dirty.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
5.0 ft (1.5 m)
Digital Optical Cable Length
N/A

  • HDMI cable
  • Wall-mounting brackets
  • Screws
  • Remote
  • Batteries
  • Manuals

Sound
7.3
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
-0.33
ST Std. Err.
2.20 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
49.0 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
6.2 kHz

The Sony HT-Z9F's stereo frequency response is quite decent. Unfortunately, its low-frequency extension is fairly high, which means it may struggle to reproduce the very deep rumble of bass in some movies or bass-heavy music genres like dubstep, but should still be more than fine for most people. The treble also starts to dip in the mid-treble range, and is quite recessed in high-treble, making some higher frequencies and vocals less audible. However, overall the sound profile of this bar is quite well-balanced and sounds accurate and clean.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
7.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
2.20 dB

The Sony HTZ9F's stereo soundstage is decent and feels as wide as the bar but the bar doesnโ€™t do anything to make it sound wider. Objects donโ€™t seem to come from an accurate pinpoint location like some other bars, such as the Samsung HW-Q90R.

8.1
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
93.6 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
1.08 dB

The Sony HTZ9F can get quite loud and should be suitable for large rooms or crowed environments, like a party. Also, at max volume, it performs quite well and you shouldn't hear any thumping or compression artifacts.

7.4
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.47
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
3.19

At a normal listening volume of 80dB, the THD performance of the Sony HTZ9F is very good. This results in clean and pure audio reproduction. Unfortunately, it doesn't perform nearly as well under heavier loads, and when pushing this bar to its max volume there's a jump in THD, though this may still be difficult to hear with real-life content, especially since few people will likely use this bar at max volume.

8.5
Sound
Center
C Localization
Discrete
C Slope
0.38
C Std. Err.
3.56 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
90.6 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
0.57
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.34

The Sony HTZ9F is a 3.1 setup with excellent center channel performance. This soundbar has a dedicated center speaker, which results in a clearer and more accurate audio reproduction of the dialogue in movies and TV shows.

4.1
Sound
Surrounds
Sr Localization
Phantom (Front Firing, Bar)
Rears
No
Sr Slope
-1.76
Sr Std. Err.
8.26 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
93.1 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
0.51
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
3.31

Since the Sony HTZ9F doesn't have dedicated surround satellites, it uses Sony's S-Force Front Surround to simulate the surround sound experience. While it does a decent job at making it appear as if sound is coming from around and behind you, unfortunately, this isn't as immersive as soundbar setups that have dedicated satellites. Also, for some reason, when reproducing surround sound content through its 3 channel bar, this soundbar seems to clip audio at around 10kHz.

5.1
Sound
Height (Atmos)
H Localization
Phantom (Front Firing, Bar)
H Slope
0.76
H Std. Err.
8.07 dB
H SPL @ Max Volume
82.9 dB SPL
H Weighted THD @ 80
2.73
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.90

The Sony HTZ9F supports Atmos but doesn't have any upwards firing speakers or satellites and uses Sony's Vertical Surround Engine to simulate an Atmos experience. While this works decently well, the sound isn't nearly as immersive as a soundbar with upwards firing speakers, like the Samsung HW-Q80R or the Samsung HW-Q70T. For some reason, when Sony's Vertical Surround Engine is turned 'on', the soundbar seems to cut off at around 10kHz.

Note: While we generally test all audio without any sound enhancement settings turned on, we had to turn the "Vertical Surround Engine" on to get the soundbar to reproduce Atmos content.

6.4
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Yes
Bass Adjustment
No
Treble Adjustment
No
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
N/A
Rear Level Adjustment
N/A
Height Level Adjustment
N/A
Virtual Surround
Yes

The Sony HTZ9F has mediocre sound enhancement features. It lacks Room Correction, so it may sound differently depending on your room. It also lacks both bass and treble adjustments and only provides various EQ presets. This soundbar uses Sony's Vertical Surround Engine technology to help it try and achieve an Atmos-surround effect with only a 3.1 setup. It also uses Sony's S-Force Front Surround to give you the illusion of rear satellites from the front bar, which can't be turned off. Unfortunately, these don't seem to work as well as having dedicated satellites and upwards firing speakers, and don't create a very immersive experience.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
1
HDMI ARC
1 (shared)
HDMI Out
1 (shared)
Full HDMI In
2
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
1
USB for Files
1
Ethernet
1

The Sony HTZ9F has a wide array of inputs, including two Full HDMI in so you can use your soundbar as a hub, and get the highest quality signals. It also has a 3.5mm Aux port, which is getting less common, making it easy to plug in a phone to share music.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
Yes
Dolby Atmos
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
DTS:X (eARC only)
Yes
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
Yes
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
Yes
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
Yes

Update 03/20/2020: To reflect this soundbar's eARC capabilities, formats that are only supported by eARC are now set to "yes". The text has been updated.

