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Sony Bows Home XM, Design-Savvy Surround

Sony entered the home satellite radio market with XM-ready home components and systems here at its annual dealer event, where the company also expanded its selection of surround systems designed to fit unobtrusively in homes.

The unobtrusive surround systems include a big-screen TV stand that incorporates speakers, amplifiers, surround decoders, and virtual surround technology to deliver 5.1-channel surround through the stand’s embedded speakers. A second system consists of a pedestal-mount 32-inch LCD HDTV with motorized sliding front panel incorporating DVD player, surround-sound decoders and virtual surround technology to deliver a 5.1-channel soundfield from the panel’s left-right speakers and from a subwoofer.

The two systems will complement a 2.1-speaker virtual-surround Dream System unveiled last year and re-priced this year to $799 from $999. The virtual surround systems do not require positioning near side walls to bounce the surround channels to the listening position.

In other audio-related developments, the company:

  • Entered the high-performance tabletop radio market with a $179 one-piece AM/FM stereo model.
  • Launched a small, single-chassis IEEE 802.11b/g wireless speaker system with two-line display to select and playback music files stored on a remote PC, including files downloaded from Apple’s iTunes site. It also streams Internet radio stations through the PC. At $299, it will replace a $249 Ethernet-connected shelf system, which required a wired Ethernet connection to stream PC music.
  • Outlined the surround-sound formats that its first Blu-ray player will support.
  • Added automatic speaker setup for the first time to its mainstream HiFi series A/V receivers and to home theater systems, which offer the feature in all models in all three series: the performance-oriented Dream Systems, feature-oriented Integrated Systems and component-based systems.
  • The company will announce new compressed-music headphone stereos in 60 days and new audio components in its top-end ES series in September.
  • In satellite radio, three new A/V receivers priced at $299, $399 and $499 incorporate XM’s Connect and Play port, which enables them to control outboard palm-size satellite-tuner/antenna combinations. The ports are also built into two home theater in a box (HTiB) systems in the performance-oriented Dream Systems series at an everyday $599 and $899, in one component-based HTiB, in one $249 minisystem, and in one $199 microsystem. None of the products features an onboard slot to accept XM’s planned Passport tuner, which is the size of a 9-volt battery.

In unobtrusive surround, the company demonstrated the $1,499 RHT-6200 TV stand, large enough to support a 70-inch plasma TV. For consumers who want big screens but don’t have the space for five or more component speakers, the stand incorporates 5.1-channel surround decoder, proprietary virtual-surround technology, amplifiers, multiple speakers and two subwoofers.

The other unobtrusive surround system is the TAV-L1, a pedestal-mounted 32-inch LCD HDTV with music and surround-sound audio system integrated in a motorized front panel. The panel incorporates left-right speakers, FM tuner, Dolby Digital and DTS surround decoders, virtual-surround processor and single-disc CD/SACD/DVD player. The panel slides up to cover the entire screen when a CD or SACD music disc is inserted and slides down when a DVD is inserted. A subwoofer is also included. Sony is targeting end of summer or autumn deliveries at a targeted $4,000.