Tuesday, 24 April 2018 17:13

Sony goes big on home entertainment


A raft of home entertainment products announced by Sony at CES 2018 is starting to appear in Australian shops.

Headphones, wireless speakers, party audio systems, soundbars and a 4K Blu-ray player are among the new Sony products going on sale in Australia between April and June.


The $299.95 WF-SP700N wireless in-ear headphones (pictured below) can be seen as Sony's answer to Apple's AirPods.

Features include an IPX4 (splashproof) rating, active noise cancellation (with an ambient sound mode to help maintain situational awareness, for example when walking or exercising outside), Sony's 'Extra Bass' sound, and Bluetooth plus NFC support for quick connectivity.

Ten minutes in the case is said to deliver sufficient charge for one hour's use, while a full charge takes 1.5 hours and should last for three hours. Charging the case once is enough to recharge the headphones three times.

Sony WF SP700N case open B Large

An update planned for this year will add Google Assistant optimisation.

The $229.95 WI-SP600N has generally similar specifications except that the two buds are linked by a cable with a controller and microphone. Claimed battery life is six hours.

Turning to conventional styles, the MDR-1AM2 is a premium, high-resolution, lightweight wired headphone.

Priced at $399.95, it features 40mm drivers with liquid crystal polymer drivers and a frequency range of 3Hz to 100kHz.

The MDR-1AM2 sports a balanced cable (for reduced crosstalk)with a 4.4mm five-conductor plug, though a conventional 3.5mm cable is also included as the 4.4mm connector is not as widely supported by equipment sold in Australia as it is in Asia, explained Sony audio product specialist Andrew Hughes.

Wireless speakers

Sony's new Extra Bass wireless (Bluetooth) speakers come in three sizes, all featuring 'party lighting' that changes in response to the music, and 'party chain' capability allowing up to 100 speakers to connect simultaneously to a single source. (More accurately, one speaker is connected to the source, and the others are slaved to that one.)

Other common features are waterproofing and dustproofing to IP67 (so it's beach-safe), 'party booster' sound effects (tap different parts of the speaker for the sound of a snare drum, cowbell and so on), and handsfree operation of a connected phone. Colour options are red, blue, white and black.

The compact SRS-XB21 ($149) has 42mm speakers, weighs 530g and is small enough to fit into the bottle holder on a bike. Nominal battery life is 12 hours with the lighting turned off.

Then there's the midsized SRS-XB31 ($229), with 48mm speakers, more sophisticated lighting, and a USB socket allowing a phone or other device to be recharged from the speaker's 24-hour battery. Weighing in at 890g, the XB31 measures 231x87x81mm.

The $269 SRS-XB41 (pictured) completes the new lineup. With 58mm speakers and a 24-hour battery, it weighs 1.5kg and measures 291x104x105mm.

Sony SRS XB41 WirelessPartyChain Large

The Fiestable app for Android and iOS provides for customisation of the XB41's lighting effects (for instance, to reflect the colours of your favourite sports team, suggested Hughes) and to control the equalisation and DJ effects.

Party systems

Sony's latest party systems (aka high power home audio systems) include the tower-style MHC-V71D (pictured) and the conventional four-box MHC-M80D.

Sony MHC V71D party light Large

The V71D features a built-in CD/DVD player and FM tuner, as well as analogue audio, HDMI, Bluetooth and dual microphone inputs (one of which can optionally be used with a guitar, and vocal fading for karaoke is supported on all sources).

It supports Dolby Digital surround sound, audio effects (eg, flanger and pan), and the connection of certain Bluetooth and wired speakers.

The gesture-based control panel is dustproof and splashproof, and the Taiko mode lets people add their own percussion (bongo, taiko, etc) to the music by tapping and swiping the panel.

The MHC-M80D is generally similar in function, although the speakers (left, right and subwoofer) are separate from the main unit.

Sound bars

The HT-Z9RF is said to be the world's first virtual Dolby Atmos sound bar. Sony's Vertical Surround Engine generates the vertical effect without requiring upward-firing speakers or relying on sound being reflected from the ceiling. This effect works in any room but is at its best in smaller rooms, said Hughes.

Sony HT Z9F ZF9 InSitu02 AtmosSide withWave Large

A pair of rear speakers and a subwoofer are part of the 500W package.

Two HDMI inputs (with "all the latest passthrough technology" including 4K HDR and Dolby Vision) allow the connection of a Blu-ray player to take advantage of Atmos even if another device is connected. Atmos is lost if the Blu-ray player is connected to the TV and the TV to the sound bar. Other audio inputs include Bluetooth (A2DP support for smartphones is already included; support for certain Bravia TVs will be provided in a future update), Wi-Fi, and analogue.

The Z9RF is expected to go on sale at the end of May, priced around $1499.

The HT-X9000F is designed to match the company's Bravia televisions, and in particular it fits between the legs of the X9000F TV. The 2.1 channel device includes a subwoofer, and supports 4K HDR and Dolby Vision passthrough.

The HT-X9000F is expected here in May, priced at $799.

Blu-ray player

The $399 UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player is more compact than the previous X800 model. It is HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatible, and supports 4K streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube over Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Sony UBP X700 cw Large


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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