Sony HT-Z9F Soundbar Review

Reviewed Dec 17, 2019 at 10:46 am
Sony HT-Z9F Picture
Usage Ratings - Version 0.8
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.

See our Mixed Usage recommendations
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.

See our Dialogue/TV Shows recommendations
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.

See our Music recommendations
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
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.

Check Price

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 grill 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 HTZ9F 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 HTZ9F 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 HTZ9F is a well-made soundbar system that feels quite premium. The bar has a metal grill 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 doesn’t do anything to make it sound wider. Objects don’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. 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)
Full HDMI In
2
HDMI Out
1 (shared)
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.

8.9
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
Yes
ARC Dolby Atmos
Yes
ARC DTS:X
No
ARC Dolby Digital
Yes
ARC Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
ARC DTS
Yes
ARC Dolby TrueHD
No
ARC DTS-HD MA
No
ARC 5.1 PCM
No

The Sony HTZ9F supports an excellent amount of audio formats over its HDMI ARC port. Unfortunately, while it supports Atmos over ARC, it doesn't support Dolby TrueHD.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
HDMI Dolby Atmos
Yes
HDMI DTS:X
Yes
HDMI Dolby Digital
Yes
HDMI Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
HDMI DTS
Yes
HDMI Dolby TrueHD
Yes
HDMI DTS-HD MA
Yes
HDMI 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
Optical Dolby Digital
Yes
Optical 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. It also has Chomecast 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 grill 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.

Bose Soundbar 700
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

LG SK9Y
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

Samsung HW-Q70R
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

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