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Sony Gets Behind Sound Bars, Docks

Sony launched its first single-speaker bar-style virtual-surround system at International CES, where the company also launched its first iPod-docking stereo systems.

The iPod-docking stereo systems join Sony’s currently available iPod-docking home theater in a box systems (HTiBs) and A/V receivers.

The new iPod-docking stereo systems include an iTunes-tagging tabletop HD Radio with stereo speakers and embedded iPod dock. Five new stereo shelf systems are also feature iPod-docking capability. Two of those shelf systems feature embedded dock, and the other three are equipped with a Digital Media Port to connect to iPod-docking cradles. An iPod cradle is included with one of the three Media Port-equipped shelf systems and is sold separately for the other two.

Media Ports, first available on Sony A/V receivers and HTiBs in 2007, also connect to Sony’s Net Walkman cradle, a Bluetooth audio adapter and to the company’s DLNA-certified Wi-Fi adapter, which streams music from a networked PC.

The two shelf systems with embedded dock are the CMT-BX20i and BX50BTi microsystems, both due in February. The 2×25-watt BX20i, expected to retail for about $150, features single-disc MP3-CD player and 3mm input jack for amplifying other MP3 player brands. The BX50BTi, due at around $200, add such features as embedded stereo-Bluetooth capability.

In minisystems, the MHC-EC68Pi comes with Digital Media Port and included iPod dock at around $130. It ships in May with single-disc MP3-CD player, 3mm input for other-brand MP3 players, remote, and three-way speakers. Two other minisystems with Digital Media Port accept optional iPod docks. They are the MHC-EC78Pi and MHC-EC98Pi, both due in February at around $150 and $200, respectively. The EC78Pi features three-disc MP3-CD changer, three-way speakers and 380-watt output. The step-up EC98Pi adds a 150-watt powered subwoofer.

A fourth minisystem, the Muteki, lacks iPod dock and Digital Media Port but features USB recording and playback, three-disc MP3-CD changer and two-way speakers at about $800. It’s available.

The iPod-docking tabletop HD radio, the XDR-S10HDiP, is a stereo model due in the summer at around $180 on an everyday basis.

Sony also launched a Bravia Sound Wall RHT-S10 media stand, due in spring at a price that wasn’t announced. The stand, for 40-inch, 46-inch and 52- inch flat-screen TVs, ships with included sound-bar-style virtual surround system that attaches to the stand. The sound bar, which is Sony’s first, incorporates five speakers, Sony’s proprietary S-Force Pro virtual-surround technology and 350-watt digital amp.

The sound bar attaches to the stand’s wall, which sits behind a flat-panel TV and hides cables that run to the bar and to media sources at the bottom of the stand. The sound bar incorporates two 1080p HDMI inputs, supports 24p True Cinema passthrough to HDTVs with a compatible display; analog and digital audio inputs; a subwoofer output; and Sony’s Digital Media Port, which connects to separately sold Network Walkman and iPod docking cradles, a Sony digital media adapter and a Bluetooth module.