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Surround Sound in the Making

A chat with the creators of Sony's ultra-slim HT-NT5 wireless TV soundbar

Sony product planners Taiji Fujihara and Naohiro Uriya know that your living room isn't just any room; it's your personal movie theatre, party venue, gaming center and more. This concept is what inspired Sony's HT-NT5 wireless TV soundbar—a sound system that's able to fulfil all of your entertainment needs while taking up minimal space under your TV. This wireless soundbar's diverse set of features are perfect for all the different activities that go on in your living room, from movie nights to dance parties.  

The HT-NT5 is also Sony's most versatile wireless TV soundbar yet. According to Sony's global user survey, Dads enjoy their speakers installed behind various listening point such as sofas, whereas Moms prefer them to be placed in more discrete locations. With the HT-NT5 TV soundbar's upgraded wireless surround sound technology, you have the option to add wireless rear speakers in your living room for a more immersive movie experience or you can move them to another room to listen to music. This flexible sound setup allows you to hear crisp, clear sound no matter where you are in your home.  

Read on to get an inside look at the creation of the ultra-slim HT-NT5 wireless TV soundbar, learn about the challenges of keeping up with changing consumer demands and find out what industry-leading products Taiji Fujihara and Naohiro Uriya are planning to work on next.  

Q: What are your roles as a product planners at Sony?

Fujihara: I'm in charge of the planning, specifications and concept design of soundbar products. My role is to identify the problems and challenges that our customers are experiencing and develop products that address them.

Uriya: Being a product planner means that I develop the network features that are incorporated into the products, specifically the wireless multi-room, wireless surround features and mobile apps.

Q: What is unique about the HT-NT5 wireless TV soundbar's technology? 

Fujihara: First, we wanted to incorporate a new high-resolution video technology called 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) that is beginning to revolutionize living room entertainment. We're seeing an emerging demand for TV soundbars that support increasing high-resolution image content available in formats like Ultra HD Blu-ray that harness 4K HDR technology along with superior sound quality. With the HT-NT5 TV soundbar, we leveraged a technology called 4K pass-through, which sends 4K video input directly to a 4K television. This means that the HT-NT5 can deliver both the superior resolution of 4K HDR and uncompressed high-quality audio.

Q: How does the HT-NT5 TV soundbar serve the rising demand for wireless listening?

Fujihara: Customers want wireless surround sound systems. The soundbar market is growing because more and more customers want to be able to enjoy 2.1ch surround sound systems for a reasonable price. Many customers who have purchased soundbars decide to add rear speakers later on. With the HT-NT5 TV soundbar, you can connect two wireless speakers for a more realistic surround sound system. 

Sony product planners Taiji Fujihara (left) and Naohiro Uriya (right)

Q: What challenges did you face when developing the HT-NT5 wireless TV soundbar?

Fujihara: As flat television screen sizes become even larger, low-height stand design is becoming the norm. Customers who own these large televisions need soundbars with even lower profiles. One of the toughest challenges was to develop a thin, low-profile form factor that wouldn't obstruct the screen or impede remote control receiver function. The second challenge was to develop technology that combines high-resolution picture with superior sound quality. We positioned a high-frequency super tweeter and a secondary tweeter on each side of the TV soundbar. Since the super tweeter is located on the front side and the secondary tweeter is located on the edge of the unit, sound is conveyed accurately to both ears regardless of whether the TV is located on a stand or is wall-mounted. Customers are impressed with the sound quality of the thinner TV soundbar. It has especially improved the audibility of the human voice in spoken movie dialogue.

Q: Any tips for customers who want to add on wireless speakers? 

Uriya: Setting up wireless speakers couldn't be easier—you can do it from the TV setup screen. All you have to do is follow the instructions to select the wireless speakers you want to connect to your TV soundbar. Depending on your living room layout, you might not be able to position the left and right speakers symmetrically, but you can still get a realistic surround sound environment by inputting data such as the distance between the respective speakers and the TV soundbar.

The wireless surround feature is an extended version of the Wireless Multi-Room feature that we debuted in 2015. Wireless Multi-Room lets users enjoy the same music from multiple wireless speakers, such as the h.ear go, SRS-ZR7 and SRS-ZR5, which are set up in different locations and connected by a wireless network over the SongPal Link. With this setup, soundbar owners hosting a party in their home can stream the same music playing from speakers in the living room, the backyard and the kitchen for the enjoyment of all of their guests.

Q: Watching movies? Listening to music? What other activities can you enjoy with the HT-NT5 wireless TV soundbar?

Fujihara: A user's gaming experience can also be enhanced by the HT-NT5 TV soundbar. In fact, according to the users' survey conducted in the Japan market, more than half of the users surveyed connect their PlayStation to Sony soundbar products, including the HT-NT5. That's no surprise, given the game studio mode that Sony has jointly developed with Sony Interactive Entertainment PlayStation sound engineers. This game studio mode provides users with the immersive sound that game creators want players to experience. Especially vital when playing a first-person shooter game, gamers will feel a sense of connection to the game world by hearing realistic sounds such as the footsteps of an enemy approaching when using this game studio mode in combination with the HT-NT5 TV soundbar.

Q: What products are you working on next?

Fujihara: I've been involved in soundbar product development for the past few years. 80 to 90 percent of the market has transitioned to soundbars because people want to avoid the complexity of wiring and configuring 5.1ch systems and problems like not being able to have rear speakers permanently installed in the living room. To address this and other market trends, I would like to continue conceiving and developing products that can transform lifestyles by addressing things customers want or find challenging.

Uriya: I've been working on the development of products that involve using network technology, like the HAP-Z1ES hard disk-equipped audio player and the SongPal mobile app. I've always strived to develop new features from the customer's perspective that make their lives more convenient. Moving forward, my goal is to develop features that resolve issues that customers find too time-consuming or complicated to deal with.

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