Sony Unveils Select 2012 Audio Products - Twice

Sony Unveils Select 2012 Audio Products

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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.

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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 speakers.

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.

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