Sony has been working hard lately to change course, as well as opinions about its status in the home theater space. Those efforts have led to some impressive sound bar offerings of late. This year at CES, Sony showed a continuation on the journey towards renewed prominence in home audio with two gorgeous new hi-res sound bars, as well as a new hi-res sound platform to join last year’s very capable XT1.
Sony’s flagship sound bar, the ST9, is a gorgeous black beam laden with nice drivers and seven discretely powered channels in an attempt to rule the micro-home audio space. The bar adds some impressive new additions to the Sony family this year, including multiple coaxial drivers for enhanced clarity up top, as well as a powerful new subwoofer.
The bar also allows HDCP 2.2-compliant 4K passthrough via HDMI, high resolution audio playback for FLAC and WAV files, as well as DSD files, a new addition to the lineup this year. The bar also takes advantage of Sony’s new LDAC codec, which the company claims allows a “larger pipe” for better resolution Bluetooth streaming.
Our first audition of the bar was impressive. Demonstrating its skills by sourcing the latest Spider Man flick (a Sony production, of course) the ST9 exhibited sparkling clarity on the topside, and the new wireless subwoofer offered some decent boom to help raise the action to the next level.
The little brother of the ST9, the NT3 holds its own as a viable home audio source, incorporating ST9 features like coaxial drivers, 4K passthrough, and high resolution audio playback in a reduced 2.1 configuration. Sony had the demos on lock down for the show, but we were allowed a chance to audition a few songs such as the old Sinatra standard “Bang, Bang,” as well as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” both of which were crystal clear, with some nice punch down low.
Finally, Sony has added a gorgeous new sound platform which follows its sound bar siblings to add new coaxial drivers, high resolution audio playback, and 4K passthrough via HDMI. Unfortunately, we weren’t given a chance to sample the audio talents of the new XT3, but if it improves on the very impressive XT1, we could have a new winner in the sound platform space.
Sony has also added multi-room wireless capability to its top tier home theater options this year, adapting the company’s SongPal app to work more like the Sonos ecosystem. This allows independent control of music sources, and shared playback of the home theater devices with Sony’s upgraded wireless speakers, such as the new SRS-X99, and SRS-X77. Sony’s first attempt at the multi-room speaker genre seemed a little clunky in the demonstration, with an interface that was fairly pedestrian, and some lag.
However, that’s to be expected in the saturated airspace of the CES showroom floor, so we’ll have to wait till we go hands on with the new gear to give a final verdict on Sony’s new bid to jump into the uber-crowded multi-room speaker space.