Sounbars dominate as Sony launches their new Home Entertainment products.
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14,802It wasn't just TVs at Sony's recent press event, although that was certainly the focus.The Japanese manufacturer also took the opportunity to launch their new home entertainment products for 2014. The range covers everything from home cinema systems to Blu-ray players and soundbars - there's even a new sound base. Some of the new products include support for high resolution audio and all of them have plenty of Sony's trademark flair and innovation.The easy way to spot a Sony high res audio product is to look at the tweeters, if they're gold rimmed it's high res.
Sony had two new home cinema systems on show - the BDV-N7200 and the BDV-N5200. The former is the flagship model and includes high resolution audio capabilities and magnetic fluid speakers. The easy way to spot if a Sony product supports high resolution audio is to look at the tweeters, if there's a gold rim around them then it's a high resolution audio product. Both systems offer 5.1-channels with a wireless subwoofer and wireless rear speakers. They also include a Blu-ray player, built-in WiFi, screen mirroring, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Spotify.
A feature that was first introduced last year and has now been adopted on Sony's 2014 TVs is the 'football' mode. This is designed to use the 5.1 speakers to create a stadium effect, replicating the live experience. In fact Sony have added a number of digital signal processing (DSP) features and both systems include a virtual 9.1 effect that is designed to create a more immersive audio experience with virtual height and back speakers. We had chance to listen to the the BDV-N7200 and it certainly sounded impressive, although we preferred its unprocessed sound and weren't convinced by the various DSP modes.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that Sony had a number of soundbars on display, especially as this market has simply exploded in the last couple of years. Two of the soundbars Sony on show were actually launched at IFA and are already available - the ST3 and the ST7. However there were also two new soundbars that were launched at CES - the HT-CT770 and the HT-CT370. The former is the larger of the two and includes 330W of total power with 2 x 20mm tweeter units and a 160mm subwoofer unit. The CT370 only has slightly less power but it uses a smaller footprint, with a chassis that is only 5cm high. This means it can go under a TV without blocking the screen or the IR receiver but it can also be wall mounted. Apparently 30% of consumers wall mount their sound bar, so the CT370's ability to be installed either way and adjust its output accordingly, which is handy. Regardless of which one you choose, both use stylish design intended to compliment your TV.
The two speakers use a 2.1-channel setup, with S-Master digital amplification and a wireless subwoofer. There's also a virtual surround feature that uses DSP and Sony appear to have got the DSP bug recently with a number of different modes on their products including settings designed to replicate the Cary Grant Theatre in Hollywood and the O2 Arena in London. There are extensive connections for soundbars, with three HDMI in and one out, a free SongPal app for iOS/Android and a choice of silver or black. The two soundbars also include NFC and Bluetooth capability and in the case of the CT370 a subwoofer that can be placed vertically or horizontally. This slim form subwoofer has opposing drivers to reduce vibrations, so it can even be installed in your equipment rack. It's somewhat ironic that at the same time Sony are making their TVs bigger to accommodate larger speakers, they are also making their soundbars smaller.Like just about everyone else, Sony has a 'sound base' in the form of the HT-XT1.
The latest trend is for a sound base, this is essentially a giant soundbar that sits under the TV, which is why they're sometimes referred to a 'sound plinths'. Sony has announced the HT-XT1 and like the soundbars mentioned in the previous section, it is very well specified. The base itself can take up to 30kg, which equates to a Sony TV with a screen size up to 50-inches. The appeal is that a sound base can beef up your TV sound whilst remaining tidy and simple. The slim, clean lines and glossy scratch-resistent finish certainly looks attractive and there are plenty of connections with three HDMI inputs and one output. There's also NFC, Bluetooth and numerous DSP features, along with a 2.1-channel configuration and 170W of total power. We had a chance to listen to the HT-XT1 and were impressed by the effective front soundstage it produced and the decent amount of bass. The HT-XT1will be released in April and will retail for around £350.
Finally, Sony had their latest line-up of Blu-ray players on show. There were four in total and they include features such as faster boot-up speeds, smartphone and tablet control with screen mirroring and wider codec support. In fact, the boot-up speeds on all Sony 2014 Blu-ray players is 0.7 seconds which is effectively instant. There's also dual-core processing, enhanced WiFi, Digital Music Enhancer for better sound and IP Content Noise Reduction Pro for improved performance when streaming internet content. The entry level model is the BDP-S1200 which has Sony Entertainment Network, Quick Start and wider codec support. The BDP-S4200n adds 3D playback, DLNA, and the TV SideView app. The BDP-S5200 then adds WiFi and screen mirroring with Miracast. Finally the BDP-S6200 has the lot with 4K upscaling, Super Bit Mapping for video, IP Content Noise Reduction Pro, Digital Music Enhancer and Dual Core processing. The design of all the Blu-ray players is identical to last year with the black trapezoidal shape that is reminiscent of a stealth fighter and they will be available in February.
Last year was good for Sony and with this strong line-up we expect to see them build on that success in 2014.As with their TVs, Sony's line-up of home entertainment products displays a certain confidence and the manufacturer clearly feels it has a solid range of products for 2014. We certainly can't disagree and, based upon what we've seen to date, the combination of style, design, quality and performance will prove very attractive to consumers as well. Last year was a good year for Sony and with this strong line-up of products we expect to see them build on that success in 2014.
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