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Sony Adds Features To AVRs, Wireless To HTiBs

LAS VEGAS — Wireless multiroom audio, home subsystem control and improved feature sets in mainstream-series A/V receivers (AVRs) are among the highlights of new home audio unveiled by Sony during its annual dealer show, here, on Monday.

In A/V receivers, the company brought HDMI 1.3 inputs, decoding of all Blu-ray surround-sound formats and x.v.Color (xvYCC) technology into its mainstream A/V receiver series for the first time, joining higher end ES series receivers with those features. In Bravia home theater in a box (HTiB) systems, the company added wireless multiroom audio for the first time. And in its NHS series of prepackaged home theater/multiroom audio systems for custom installers, Sony integrated control of such home subsystems as lighting and security through a technology alliance with Control 4.

The A/V receivers feature HDMI 1.3 inputs, decoding of all Blu-ray surround-sound formats and x.v.Color (xvYCC) technology appear in the STR-DG920, available in June at an estimated everyday $600, and in the STR-DG820, due in May at about $400.

These and two other new AVRs, due in March at expected everyday retails of about $200 and $300, are also the first models in the mainstream series with 1080p 60/24fps video signal pass-through, joining ES series models with the feature. All four are also designed to simplify connections in a high-def home theater system by transcoding all video inputs to a single HDMI output to an HD display.

The new AVRs “serve as the heart of any high-definition home theater system by synchronizing all audio and HD video sources to deliver a smooth, high quality home theater experience,” said Brennan Mullin, audio products VP.

The $600 STR-DG920 and $400 STR-DG820 are 7×110-watt AVRs with four HDMI inputs, but the DG920 adds Deep Color support for greater color depth on compatible televisions and up-scaling of standard-definition video to 1080p via HDMI. The 920 also adds an icon-driven menu system to simplify device and content navigation.

The $300 STR-DG720 7.1 channel receiver is rated at 7×105 watts, features three HDMI inputs, and playback of up to eight channels of uncompressed LPCM audio. The 5×100-watt STR-DG520 5.1 channel A/V receiver offers two HDMI inputs.

All four models share the following features:

  • XM-ready capability, although ES series AVRs launched last year offered dual Sirius/XM-ready capability.
  • 5.1-channel Neural Surround Sound for playback of select XM channels broadcasting in Neural Surround.
  • Upgraded Portable Audio Enhancer technology to improves the clarity and depth of compressed music played back on a connected MP3 player.
  • A Digital media port, introduced in 2007 on Sony AVRs to connect optional docking cradles for iPods and Walkman MP3 portables, optional Bluetooth modules to play back music streamed from a Bluetooth-equipped cellphone, and optional DLNA-certified Wi-Fi-equipped clients that stream music from a networked PC.
  • And Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (DCAC), which in about 20 to 30 seconds automatically adjusts frequency, distance and level of each channel in a surround-sound system.

In HTiBs with wireless multiroom audio, Sony has added wireless multiroom audio capability to home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems for the first time in four Bravia models, which use proprietary wireless technology to send music to up to four amplified speaker clients in other rooms.

Wireless audio can be transmitted from the main system in the living room up to 164 feet without such Wi-Fi set-up requirements as selecting security keys, IP addresses, WEP keys and pin codes, Sony said. The technology, called S-AIR, also delivers audio wirelessly to rear surround speakers without interfering with other household devices.

The four Bravia systems feature integrated five-disc DVD/CD player with up-scaling to 1080p via HDMI, Sony’s Digital Media Port, and an included iPod cradle that connects to the Port to wirelessly stream iPod-stored music to the amplified-speaker clients, called S-AIR Air Stations. Additional accessories that connect to the Port include a Network Walkman player audio cradle, a Wi-Fi-equipped client to stream music from a PC, and a Bluetooth adapter.

The DAV-HDX576WF, due in March at an expected everyday retail of about $500, comes with one S-AIR Air Station receiver/speaker (AIR-SA10) and a wireless rear speaker kit (WAHT-SA10). The system features height-adjustable floor-standing speakers that match the style and height of Bravia televisions.

The DAV-HDX277WC, due in March at about $400, includes one Air Station receiver/speaker and the option to add a rear wireless speaker kit. The DAV-HDX279W includes the rear wireless speaker kit with an option to add S-AIR Air Station receiver/speakers for multi-room audio. It is also due in March for about $400.

The DAV-HDX275 system is S-AIR-Ready, so an optional wireless transmitter, rear wireless speaker kit, and Air Stations can be added. It ships in March at about $300.

The WAHT-SA10 wireless speaker kit will be available in March for about $149. AIR-SA10 Air Station receiver/speakers feature 8 watts of RMS power and an alarm clock function for about $120 when it ships in March.

Four receiver-based, component-style HTiB systems entering the line that are designed to work with HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players, include one model with proprietary virtual-surround technology. All of the models offer automatic calibration, Portable Audio Enhancer and Digital Media Port.

The HT-7200DH system features integrated DVD-receiver with 900-watt output, up-scaling to 1080p via HDMI, and an HDMI repeater that automatically switches the television to the correct input needed for operation. The unit also features three 1080p-capable HDMI inputs and an on-screen display. It ships in May for about $500.

The 5.1-channel HT-SS2300 features a slim A/V receiver designed to match Sony’s 2008 Blu-ray players, 1,000 watts RMS power and three 1080p-capable HDMI inputs. It will be available in the summer at about $400.

At 250 watts RMS, the HT-CT100 comes with a three-channel sound bar, separate subwoofer, three 1080p-capable HDMI inputs and S-Force PRO Front Surround Sound technology to deliver virtual surround channels. It ships in March for about $300.

The HT- DDWG700, due in March at about $200, includes a cradle for iPods and 800-watt output.

In custom “rack” systems Sony has added home-control technology for the first time to a prepackaged NHS-series custom-installed home theater/multi-room-audio “rack system.” The NHS-130C system incorporates wireless home-control technology from Control4 to add whole-house control over lighting, temperature, and security subsystems.

The NHS-130C rack system consists of components, excluding TV and custom speakers, to create a 7.1-channel home theater/music system and a multi-room A/V system delivering HD video and music to 12 additional zones. The integrated Control4 technology synchronizes lighting, temperature control, and security systems through a large onscreen display in the home theater room. Integrators can add Control4 keypads, wireless touch panels and climate and lighting controls in other rooms to operate those subsystems.

“Because the system is already pre-racked and pre-integrated,” said Neal Manowitz, marketing director for the consumer systems and applications division, it “can be fully integrated and installed in a fraction of the time normally required for custom installers to build and integrate the system themselves.”

The NHS-130C system consists of a Sony ES receiver, 400-disc DVD/CD changer with management system, a 160GB music server, a Blu-ray Disc player, an AM/FM/XM/Sirius tuner, iPod in-wall dock, and the ability to add three auxiliary devices for connecting additional components like a high-definition cable box or a PlayStation gaming console. The system ships in the spring for installations that would typically range from $40,000 to $85,000, the company said.