Good, Better, Best: Our Impressions of Sony’s 2023 TV and Soundbar Range

Good, Better, Best: Our Impressions of Sony’s 2023 TV and Soundbar Range

Sony has been pretty quiet lately. Well, it’s been busy showcasing its plans for the ‘everything car’, finding you stock of PlayStation 5 consoles, making movies now the COVID-induced fog has lifted (pre-writers strikes), and delivering sweet tunes to our ears. But, the company still considered a heavyweight in the audio-visual space was noticeably missing from CES TV land this year.

But… Sony hasn’t given up on TVs, they’re still very much a big part of its business, just unfortunately not as impressive as they once were. Sony announced in March what it was bringing to Australia, and while we hyper-fixated on the anime button (Crunchyroll easy play), there’s a little bit more to its 2023 range of TVs than what can be found on a spec sheet.

Gizmodo Australia got the opportunity last week to stay at Sydney’s Ovolo in Woolloomooloo, on Gadigal land, where the ‘best’ TV on offer from Sony was installed for us to review. That review is coming soon, but the media event we attended beforehand also afforded us the opportunity to have a “first thoughts” run at a handful of Sony’s TVs and soundbars/subs, broken up into “good, better, best”. Here they are, and here’s what we thought.

Sony’s 2023 TV and soundbar range

Good: Sony Bravia LED X80L TV

sony tv soundbar
Sony Bravia X80L LED TV. Image: Sony/Gizmodo Australia

The X80L is Sony’s mid-to-entry-level range TV, sitting above the entry-level X77L. It boasts 4K upscaling, but what you’ll immediately notice is the picture renders a bit sharp around the edges of an image. On the TV’s home screen that sees logos like YouTube appear a little blurry when stretched so big (it was the 85-inch shown as a demo), you really notice the sharpness of edges.

Watching a replay of the Australian Open, the ball was bright, almost too bright, but the motion didn’t feel overly jolty, so that’s a plus. I could see where it was at all times and there wasn’t as much of a comet tail on the ball as I expected there to be. With this TV, however, you’d want to fiddle with the picture settings with everything you’re watching so as to not strain your eyes with the brightness or miss out on what Cinema mode, for example, could do to your movie-watching experience. On the X80L, blacks seemed black enough, and there appeared to be a wide array of colours, but the brightness was just all-consuming. It was clear this screen is LED and not OLED.

Although the TV was set up in a bright room, there wasn’t an obnoxious glare. There was a glare, obviously, this is Australia, but it wasn’t unbearable, and I only really noticed it once I started paying attention to it. And I had to look for it.

The X80L has a good mix of colour, brightness, and power, however, I wouldn’t say I’m overly impressed, especially with how much the TV will set you back.

Sony X80L TV pricing:

  • KD55X80L (55-inch) $1,799
  • KD65X80L (65-inch) $2,249
  • KD75X80L (75-inch) $2,999
  • KD85X80L (85-inch) $4,199.

Read more about the Sony X80L TV range here.

Good: HT-A3000 soundbar

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Sony HT-A3000 soundbar. Image: Sony/Gizmodo Australia

Like a wine and cheese tasting, Sony paired its TVs with an equally “good, better, best” sound system. The X80L was partnered with the HT-A3000 soundbar. The A3000 is a three-speaker soundbar – centre, left, right – boasting also a dual subwoofer which acts as a single channel. The A3000 brought along its friend, the sub 3 (SA-SW3), which is a full-firing sub, meaning it’s really low frequency, with two rear speakers (SA-RS3S). The ‘3’ means three speakers, by the way. They connect wirelessly back to the sub/soundbar.

The HT-A3000 isn’t going to deliver sound as good as its more expensive siblings, but in a small space, like an apartment loungeroom, it seems the soundbar would be more than sufficient. Great, actually. I felt immersed within the scene and that’s what you want from a sound system. It delivers good bass when paired with the sub and while we didn’t have the opportunity to hear the X80L TV deliver its sound without the soundbar, it’s a no-brainer to consider that the soundbar without the sub would provide a much better listening experience than with just the TV.

Sony HT-A3000 soundbar/SA-SW3 sub pricing:

  • HT-A3000 $795.00
  • SA-SW3 $395.

Read more about the Sony HT-A3000 soundbar here and the SA-SW3 subwoofer here.

Better: Sony Bravia XR Full Array LED X90L TV

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Sony Bravia X90L full-array LED TV. Image: Sony/Gizmodo Australia

Sony is expecting the X90L to be one of its most successful TVs of the year. It’s the first TV in the range to feature Sony’s XR processor, which looks after both picture quality and sound. While the X90L is still LED, it’s full-array, which, as Sony will tell you, means that there are LEDs across the whole screen, and they can be adjusted much more precisely according to the scene. This results in light going where it’s needed, and dark parts of scenes stay dark – obvious in the little bits of Andor and Spider-Man: No Way Home we watched.

Moving from the X80L to the X90L, it was very obvious the power of the XR chip is nothing to scoff at – the picture was rendered clearly, and while the upscaling was a hell of a lot better than it was on the “good”, you got the sense the TV wasn’t working as hard to pull power out of nowhere and scenes were delivered smoothly.