The Sony HTZ9F can play all standard surround formats over HDMI ARC. Unlike the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround, this bar also has eARC, and supports object-based surround signals and lossless formats, which is great if your TV has eARC.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Yes
DTS:X
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
Dolby TrueHD
Yes
DTS-HD MA
Yes
5.1 PCM
Yes

The two Full HDMI In ports allow you to use the soundbar like an HDMI hub. This way you can plug two external devices (like a Blu-Ray player or gaming console) into your soundbar and it will carry both audio and video signals to your TV. Both HDMI ports support all common audio formats, including Atmos for both Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Yes
DTS
Yes

Dolby Digital and DTS content are usually found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms like Netflix. This bar can offer surround sound using either of these formats through its Optical port.

9.0
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
Yes
Chromecast built-in
Yes
Apple AirPlay
No

The Sony HTZ9F can play music wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi will give you better range, higher quality audio, and uninterrupted music playback even if you receive a phone call. Unlike the Sony HT-G700, it also has Chromecast built-in, so you can control the soundbar with a Google Assistant smart speaker, and set up multi-room audio with other Chromecast-enabled speakers.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
Yes
HDR10 Passthrough
Yes

When this bar is used as a hub between your PC or game console and your TV, it can pass through chroma 4:4:4 up to 60Hz. If you send such a signal, the text will look crisp.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The sub connects wirelessly to the bar, and only requires a power cable.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
N/A

There are no satellites in this setup.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Yes

The Sony Z9F soundbar has a screen behind the front grille that displays all inputs and settings. It's a rather large screen compared to many other soundbars, like the Sony HT-CT800.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

The buttons on the soundbar are the same as other Sony soundbars, but with a music service button that can be programmed to open your preferred music streaming service, like Spotify.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The remote for this soundbar is fairly large but has a lot of buttons to let you easily change settings. Unfortunately, it can't be used as a universal remote to control your TV.

Additional Features
App
App Name Sony Music Center
iOS Yes
Android Yes
Acts as the Remote
Limited Support
Controls Soundbar's Settings
All
Casts Device Files
Audio Files Only

This soundbar is compatible with the Sony Music Center app which allows you to cast audio files to the soundbar via Wi-Fi, or use your mobile device as a remote. Unfortunately, the app doesn't give you access to all the settings found on the physical remote.

Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Standby
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Yes

The Sony Z9F soundbar goes into a standby mode after 20 minutes of inactivity to conserve power. The HDMI ARC also supports HDMI CEC, so you can use your TV's remote to perform basic tasks on your soundbar, like volume and input control.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The Sony HT-Z9F is a good mixed usage soundbar that does a great job with dialogue thanks to its dedicated center channel speaker. While this 3.1 setup supports Dolby Atmos, it unfortunately doesn't provide nearly as immersive of a listening experience due to its lack or satellite or upwards firing speakers. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, and the best soundbars with a subwoofer.

Sony HT-G700

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better performing soundbar overall than the Sony HT-G700. The HT-Z9F is slightly better built, its sound profile is a bit more balanced, and although it doesn't get as loud as the HT-G700, it can reach its max volume with a lot less thumping and compression artifacts. It has two Full HDMI In ports, and you can even stream music to it using Chromecast or Wi-Fi. Unlike the HT-G700, it also uses its front-firing speakers to produce a surround and height experience, but it doesn't perform as well as the HT-G700.

Samsung HW-Q70T

The Samsung HW-Q70T performs very similarly to the Sony HT-Z9F. Both are well-built, premium-looking setups that support Dolby Atmos content. They both have well-balanced sound profiles, but the Q70T's bass extends marginally deeper than the Sony, giving it a slight edge when it comes to reproducing the deep thumps and rumbles in bass-heavy movies and music. The Sony uses S Force and Vertical Surround technology to simulate an Atmos surround experience, while the Q70T uses two up-firing speakers on the bar to create a more immersive experience. The Q70T also has more sound customization options.

Bose Soundbar 700

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better soundbar than the Bose Soundbar 700. It has a slightly lower LFE, thanks to its dedicated wireless subwoofer, and has significantly better connectivity options. It also supports Atmos, but due to its lack of upwards firing or rear speakers, doesn't create the most immersive Atmos experience. On the other hand, the Bose feels even more premium and well-made and has better center-channel performance.

Sony HT-ST5000

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better soundbar setup than the Sony HT-ST5000. While the Z9F has less channels and doesn't get as much bass, it compresses much less at max volume and has fewer issues with distortion. It also has a bit more detail and clarity in the treble range. If bass is what you're after, the ST5000 is the way to go, but the Z9F provides better value otherwise.

