Most of us have seen those demos: one brand of speakers with a different brand projector, and yet another brand receiver … oh and then there are another manufacturer’s sources.
I recently experienced one of the only demos that I have ever witnessed with top-to-bottom products all from one manufacturer (with the exception of the screen). It was a different approach that few companies would be able to pull off, but Sony managed to do so in highlighting all that its ES theater can be.
Led by the direction of Amy Escobio, I was treated to a home theater experience that only Sony could offer - Sony movies and music artists, played back through Sony ES audio and video components.
Automation: During last year’s CEDIA Expo we were shown the first ever home theater receivers with Control4 home automation technology built in. The receivers wowed and amazed while causing concern to custom electronics pros and raising eyebrows of consumers the world over.
During its CES 2013 demo, Sony had its first real chance to highlight the consumer values and aspects of its Control4-embedded receiver in a tradeshow atmosphere. With stock Sony receiver remote in hand, Amy could casually control all the devices in the theater demo. Sure, this is common with just about any universal remote; however, this nonchalant approach truly highlighted the ability to utilize Sony’s use of the programmable “Scenes” portion of the Sony 5800 ES receiver not only in a “macro” setting controlling the native 4K VPL-VW1000ES projector, the Sony Blu-ray, and the ES Receiver, but also dimming the lights to create a true theater like environment.
This can be taken to an even higher level of automation and control by simply leveraging the Control4 technology within the receiver.
Video: The setup spoke for itself, when Skyfall in 4K started, my jaw dropped. This was Sony’s 4K Ultra HD message at the core: 4K content created by Sony, played on a Sony manufactured Blu-ray player, ran through a Sony ES receiver without video loss or EDID issues, and blown up on a huge screen.
Also of note, and I watched closely, there was no evidence of “jaggies”, screen door effect or unnatural shadow effects that I had seen in so many other demos. So sure, I have seen other demos of 4K, but none so complete and demonstrating a one-stop shop to bring me everything I need to experience the future home theater viewing.
I finally understood Sony’s foothold and philosophy in 4K. Having the first native 4K home projector on the market, Sony is the only manufacturer out there that can provide the Ultra HD experience from acquisition to exhibition and every aspect in between. The branding exemplifies Sony’s promise to consumers to be the leader and innovator in a Home Theater experience. What does this mean to me as a custom electronics pro? Well go ahead and quote me now: Ultra HD is the bandwagon term for those that are trying to catch up.
Audio: The big announcement this year was the ES speakers. Sony has been known for its electronics, and for those of us who do remember “back in the day” great speakers. About a year ago Sony introduced the killer AR series speakers. These handcrafted audiophile-grade Scandinavian Birch / Japanese Hokkaido maple musical instrument grade speakers were instantly a hit. But somewhere between 2011 and 2013 the birth of a new breed of freestanding speakers emerged.
Sony’s new line of ES Speakers—the SS-NA2ES floorstanding and SS-NA5ES book-shelf speaker systems, as well as the SS-NA8ES center-channel speaker and the SA-NA9ES subwoofer—cover just about any aspect or listening category for freestanding speakers. Created by the same speaker engineering team as the AR series and crafted in the same factory by skilled artisans, the body somewhat differs from the AR speakers in that the entire body is now Scandinavian Birch featuring some additional body bracing but also keeping common internal chamber separation seen in most traditional tower speakers.
This, however, was not the biggest innovation for the ES line of speakers. A new tweeter array Sony is calling I-Array sounds gimmicky but is a change that is truly noticeable. I-Array is Sony’s method of taking one tweeter and surrounding it vertically by two “smaller tweeters.” Amy noted that this is not only for better sound response and dispersion but is created to produce a “real life” listening experience.
Sony’s philosophy behind this is to bring a true concert venue experience in a manner never before seen in a home environment. All this sounds great, but how do they sound? Amy sat me down in “the best seat in the house” and demoed some Billy Joel/Tony Bennett live at Shea Stadium in 1080p (upscaled to 4K by the projector). The sound made my ears smile! The lows were not overpowering, the highs were crisp and discernable and the mids were to me where the magic happened.
The I-Array was noticeably different from what I used to in high-end speakers. Instead of the standard “aiming” of the highs the way the sound spread out throughout the demo “the way actually being there” sounds. It was much more of an enveloping, all-encompassing experience. Honestly so NOT what I was expecting. I was floored and did not want to leave!
So as to the total Sony ES Theater experience, I felt more than just satisfied. This was truly one of the best manufacturer demos I had seen, not just showing of products but demonstrating a vision.
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