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Sony Goes Wireless, Among Audio Upgrades

Wireless multiroom audio, home subsystem control and improved A/V receiver (AVR) feature sets were among the highlights of new home audio unveiled here by Sony during its annual dealer show.

In Bravia home theater in a box (HTiB) systems, the company added wireless multiroom audio for the first time. (See story at left.) In its NHS series of prepackaged home theater/multiroom audio systems for custom installers, Sony integrated control of such home subsystems as lighting and security for the first time. (See story on p. 44.) And in A/V receivers, the company brought HDMI 1.3 inputs, decoding of all Blu-ray surround-sound formats, and x.v.Color (xvYCC) technology into its mainstream AVR series for the first time, joining higher-end ES series receivers with those features.

HDMI 1.3 inputs, decoding of all Blu-ray and HD DVD surround-sound formats, and x.v.Color (xvYCC) technology appear in the STR-DG920, available in June at an estimated everyday $600, and in the STR-DG820, due in May at about $400. The 820 is the lowest priced AVR announced to date with decoding of all surround formats authorized for high-def discs.

These and two other new AVRs, due in March at expected everyday retails of about $200 and $300, are also the mainstream series’ first models with 1080p 60/24 fps video signal pass-through, joining ES series models with the feature. The top three models are also designed to simplify connections in a high-def home theater system by transcoding all video inputs to a single HDMI output to an HD display.

The $600 STR-DG920 and $400 STR-DG820 are 7×110-watt AVRs with four HDMI inputs, but the DG920 adds Deep Color support for greater color depth on compatible televisions and up-scaling of standard-definition video to 1080p via HDMI. The 920 also adds an icon-driven menu system to simplify device and content navigation.

The $300 STR-DG720 7.1 channel receiver is rated at 7×105 watts, features three HDMI inputs and plays back up to eight channels of uncompressed LPCM audio. The 5×100-watt STR-DG520 5.1 channel A/V receiver offers two HDMI inputs.

All four models also feature:

  • XM-ready capability, although ES series AVRs launched last year offered dual Sirius/XM-ready capability;
  • 5.1-channel Neural Surround Sound for playback of select XM channels broadcasting in Neural Surround; and
  • a Digital Media Port, introduced in 2007 on Sony AVRs to connect optional docking cradles for iPods and Walkman MP3 portables, optional Bluetooth modules to play back music streamed from a Bluetooth-equipped cellphone, and optional DLNA-certified Wi-Fi-equipped clients that stream music from a networked PC.