$800 (updated 12/10/14)
AT A GLANCE
HDMI 2.0 and lossless surround decoding
7.1 channels of amplification
Fairly deep response
Upward-angled rubber feet
No HDCP 2.2 DRM
The Sony HT-ST5 provides up-to-date HDMI 2.0 connectivity along with great-for-a-bar sound, including excellent subwoofer integration.
OK, I admit it. When I signed up for audio-critic duty in the late 1980s, about a decade into my tech-journalism career, I envisioned a glamorous world of gleaming waxed wood-veneered speakers, precocious multitalented receivers, and dressed-to-kill home theaters designed by Theo Kalomirakis. Soundbars weren’t even on the horizon then. Even so, step by step, I have committed myself to the conceptual principles underlying soundbars: audio-for-video, compactness, minimal footprint, maybe a little surround magic, and user-friendliness, that last item being glaringly absent from AV receivers.