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Sony Steps Up Components, Systems

Sony stepped up its Dream System and ES-series receiver selection, launched its first PC-networked shelf system, and expanded its selection of SACD/DVD-Video players with HDMI outputs that up-scale video sources to the high-definition 720p or 1,080i formats.

Here’s what Sony unveiled to dealers at its recent line show, here:

Dream Systems: A two-SKU line extension called Dream System Platinum expands the home theater in a box series upward in price point to an everyday $1,999 from $899.

Among six new Dream Systems, three are Sony’s first with HDMI output, all capable of HD up-scaling. All are DVD/SACD-equipped.

The single-disc Platinum DAV-X1, at an expected everyday $999, is the company’s first 2.1-speaker virtual surround system. It’s also the industry’s first such system with digital amplification and first with HDMI output, which up-scales video to HD, the company said. Each driver in the two-way speakers is individually amplified. Sony’s proprietary DSP algorithm doesn’t require sound to be reflected off side walls to create virtual surround channels, the company noted.

The second Platinum system is the $1,999 single-disc DAV-LF1, available since late last year. It was Sony’s first HTiB with DVD-player/controller that could be wall-mounted to complement wall-hanging flat-panel TVs. Like other Dream Systems, the floorstanding speakers can also be wall-mounted. Sound is delivered to the surround speakers by wires or wireless infrared.

The company’s second wall-mount Dream System is the new single-disc $1,499 DAV-LF10 with smaller shelf speakers, which can also be wall-mounted. The surround speakers are IR-equipped.

The $899 DAV-FX100W features up-scaling HDMI output, five-disc changer and IR surround speakers.

The third HDMI-equipped Dream System is the five-disc FX-80 at $699. The opening-price Dream System remains at $499.

Two derivative Dream Systems are dedicated to the Wal-Mart and warehouse-club channels.

Shelf Systems: The company’s first PC-networked shelf system is the NAS-CZ1 at an expected everyday $249. Up to five of these clients can be networked to stream five different music files or Internet radios stations simultaneously from an Ethernet-connected PC. The one-piece unit features MP3-CD player, AM/FM tuner, amplification, remote, fluorescent dot-matrix display, and bipolar speaker array consisting of two tweeters and two midranges in the front and two rear-firing tweeters in back.

Via its wired Ethernet connection, it streams a PC’s ATRAC-family files and, in unprotected form, files in the MP3, WMA and AAC formats. Only non-subscription Internet radio stations can be streamed to the clients.

To stream stations and files, consumers must install supplied software on their PC. Separate playlists and profiles can be created on the PC and selected from each client. Shipments are planned for June or July.

Sony’s first microsystem with DVD-Video player is the CMT-DVD2 at an expected everyday $229 with cassette deck, Dolby Digital and DTS decoding and two speakers. Virtual surround technology isn’t included.

The first two shelf systems that play back CDs encoded in ATRAC-family codecs are the single-disc CMT-A70 microsystem, available since November at $229, and the new $199 CMT-HPZ9, which features five-disc changer and is sized between a mini and microsystem. Both play MP3-CDs, too.

SACD: Several new SACD/DVD-Video players feature up-scaling HDMI output. Previously, the company offered only one SACD/DVD player with up-scaling HDMI output, at $300. The new HDMI models include the $499 400-disc SACD/DVD changer, a single-disc model at $200 and an ES series reference player.

In an expanded 11-SKU component-SACD selection, most new models feature DVD-Video playback.

ES Series: The series gets its first wall-hanging speaker system to complement flat-panel displays; a new reference SACD/DVD-Video player; and three new receivers, including its highest priced receiver to date at $2,000.

The top-end receiver, the STR-DA7100ES, is the industry’s lowest priced receiver with up-scaling HDMI output, the company said. It’s also Sony’s second receiver with digital iLink (IEEE 1394) connection for SACD audio input, and the company’s first receiver offering both HDMI and IEEE 1394 (iLink). When a Sony receiver and SACD player are connected via 1394, Sony proprietary technology kicks in to eliminate any perceptible jitter, the company said.

The 7100 features 32-bit S-Master pro digital amplification. The 7100 and the new $800 STR-DA2100ES and $1,000 STR-DA3100ES also get the new A/V sync feature to eliminate audio delays in a home theater system.

The reference SACD/DVD player, at $1,199, features up-scaling HDMI output, iLink SACD output, vertical-edge compensation to eliminate stair-step distortion and a 14-bit 216MHz video DAC.

The series’ first on-wall flat-speaker package is a $2,000 system intended to complement flat-panel displays.