Las Vegas - Looking to break back into the lucrative high-end audio business in the U.S., Sony took the wraps off its first U.S. high-end audiophile speaker, the SS-AR1, due in April for $27,000/pair.
These are not new speakers, however. They've been on sale in Japan for about two years, as has a slightly smaller and less expensive sibling, the AR2.
"Millions of people still care about music," said Neal Manowitz, Sony's director of home audio and video, during International CES. "It's collegial, compelling, controversial and extremely important to us. Sony believes in high-quality music. We're the inventor of CD, the co-developer of SACD. We wanted to make a statement, to bring high quality back for people who truly enjoy music. It's a Sony product, but it's not intended to create a new branding or a new product subset. But it's a positioning for Sony, to show the breadth of the product line."
Standing 42.5 inches tall and weighing a hefty 125 pounds, the floor-standing SS-AR1 is a four-driver, three-way vented system with Sony-designed 1-inch dome tweeter, 5-inch sliced-paper cone midrange drivers -- paper cut once then glued together to reduce resonance -- and twin 8-inch aluminum cone woofers.
The front baffle on the meticulously constructed cabinet is cut from special maple trees grown in Hokkaido and harvested only in November after the summer but before the frost arrives to warp the wood. The rest of the largely unglued cabinet is made from a lighter Finnish birch. They're finished in a sheer, glossy piano black. They deliver 28Hz to 60kHz frequency response and handle up to 200 watts per channel.
Sony is signing up dealers and has signed five: David Lewis Audio in Philadelphia; Goodwin's High End in Waltham, Mass.; Music Lovers in Berkeley, Calif.; Definition AV in Santa Monica, Calif.; and AV Worx just north of Salt Lake City. -
Additional reporting by Joseph Palenchar