No UHD Blu-ray yet but how about a turntable that can rip to DSD?
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6,380Since Sony is the company that developed Blu-ray, it was rather disappointing to discover that they had no 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player on show at CES.Thankfully there is a UHD BD player on the way but we'll just have to be patient. Sony told us at their recent press launch that they "plan to release a UHD Blu-ray player at some point in their 2016 financial year." Just to clarify, Sony's 2016 financial year runs from April 2016 to March 2017. In the mean time, the company had their latest range of regular Blu-ray players on show, with a total of five new models. Pride of place went to Sony's new UHP-H1 Universal Player, which has been designed to play just about any disc currently available. It also includes 4K upscaling and dual HDMI outputs; along with an anti-vibration construction and support for High-Resolution Audio and DSEE HX.
Sony have retained last year's BDP-S7200 as their flagship Blu-ray player and it has all the features you would expect from a modern disc spinner. These include 3D, SACD, Hi-Res Audio, streaming services, 4K upscaling and built-in WiFi. The BDP-S6700 offers many of the same features as it’s bigger brother, aside from Hi-Res Audio support, but with a smaller footprint. The lower tier BDP-S6500 offers a similar set of features to the S6700, as does the BDP-S3700; although the latter drops 4K upscaling and 3D support. Finally there's the entry level BDP-S1700, which provides a stripped down feature set with only a wired internet connection but it does include Playstation Now.
At the press launch Sony told us that, unlike the soundbar market, the demand for soundbases has levelled off in the last year. However that didn't stop the company from launching three new models for 2016. There’s the entry level HT-XT100 which includes Bluetooth, HDMI and 80W of amplification. Then there's the HT-XT2 that has the same features as the XT100 but adds a built-in subwoofer and 170W of amplification; along with support for multi-room, Google Cast, 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR) passthrough and wireless surrounds. Finally the HT-XT3 includes all the same features as the XT2 but has two built-in subwoofers and 350W of amplification, along with High-Resolution Audio support.
Although the soundbase market may have plateaued, Sony said they expect more growth in the soundbar market and they had an extensive range on show, with no less than seven new models. First of all they had the HT-CT80, which is a 2.1-channel soundbar with 80W of amplification. It includes a wired subwoofer and support for Bluetooth. Then there’s the HT-CT180, which is essentially the same as the CT80 but has 100W of amplification and uses a wireless subwoofer. The HT-CT390 is a 2.1-channel soundbar with a wireless subwoofer that uses a low profile design and includes Bluetooth. Then there's the HT-CT790, which is a 2.1-channel soundbar with 330W of amplification and a wireless subwoofer. It supports Multi-room and Google Cast and also uses a low profile design.
Moving up the range we have the HT-ST9, which is a 7.1-channel soundbar with 800W of amplification and a wireless subwoofer. It also offers support for High-Resolution Audio, Multi-room and Google Cast. Then we have the HT-NT5, which is a 2.1-channel soundbar with 400W of amplification, a wireless subwoofer and a super slim low profile design. It also supports Multi-room and Google Cast, along with Hi-Res Audio and it can passthrough 4K and HDR content. Finally we have the HT-RT5, which is a multi-channel soundbar that includes 550W of amplification, a wireless subwoofer and two rear channels. It also supports Multi-room, Google Cast, High-Res Audio and can passthrough 4K and HDR content. It's certainly refreshing to see so many new Sony soundbases and soundbars that can passthrough 4K and HDR, giving them a degree of future-proofing, but it's a shame there's no support for the new immersive audio formats.
One of the big surprises in the last few years has been the resurgence of vinyl. In fact Sony said that growing vinyl sales have been a major factor in their decision to launch a turntable of their own. The result is the new PSH-X500 USB Turntable, which includes the ability to capture your vinyl using up to DSD 5.6MHz native conversion. Along with the USB digital output, there is also built-in phono EQ that supports both phono and line output. The PSH-X500 has a built-in DSD native analogue to digital converter and comes with a free "Hi-Res Audio Recorder" app for your computer (Windows or Mac OS). The app will support DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz, as well as WAV up to 192KHz/24-bit. The turntable itself uses a newly designed integrated shell type straight tonearm, a highly stable belt-drive system, an aluminium die cast platter and a high quality 5mm rubber mat.
Pricing has yet to be announced on the Blu-ray players, soundbases and soundbars but we can expect to see them begin shipping in late spring and into the summer. However the PSH-X500 turntable has been priced at £450 and will begin shipping in May. This is shaping up to be a strange year for audio and despite all the technological advances, it's a sixty year-old technology that is getting all the attention. Vinyl's back baby!
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