Sony's 2018 AV line-up boasts Dolby Atmos and Vision
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14Sony held a UK press launch at their Weybridge head office, where they gave journalists a chance to get a first look at their 2018 AV line-up.
Although the majority of these AV products were announced at CES, very few were on display at the show, so this UK launch gave the UK press their first chance to get up close and personal with Sony’s new range.
First up there was Sony’s new UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, which Sony rather disingenuously claims to support 'both High Dynamic Range formats' - HDR10 and Dolby Vision. That rather conveniently forgets about HDR10+ and its absence from the UBP-X700 immediately puts it at a disadvantage when compared to Panasonic's new DMP-UB820 which supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, in addition to the mandatory HDR10 compatibility. On the plus side, the X700 will be able to work with their Dolby Vision supporting TVs, making it the obvious choice for owners of Sony’s A1, AF8, ZD9, XF90, XE94 and XE93 models.
Along with disc playback, the X700 has access to a number of 4K streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube although HDR support is not yet defined. This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player also supports a number of high resolution music formats, including MP4, DSD, FLAC, and more. The new player uses a slim and compact bodies that is designed with the average living room in mind. The UBP-X700 model will be priced at approximately £270 and available from February 2018.
Next up we have a pair of new receivers from Sony, the first of which is the STR-DH790 AV receiver. This model includes 7 channels of built-in amplification with 7.2-channel processing and 4K HDR passthrough including Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma. The DH790 supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, offering a flexible 5.1.2-channel configuration while allowing you to watch or listen to whatever you want, thanks to a broad range of content support for video and music files and streaming services.
The DH790 also uses a slim, compact body that has been designed with the average living room in mind. The receiver includes Sony’s Advanced D.C.A.C (Digital Cinema Auto Calibration) automatic speaker setup system. This makes setup easier thanks to a provided microphone, which measures a series of test tones to determine the proper speaker levels, based on the detected placement of speakers in relation to the acoustical properties of your room. The DH790 is compatible with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision and in the case of the latter that presumably includes the low latency profile used by Sony’s Dolby Vision TVs, although they wouldn't confirm that.
The second new receiver launched by Sony is the STR-DH190, which joins the growing trend for stereo receivers aimed at fans of vinyl. The DH190 includes a phono input for those with a turntable, along with Bluetooth connectivity to keep its feet firmly in the 21st century. There are no HDMI inputs or outputs, so the DH190 doesn’t class as an AV product but if you’re looking for a 2-channel receiver that includes an FM tuner and analogue inputs, then this might be the product for you.Although two channel receivers are becoming popular again, the demand for soundbars remains as strong as ever. The latest soundbar to be launched by Sony is the HT-ZF9. This 3.1-channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Sony claim that their Vertical Surround Engine processing allows the soundbar to deliver a three-dimensional 7.1.2-channel experience without the need for ceiling or up-firing speakers.
The ZF9 also includes S-Force Pro Front Surround technology which is designed to improve the front surround sound field. In addition, even without Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content you can enjoy virtual three-dimensional sound due to vertical surround upmixing. This feature can upscale even two channel stereo to 7.1.2-channels, thereby creating a more immersive experience. There is also the option to add on a pair of SA-Z9R rear speakers, which are exclusively designed to partner with the HT-ZF9, thus creating a genuine 5.1-channel surround experience.
The HT-ZF9 supports 4K 18Gbps passthrough with HDCP 2.2 and HDR (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma and Dolby Vision), so the original signal is passed directly through the soundbar to your TV, without any loss of quality, colour, clarity or brightness. There are two HDMI inputs and one output, whilst the ZF9 also supports High-Resolution Audio formats including playback from a USB source. Alternatively, you can enjoy any of your other music files in near higher quality from your mobile device via Bluetooth connection thanks to Sony’s DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX) technology.
The HT-ZF9 is also Wi-Fi enabled, so you can benefit from the advantages of having Chromecast built-in, and working with the Google Assistant. By talking to a smart speaker, you can play music from streaming services through the HT–ZF9, or you can opt for multi-room playback, which feeds the same music simultaneously throughout your whole house. Spotify Connect is also included and you can connect your soundbar to your TV via Bluetooth technology to cut out the clutter. The soundbar is designed to fully complement Sony’s new LCD TV line-up in terms of both material finish and physical shape.Sony also launched their new HT-XF9000 soundbar, which is a 2-channel design with a matching wireless subwoofer. Despite only being a 2.1-channel soundbar, the XF9000 supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and, like the ZF9, it uses the Vertical Surround Engine to deliver a more immersive 7.1.2-channel experience. The XF9000 also supports 4K 18Gbps passthrough with HDCP 2.2 and HDR (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma and Dolby Vision). The soundbar has been specifically designed to match the XF90, although its physical shape, elegant appearance and material finish will compliment any modern TV. There is an HDMI input and output but you also have the option of going cable-free by connecting your soundbar to your TV via Bluetooth technology.
If multichannel audio isn’t to your taste, Sony also have a pair of more traditional 2-channel soundbars available in 2018. These slim and stylish soundbars have built-in subwoofers and support Dolby Digital. The first of these is the HT-SF200 which sports a compact design but includes S-Force PRO Front Surround processing to create the effect of being surrounded by speakers.
The SF200 also features simple connectivity to your TV via HDMI ARC, Optical or Bluetooth – if your TV supports it. It can also wirelessly connect to other smart devices by Bluetooth technology. Alternatively, for those moments when you want to quickly connect and instantly play a song, the SF200 also has a handy USB input, allowing you to connect a USB device for easy playback.
This is an all-in-one solution is designed for smaller living spaces, it will easily fit on shelves or a console table, placed either in front of or beneath the TV. The materials used, such as the leather-look top and composite sides, have been put together to blend in seamlessly and match a modern living space.
Finally there is the HT-SF150 which offers many of the same benefits as the SF200 but uses a larger sized chassis and a bass reflex speaker. It still uses S-Force PRO Front Surround processing to create a surround effect and includes HDMI ARC, Optical or Bluetooth connectivity. It can also wirelessly connect to other smart devices by Bluetooth technology and has a USB input, allowing you to connect a USB device for easy playback.
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