Sony’s latest Dolby Atmos soundbar packs in the features for $699

Sony’s rounding out its A-series of soundbars with today’s introduction of the $699 HT-A3000. It’s a 3.1-channel bar with virtualized Dolby Atmos or DTS:X surround sound, and it joins the steeply priced HT-A7000 (7.1.2 channels) and mid-level HT-A5000 (5.1.2). At the very top of the lineup is the wireless, four-speaker HT-A9 system, which retails for $1,999.

So while you naturally shouldn’t expect the cheapest soundbar in the series to eclipse those on audio performance, none of Sony’s bars slouch in the sound department. And the company is including many of the same features and software capabilities across all of them. They include support for Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth audio playback.

Taken by itself, the HT-A3000 is a 3.1 soundbar with left, center, and right channels, plus built-in dual subwoofers. But Sony is clearly hoping that most buyers will use this product as a starting point and add in some rear surrounds and a dedicated subwoofer. Once you tack on rear speakers, you can take advantage of Sony’s 360 spatial sound mapping and sound field optimization technologies, which tailor the sound for your specific living room using microphones and create “phantom” speakers based on the environment’s acoustic profile.

Compared to the more expensive HT-A7000 and HT-A5000, you’re losing out on extra channels and also the convenience of HDMI passthrough. Whereas those models let you run a game console or other home theater video source through them, the $699 HT-A3000 doesn’t. It’s actually a step behind Sony’s older, $599 HT-G700 3.1 soundbar in that department. But on the upside, it shares the newer “x-balanced” speaker design as the other A-series soundbars for clearer, more dynamic output. And like those, there’s a small display behind the front grille to show volume level and the current input.

Unsurprisingly, Sony’s soundbars are best paired with its own recent televisions. When you do so with a Bravia XR TV, you’ll find soundbar controls within the TV’s native menus. There’s also the option to plug an extra “S-Center Out” cable into the TV that lets Sony’s impressive TV speakers handle center channel duties and gives the soundbar more headroom for everything else.

The main issue with building out a full surround system with the HT-A3000 is that it gets expensive and fast. The higher-end SA-RS5 surrounds run $599.99 for a pair, with the SA-RS35’s priced at $349.99. Add in a standalone subwoofer, and once you’re in that ballpark, it might make more sense to spring for one of Sony’s higher-end bars for a better overall experience. But for smaller spaces, this might be all you need to go along with your Bravia OLED or one of the company’s new Mini LED sets.