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Hard Drive Wall System Tops Audio Introductions

Sony’s 2002 audio lineup includes an expanded selection of SACD-equipped home theater Dream Systems and a greater variety of component CD-recorders and microsystems.

The company also launched what it claims is the industry’s first hard-drive-equipped stereo wall system. It’s also Sony’s second hard-drive audio product, complementing a $599 component-style model that remains in the line.

The company said it has no plans for DVD-Audio, Internet radio, or SACD playback in mini or microsystems in 2002.

In other introductions during its dealer show here, Sony added MP3-CD playback to its home audio line for the first time, following MP3’s addition last year to a small number of portable audio products. Besides adding MP3-CD playback to all its component DVD-Video players, Sony added MP3-CD playback to three minisystems, two of which are 60-disc minisystems at an everyday $249 and $299.

The company scaled back its minisystem selection, pointing to the youth market’s growing preference to use PCs as sound systems. Microsystems, however, are targeted to an older demographic seeking component-type styling and sophisticated cosmetics, so the company expanded its micro selection to seven from five. Prices range from an everyday $129 for a single-disc model, $199 for the company’s first multidisc (three-disc) model, and $399 for the company’s first DVD-equipped micro, a two-channel system.

Although CD-R playback appears in all micros and CD-RW playback in most, the micros don’t play MP3-CD because the targeted demographic isn’t as interested in MP3 as younger minisystem customers, Sony said. MP3 playback can also add $30 to $50 to the price of an audio system, whereas it’s less expensive to add to DVD players that already incorporate MPEG decoders, said home audio systems director Steve Fisher.

Additional details follow:

Hard drive: The company’s CMT-L7HD wall system features 2.5-inch hard drive with a capacity of about 20GB, capable of storing music from about 300 74-minute CDs .

It ships in July at an everyday $999 price, including wall and table stand.

SACD: In expanding its SACD Dream System selection, Sony brought its opening price down to $499 for a five-disc model and almost doubled the power to 500 watts, compared to a current opening price of $599 for a single-disc model with 280 watts. All new models feature five-disc mechanisms, and like before, all are multichannel.

The step-up, at $699, adds MP3-CD playback, progressive output, and 550 watts, and it uses a slot-load mechanisms rather than the opening model’s carousel. The top-end $1,200 model adds slimline speakers with integrated speaker stands and 600 watts