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Sony Planning More Tune Tray Head Units

Sony plans to offer more head units with iPod/iPhone-docking Tune Tray, perhaps as soon as later this year, following strong dealer response to the company’s first model, said Mike Kahn, director of Sony’s mobile and shelf business units.

The first model, the DSX-S100, is the first of its kind to be announced, playing music stored on an iPod, iPhone in airplane mode, or Walkman-brand MP3 player tucked inside a slide-out tray. The mechless head unit, which lacks a CD player, also accepts USB drives and USB-equipped MP3 players in its tray. Compatible iPods include the Shuffle and iPod Classic.

The unit ships in May at an expected everyday $149.

Sony was considering an expansion all along, “but retailer reaction solidified our plans,” Kahn said.

The tray slides out of the dash after the head unit’s front panel flips down. An iPod or other MP3 player can then be placed face up on the tray, which slides back into the dash. When the vehicle’s ignition is turned off, the head unit issues an audible and visual reminder if the portable device is left inside.

The tray is equipped with a USB port to plug in flash drives and USB-equipped MP3 players. A short USB-to-iPod adapter cable is included in the box to connect iPods and iPhones. An optional USB-to-Walkman cable is available through

The DSX-S100 is HD Radio- and satellite-radio-ready and features a two-line display that Kahn called unusual at the price point. Another unusual feature, called Zappin, lets users automatically scan the key rhythms of songs in their portable device. Once users scan to a rhythm they like, they can hit a menu setting to play back only songs with similar rhythms.

In another change in its 2010 lineup, Sony is reentering the A/V-receiver market after a lapse of two years with two double-DIN CD/DVD models with Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding, iPod controls and iPod video playback. Kahn wouldn’t say if more are planned in 2010.

The double-DIN XAV-V60 with 6.1-inch multitouch LCD touchscreen and HAV-70BT with 7-inch multitouch touchscreen are said to deliver the highest brightness, contrast ratio and NTSC ratio (sharpness) at their expected everyday price points of about $499 and $749, respectively. Both feature touchscreen swipe control, and both are HD Radio- and satellite-radio-ready. The 70BT adds embedded stereo Bluetooth and motorized front panel that conceals a disc slot.

Both A/V receivers are also unique in the industry for their ability to decode iPod-stored MPEG-4 simple profile video, which is the format used by YouTube, Kahn said.

A center-speaker optimizer circuit delivers a virtual center channel without installing a center-channel speaker.

The two head units are Sony’s first with Sense Me feature, already available on the PSPGo and select SonyEricsson cellphones. SenseMe uses 12-tone analysis to categorize songs by emotion, adding a mood identifier market to each song file, Kahn explained. From the onscreen display, consumers can choose their mood, and the head units will play back only songs conforming to that mood from a docked iPod.

The A/V units also feature Advanced Sound Engine DSP to optimize imaging for different seating positions. On an advance, however, Sony is giving consumers the ability at these price points to optimize imaging without using an installer armed with pink-noise generator, Kahn said.

Neither A/V unit features GPS navigation. The company also doesn’t offer in-dash navigation in its lineup at all for now, Kahn said.

As previously announced, the company introduced its first CD-receiver with built-in HD Radio for February shipment. The $179 CDX-GT700HD also features iTunes tagging, CD slot hidden behind a fold-down front panel, and iPod controlling USB port behind the front panel. Kahn called it one of the lowest-priced CD-receivers with drop-down front panel and integrated HD Radio.

In other comments, Kahn said he couldn’t say whether Sony would offer in-dash Blu-ray players in 2010, but he confirmed that SACD playback isn’t in the 2010 lineup. The company offered but discontinued one such head unit last year.