Sony Home Audio Targets High-Res, Wireless

New home audio products include AVRs, soundbars, Wi-Fi speakers
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Las Vegas – High-resolution audio, HDCP 2.2 4K copy protection, Wi-Fi audio, and built-in Google Cast technology highlight Sony’s home audio introductions at International CES.

The company is expanding its selection of Wi-Fi speakers, launching its first soundbars with high-resolution audio (HRA) decoders and HDCP 2.2 copy protection, embedding Google Cast in AVRs and soundbars for the first time, and bringing proprietary Bluetooth/LDAC technology to AVRs and soundbars for the first time.

LDAC is a new technology and codec said to deliver “near high-resolution wireless audio” over Bluetooth from the company’s first LDAC-equipped HRA Walkman portables, also on display at the show.

The products equipped with Google Cast stream music from Cast-enabled Google apps via Wi-Fi from the Internet, with the user’s Android smartphone delivering control. Because the AVR or soundbar, not the phone or laptop, streams content direct from the Internet, mobile-device batteries aren’t drained.

The new products consist of two networked A/V receivers, at least two HDMI-equipped soundbars, three networked speakers with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and three portable Bluetooth speakers.

Two new networked A/V receivers bring the opening price of HDCP 2.2 copy-protected HDMI connections to $499 from $899.

The new AVRs, like their predecessors, decode HRA formats, including DSD but lack Dolby Atmos surround sound decoding. They also feature built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth, and wireless multiroom-audio capability.

The AVRs, shipping in the spring, are the STR-DN1060 and STR-DN860, both with HDCP 2.2 on one HDMI input and output.

Two new soundbars are the 7.1-channel HT-ST9 and 2.1-channel HT-NT3. They feature wireless subwoofer and ability to stream music to multiple speakers throughout the house. The total number of HDMI ports is three in and one out. The bars support high-res playback via USB or via HDMI. Supported formats are DSD (DFF/DSF), FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, and WAV.

The soundbars join the recently shipped $999-UPP HT-ST5 with three HDMI 2.0 connections, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master decoding, and Bluetooth with NFC. The $1,299-UPP HT-ST7 was to be phased out at the end of 2014.

Soundbar pricing and ship dates were unavailable.

In Wi-Fi speakers, the company is expanding its selection of AC-only Wi-Fi/Bluetooth models with HRA decoding to two from one. Both are also the company’s first to decode DSD files. They also decode 24-bit/192kHz ALAC, FLAC, and AIFF files. Both also feature Bluetooth, AAC and aptX streaming over Bluetooth, NFC, and native support for streaming Pandora, Spotify, vTuner and Music Unlimited. They also feature smartphone/tablet-charging USB.

The SRS-X99 will be the top-end model, replacing the $699-suggested SRS-X9. The AC-only 2.1-channel speaker features 154-watt output, four super tweeters, and dual-passive radiator.

The second AC-only Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker is the 2.1-channel SRS-X88, which offers all the same features but delivers 90-watt output.

A third Wi-Fi/Bluetooth model is the portable AC/DC SRS-X77, which replaces the $299 SRS-X7. The 2.1-channel speaker features Wi-Fi music streaming with multiroom-audio capability but lacks high-res decoding. It features aptX and AAC streaming over Bluetooth and comes with six-hour rechargeable battery. Audio output is 40 watts.

Wi-Fi-speaker ship dates and pricing were unavailable.

In Bluetooth speakers, three models feature NFC, device-charging capability, and hands-free speakerphone. One features aptX and AAC streaming over Bluetooth.

The top model with AAC and aptX streaming is the SRS-X55 with 30-watt output and built-in rechargeable battery with eight-hour playback. It replaces the $199 SRS-X5.

The SRS-X33 with 20-watt output is available in multiple colors with seven-hour built-in rechargeable battery. The SRS-X11 is the smallest Bluetooth speaker of the trio, and two can be used to deliver separate left-right channels. Each side outputs 10 watts, and they’re available in multiple colors.

Bluetooth pricing and ship dates were unavailable.

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