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Sony Expands Wireless Multi-Room Audio

Las Vegas — Sony brought its S-Air wireless-audio technology to A/V receivers (AVRs) for the first time, expanded its selection of Blu-ray-equipped home theater in a box (HTiB) systems to four from two, brought the opening price of a Blu-ray HTiB down to an expected everyday $600 from $1,000 and expanded its 3.1-channel sound-bar selection to two.

During Sony’s dealer event here, the company also maintained its support for S-Air in HTiBs. The technology is embedded in two of three new integrated DVD HTiBs and in one of the new Blu-ray HTiBs. In other HTiBs and three of the four new AVRs, it requires the purchase of an add-on $50 S-Air transceiver.

Last year, S-Air appeared for the first time in Sony products as a standard or optional feature in multiple HTiBs. The products included the company’s first two Blu-ray HTiBs, which launched in the fourth quarter at $1,000 and $2,000 with embedded S-Air. The two models remain in the line.

S-Air uses proprietary 2.4GHz wireless RF technology to send music, including music stored on docked iPods, up to 164 feet to as many as 10 $150 amplified speaker clients, or AirStations, throughout the house. S-Air also delivers surround channels to wireless S-Air speakers. Wireless can be activated without such Wi-Fi set-up requirements as selecting security keys, IP addresses, WEP keys and pin codes, Sony said.

AVRs: In launching four new mainstream-series AVRs at $200 to $500, the company brings S-Air to the $300, $400 and $500 models. All three require the purchase of an add-on S-Air transceiver. Also in the new AVR lineup, Sony maintains $400 as the opening price for decoding all Blu-ray surround formats, maintains $200 as the opening price for supporting 60/24 fps 1080p via HDMI, drops the opening price of HDMI support for Deep Color to $400 from $600, and drops the price of x.v.Color support to $300 from $400.

Like before, $200 is the opening price for an AVR with a digital media port, which connects to Sony’s iPod and Net Walkman docks, Bluetooth stereo receiver, and DLNA-certified Wi-Fi-equipped client that streams music from a networked PC. A new stereo receiver at $150 also features a digital media port.

In other AVR features, 1080p up-scaling starts at $500, down from $600, HDMI switching continues to start at $200, and HDMI repeater continues to start at $300.

The $200 and $300 AVRs ship in March. The $400 model is due in June, and the $500 flagship is due in July with piano-black finish to match new BDP-S360 and BDP-S560 Blu-ray players.

BD HTiBs: The $600 BDV-E300 and $800 BDV-E500W Blu-ray HTiBs, due in June, will join $1,000 and $2,000 models available since the fourth quarter of 2008. All four decode all Blu-ray surround formats, feature internal 5.1 channels of amplification, and offer BD Live when used with USB-connected external memory. When last year’s models were launched, BD Live was available only after a post-purchase firmware upgrade.

Like the two models launched last year, the $800 model features integrated S-Air technology. The $600 model requires an optional S-Air transceiver. The $800 model is sold with included S-Air wireless surround speakers, whereas the Blu-ray system launched last year included wireless surround speakers and AirStation.

Other features include digital media port, output of 1080p at 60/24 fps, 1080p up-scaling and Sony’s Bravia Sync to synchronize operation of HDMI-connected Sony components.

Integrated DVD HTiBs: S-Air transmitters are embedded in two of three new five-disc DVD-equipped HTiBs at $430. The integrated models, featuring 1,000-watt 5.1-channel amplification, are the DAV-HDX587WC and DAV-HDX589W. They are due in March with digital media port, included iPod dock, 1080p up-scaling, new DMPort Booster technology to enhance the sound quality of audio passing through the Port and step-by-step set-up instructions on an included DVD.

The 589W comes with included S-AIR wireless rear speakers, and the 587WC comes with AirStation amplified-speaker client.

The third system, the DAV-HDX285 5.1 system, accepts an optional S-Air transceiver. The system is due in March at $300 with instructional disc, 1080p up-scaling, iPod cradle, digital media port and DMPort Booster.

Unlike last year’s models, the new models lack SACD playback.

Other systems: Two other HTiBs are the receiver-based HT-SS360 and 3.1-channel HT-CT500 sound bar theater system.

The 5.1-channel HT-SS360, due in May at $350, features a component AVR with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoding and PCM playback. It’s styled to match the new BDP-S360 and BDP-S560 BD players and features gloss-black exterior. Other features include three HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, 1,000-watt audio output, 24/60 fps 1080p support on HDMI, digital media port, DMPort Booster and Bravia Sync. 

The HT-CT500 sound bar, due in June at about $500, features slim three-speaker bar, AVR in the subwoofer module and 400-watt output. There is no virtual-surround processing, but it does have five DSP modes. The modes are cinema, sports, games, music and personal-audio modes. It joins a $300 3.1 sound bar.

The system features full 1080p HDMI inputs with one output, two component inputs, several audio inputs, Faroudjas’ DCDi Cinema 1080p up-scaling, digital media port and S-Air-ready capability. It supports 1080p 60/24 fps video, Deep Color and x.v.Color. A bracket is provided for attachment to TVs in the Bravia W5100 and XBR9 series. The bar and subwoofer enclosure connect via one wire.