Samsung HW-Q70R

The Sony HT-Z9F performs very similarly to the Samsung HW-Q70R. They're both well-designed, feel quite premium, and have decent sound reproduction, though the Samsung has a significantly lower LFE, providing better bass performance. On the other hand, While the Sony downmixes surround content into its front three speakers, the Samsung doesn't support surround channels at all. The Sony also has more connectivity options, offering two HDMI inputs instead of one, as well as Chromecast support.

Samsung HW-Q90R

The Samsung HW-Q90R is better than the Sony HT-Z9F. It creates a more immersive listening experience, thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, and has better Atmos height performance due to its upwards firing speakers. On the other hand, the Sony has more connectivity options, has Chromecast built-in, and isn't nearly as wide.

Sonos Beam

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better performing soundbar than the Sonos Beam. The Sony is more versatile, even though it struggles to reproduce a rumbly bass and it can support Atmos content as well as all common audio formats through an ARC or full HDMI In connection. However, the Sonos is great if you're short on space and looking for a standalone soundbar with a fairly neutral sound. The Sonos can also be upgraded later down the line.

LG SK9Y

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better soundbar setup than the LG SK9Y. They both consist of the bar itself and a dedicated wireless subwoofer, with no satellites. The Sony feels more premium and better-built, has better center-channel performance for dialogue, and provides much better bass response thanks to its lower LFE. On the other hand, the LG has a better Atmos height effect, thanks to its upwards firing speakers, and offers better sound profile adjustment options.

Yamaha YAS-209

The Sony HT-Z9F is slightly more versatile than the Yamaha YAS-209. The Sony has a better build with more connectivity and audio format support options, offers Atmos support, and has an impressive center channel performance, making it well suited for dialogue-centric content. However, the Yamaha has a more neutral default sound profile.

JBL Bar 5.1 Surround

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better overall soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Sony is a 3.1 setup that supports Atmos and offers a full array of physical inputs that support common audio formats. However, the JBL is a 5.1 setup with room correction. You can also stream audio to it using Apple AirPlay.

Samsung HW-Q80R

The Samsung HW-Q80R is better than the Sony HT-Z9F in most uses. The Samsung has a better sound overall, as it has more low-bass response to produce that rumble and thump, and it has a much better center channel performance, as well as better sound enhancement features to tune it the way you like. However, the Sony has support for eArc and has Chromecast built-in.

Sony HT-X9000F

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better soundbar for mixed use than the Sony HT-X9000F. The HT-Z9F is slightly better built, it can deliver a slightly more balanced bass range, and there are fewer compression artifacts at max volume. It has an excellent discrete center channel, you can stream music over Wi-Fi, and it has two Full HDMI In ports. As it uses phantom front-firing speakers to create height channels, it also feels a touch more immersive than the HT-X9000F's downmixing.

LG SL10YG

The Sony HT-Z9F is a slightly better performing soundbar than the LG SL10YG. While both support Atmos content, the Sony is more versatile and supports more audio formats. It really shines when it comes to vocal-centric content like TV shows and podcasts. However, the LG has a more well balanced but slightly more bass-heavy sound.

Samsung HW-Q60R

The Sony HT-Z9F is better than the Samsung HW-Q60R. The Sony has up firing speakers to simulate height in Dolby Atmos content and has many more inputs than the Samsung, however, the Samsung is more customizable and its center channel performs significantly better. They both have wireless playback capabilities, but the Sony has Chromecast built-in for easy casting.

Samsung HW-T650

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better-performing soundbar than the Samsung HW-T650. Unlike most 3.1 setups, the Sony supports Dolby Atmos content. It doesn't have dedicated surround or height speakers, but it uses S-Force Front Surround and Vertical Surround Engine to simulate these experiences. It has also more connectivity options, which is ideal for users who want to use the soundbar as a hub between different devices. However, the Sony doesn't have bass or treble adjustments, so if you like to customize your sound, you may prefer the Samsung.

LG SN6Y

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better 3.1 soundbar setup than the LG SN6Y. The Sony has a more neutral default sound profile, supports more surround sound formats, including Dolby Atmos, and has more wireless playback options like Chromecast and AirPlay. It has less sound customization options than the LG, however. If you don't care as much about surround support and prefer being able to customize the way your soundbar sounds, the LG may be a better option.

Vizio SB36312-G6

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better overall soundbar than the Vizio SB36312-G6. The Sony feels better built, it has a more neutral sound profile, and it has a dialogue enhancement feature. It can also get louder with less thumping and compression artifacts, and its center, surround, and height performances are better. It even has two Full HDMI In inputs and it supports eARC.

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