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Sony Unveils Select 2012 Audio Products

Las Vegas – Sony’s home audio group
unveiled three new 3D Blu-ray HTiBs, expanded its selection of tabletop audio
products equipped with AirPlay and stereo Bluetooth, and launched the second model
in its high-end audiophile speaker series.

In launching its new 3D HTiBs, the
company expanded embedded Wi-Fi to three models from two, DLNA certification to
three from two, and system control from an iPod or Android app to three models
from two.

All three 5.1-channel HTiBs also
access Sony’s Music Unlimited streaming service for the first time, joining
multiple other audio and video streaming services available through the HTiBs, a
spokesman said.

Like last year, the HTiBs feature
Sony Home Share technology to stream music via Wi-Fi 802.1 b/g/n from networked
PCs and to send and receive music to and from other HomeShare-equipped audio
products, including a HomeShare iPod/iPhone dock. In the 2012 lineup, however,
the HTiBs add ability to wirelessly send music from their embedded radio, from a
CD, and from sources connected to their inputs, the spokesman said. Last year,
the HomeShare HTiBs sent audio from their embedded Internet streaming services
to other HomeShare products, he said.

In addition, Sony for the first time
is bundling an HTiB with a HomeShare powered speaker, but only in the top HTiB.

All three HTiBs feature single HDMI
1.4a output with audio return channel (ARC), 2D-to-3D conversion, included cable-connected
iPod/iPhone dock, DLNA to stream audio and video from a PC, and 5.1 speaker
system. The top two models add dual HDMI 1.4a inputs and wireless surround

The opening-price HTiB is the
BDV-E390, due in the spring at around an everyday $400 with ability to upscale
standard-definition video to near-HD quality.

 Last year’s lineup also started at $400 and
featured step-ups at $500 and $600. Pricing wasn’t released on this year’s two
step-ups, also due in the spring.

The two step-ups add two-way front
speakers, and the top model adds two-way floorstanding front speakers.

In its high-end R series speaker series,
available only to a handful of AV specialists, the company added a second floorstanding
model, the $20,000/pair SS-AR2. It will ship in April to join the $27,000/pair
SS-AR1, introduced a year ago.

The series targets audiophiles and
consumers who care about music with speakers that deliver concert-hall
excitement, convey the emotion of musicians, and promote Sony as an audio
company while also bringing consumers back to the excitement of home audio, executives
told TWICE.

The speakers were designed to
reproduce the best sound, not hit various price points, added home AV VP
Charles Speidel. Investments in the R series will eventually trickle down to
other Sony products, said Neal Manowitz, home A/V director.

The series features baffles made of
maple, which is also used to make musical instruments, the company said.
Internal construction and finishes of both three-way four-driver models are the
same, but the new model features two 6.5-inch woofers instead of two 8-inch
woofers. Maximum power handling on the new model goes to 100 watts/channel from
200 watts/channel, frequency response ranges from 42Hz-60kHz instead of
28Hz-60kHz, and sensitivity goes to 89dB (2.83V/m) from 88dB.

In tabletop audio systems, Sony jumped
on the AirPlay bandwagon in a big way. The company added AirPlay to two more
wireless-network HomeShare speakers, bringing the AirPlay-equipped selection of
HomeShare speakers to three. Sony also added AirPlay to an iPod-docking speaker
and expanded its selection of iPod-docking speakers equipped with embedded
stereo Bluetooth.

The HomeShare line gets the new
SA-N310 and larger, higher powered SA-N410, both with 360-degree sound
dispersion and HomeShare control from Sony apps loaded onto Android phones and
Apple’s iOS devices. The 410 adds built-in subwoofer. They’re due in the
summer. Pricing was unavailable.

Like all HomeShare speakers, the
new models incorporate built-in Wi-Fi to stream music from DLNA-certified PCs
and NAS drives, from a wireless iPod dock, from select networked Blu-ray
players, and from select AV receivers and iPod-docking HTiBs.

For these models, Sony’s apps let
consumers use their Android or Apple iOS device to select the songs they want
to stream from a DLNA-certified PC to up to seven HomeShare speakers throughout
the house, each playing back a different song.

In contrast, the Apple Remote app
from Apple controls the streaming of songs from a PC to only one AirPlay
speaker at a time. To stream songs from a PC to multiple AirPlay speakers at a
time, users must sit at the PC to set up multiroom operation, Sony has said.

In iPod-docking speaker systems,
Sony launched three models, which also dock with and charge iPhones and iPads.
One features AirPlay, and two others feature stereo Bluetooth. All three are
due in March.

The lowest priced model of the
trio is the RDP-200i speaker with Bluetooth, expected to retail at an everyday
$199. It comes with two-way speakers, full-function IR remote, and flexible
docking mechanism.

The $249 RDP-XF300iP speaker with
Bluetooth adds built-in rechargeable battery, FM tuner, and retractable docking
mechanism. The $399 RDP-XA700iP lacks Bluetooth but adds AirPlay.  It also adds built-in subwoofer.