Unfortunately, we watched a bit of Uncharted. The scene in the sky, yep the plane fight. But look, the colours were bright, faces were clear, and there was minimal motion drag, even though Sony had deliberately dropped the fps (to give a more cinema experience). Overall, it seems like it was a TV I’d be comfortable with in my loungeroom – and I’ve got to say, that’s mostly because it’s a very bright TV and my eyes love looking at a bright screen.

Glare was hard to determine, with the window placed behind the X90L, but reflection from the lights in the room and people moving around was minimal.

This one actually goes up to 98 inches and Christ that’s bigger than my apartment, but there are 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch screens, too.

Sony X90L TV pricing:

  • XR55X90L (55-inch) $2,999
  • XR65X90L (65-inch) $3,599
  • XR75X90L (75-inch) $4,699
  • XR85X90L (85-inch) $5,899
  • XR98X90L (98-inch) $13,999.

Read more about the Sony X90L TV range here.

Better: HT-A5000 soundbar

Image: Sony/Gizmodo Australia

Aside from having five speakers, the HT-A5000 5.1.2 channel soundbar boasts surround sound with up-firing speakers, side beam tweeters, and a built-in dual subwoofer. It has optional rear speakers, too, and supports 360 Spatial Sound Mapping. That means it works well with Dolby Atmos and boy this thing is beautiful. I was sitting on the right side of the room for this demo, so my experience wasn’t as centred as it was for the A3000, but despite that, I could feel the uplift in quality.

The A5000 was paired with the sub 5 (SA-SW5), which was probably too much for the space we were in, but in a loungeroom in suburbia, it would truly sound like you’re in a mini cinema. The SA-RS5 rear speakers were clear, and bass-heavy where it was needed, and the best part is they can survive for around 8-10 hours off mains (an hour to charge fully). But, you can’t take them around as a portable speaker like you can with the JBL, which is a bummer.

The A5000 also seems more than sufficient on its own in a smaller space.

Sony HT-A5000 soundbar/SA-SW5 sub pricing:

  • HT-A5000 $1,395
  • SA-SW5 $895.

Read more about the Sony HT-A5000 soundbar here and the SA-SW5 subwoofer here.

Best: Sony Bravia XR OLED A80L TV

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Sony Bravia XR OLED A80L TV. Image: Sony/Gizmodo Australia

Lastly, the XR OLED A80L. “The best and biggest that we’ll do this year”. Sony says it’s 10 per cent brighter than the previous model – and to be honest, it’s not overly bright. But, the OLED is stunning in scenes that are bright. In Spider-Man: No Way Home, and daylight, mind you, the A80L was bright, with blacks distinguishable from other blacks and no colour bleeding, with the highlights you’d expect from an OLED.  The coolest thing to me is that the TV itself has speakers behind the glass (!!!) – yes, there are multiple drivers behind the screen, which makes for a pretty decent audio experience without the soundbar. This isn’t new, but only something I’ve become aware of recently.

On screen sizes (55-, 65-, 77-, and 83-inch), this is the biggest range Sony has gone for OLED before. The stand/feet can be moved into three positions, as well as up and down to accommodate for a soundbar. These are great features that other TVs it competes with just don’t have. Unfortunately, I wish I was more impressed with this TV and had more to say than the fact I was mostly just enjoying the Sony soundbar pairing.

Sony A80L TV pricing:

  • XR55A80L (55-inch) $4,099
  • XR65A80L (65-inch) $5,299
  • XR77A80L (77-inch) $8,299
  • XR83A80L (83-inch) $12,299.

Read more about the Sony A80L TV range here.

Best: HT-A7000 soundbar

Image: Sony/Gizmodo Australia

The sound from the A7000 blew me away. As the name suggests, seven speakers across the unit, two vertical drivers, two centre subwoofers that act as one sub (7.1.27). This soundbar, like the A5000 soundbar, is paired with the SA-SW5 sub, boosting that audio Sony is so well known for even higher above what it’s done in the past. With this set up, the sound was coming through the TV and the soundbar/rear speakers. The audio, mostly dialogue, was pushed via the TV and it genuinely allowed for the soundbar to send sound from scenes rushing around the rear of your head.

Read more about the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar here.

Sony’s 2023 TV and soundbar range

I was thoroughly impressed with all three soundbars and two sub/rear speaker sets. Sony makes gorgeous headphones, I’m happy to declare it’s remained the case with soundbars/speakers in 2023. Unfortunately, the TVs aren’t as impressive. The LED is too incorrect with its contrast and saturation, the OLED is too dark, even in a well-lit room. While the ‘best’ TV is gorgeous in brightly lit scenes, and the experience you get pairing it with a Sony soundbar is brilliant, watching TV in the dark would be a struggle. I prefer the ‘better’ TV, I agree with Sony that this is the model it’ll sell the most of. But I’m a stickler for OLED and wish Sony had might it a little brighter.

Stay tuned for our full review of the Sony XR OLED A80L TV, and the HT-S2000 soundbar (not listed) that we had the opportunity to try at home.

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