Sony is going all in on high-res audio with a host of new gear, and DT was able to get a first hand look at all of the new toys before they hit stores. Along with a few new standard pieces to pad its lineup, the company is unleashing an all new arsenal of gear designed to exploit high-definition audio, including a new speaker series, two new A/V receivers, and an all-in-one “Blu-ray Home Theater System.” All of the new pieces are feature packed, and priced to move, with the goal of making HD sound “accessible to every music lover.”
Follow us below as we dig into the new gear and showcase what Sony has in store for the future of high-resolution audio.
New A/V receivers
The flagship of Sony’s new high resolution receiver lineup is the 7.2 channel STR-DN1050, which starts at a shockingly low MSRP of $600. For that slim price point, users get a bevy of capable features, including Wi-Fi, Airplay, and Bluetooth wireless streaming capabilities, NFC One Touch Listening, and even 4K/UHD video upscaling and pass-thru.
Sony has also padded the new unit with popular streaming apps like Pandora, Spotify, and Tune-in, as well as adding 2nd zone capability, allowing users to transmit connected audio and video source components to a second room in the home. As for its high resolution audio credentials, the DN1050 is capable of handling Direct Stream Digital (DSD) audio files, as well as FLAC and WAV files at up to 192Hz/24 bit resolution for mastering quality sound reproduction – no small feat for its low price point.
Coming in just below the DN1050 in the $500 sweet spot is Sony’s other brash new high-res receiver, the 7.2 channel STR-DN850. The 850 brings to bear a vast majority of the same features as its sibling, with congruent wireless capabilities, streaming app support, and 4K upscaling/pass-thru, making it a powerhouse for the price. Both models also include Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio decoding for optimum sound quality from Blu-ray sources.
While the 850 doesn’t offer DSD file playback, it too is able to handle high resolution FLAC and WAV files at a maximum 192kHz/24 bit resolution. The second-tier unit also leaves behind 2nd zone source relay, and offers a bit less power, rated at 150 watts per channel, as compared to the DN1050’s more robust 165 watts.
Both of the new receivers also offer a trimmed down user interface, with a remote that sheds some of the “unnecessary buttons” of previous Sony incarnations, and additional control options via Sony’s Songpal app for Android and iOS mobile devices.
DT’s own Caleb Denison got a first hand look (and listen) to the new units, and had this to say about their sound performance, “Sony’s choice to go with premium parts and carefully engineer these new receivers for performance was readily apparent. Based on my initial listening, I think these could be the best-sounding standard-line receivers Sony has produced in a long time.”
STR-DH750 and STR-DH550
To appease those with an eye deadset on affordability comes the 7.2 channel DH750 and the 5.2 channel DH550, which skip out on high resolution file support, but do offer some bang for the buck. Priced at a meager $350 and $280 respectively, the units allow for a capable home theater setup on just about any budget.
The DH750 appears to be the best value, offering 4K and 3D video pass-thru, USB and Bluetooth support for mobile devices, NFC, support of Sony’s Songpal app, and a claimed 145 watts of power per channel.
Sony was scant on details for its low-end 5.2 channel workhorse, simply touting the unit’s claimed 145 watts of power per channel, and support for the Songpal app, like the rest of its siblings.
Core Series speakers
CS3 and CS5 speakers
To accompany its lean new high resolution receivers, Sony has crafted two affordable new speaker models, the SS-CS3 towers, which stand just a little lower than your average floor speaker, and the SS-CS5 bookshelf speakers. It’s been 8 years since Sony refreshed its speaker lineup, and these new speakers mark a seriously affordable turn for the tech giant, offering its floor speakers for $240 each, and its CS5 bookshelf speakers at a minuscule $220 for the pair.
Both of the new models share some intriguing design aspects for their driver configurations, including “foamed mica-reinforced woofers” designed to push more potent low-end frequencies, and Sony’s new “Wide Dispersion Super Tweeters,” which basically amount to micro tweeters set atop a standard tweeter. Sony also claims the new speakers leverage technology from its high end AR and ES speaker series.
The CS3 are the cornerstones of Sony’s new high-res surround speakers, and feature dual 5 ¼-inch midrange woofers complimented by the dual tweeter design, hosting a 3/4-inch tweeter inside a 1-inch tweeter. The speaker offers a claimed frequency response of a massive 50kHz maximum, which extends a full 30kHz above the range of human hearing. The CS5 utilizes a similar 3-way design with the same dual tweeter setup, matched by a single 5¼-inch midrange driver. Sony claims it has mapped out the speaker vibration points electronically for the cabinets of its new series, in order to reduce specific vibrations for maximum sonic efficiency.
Until now, Pioneer’s Andrew Jones line of affordable speakers had the market cornered on value, but Sony just stepped up right alongside Pioneer, and is goig to give them a run for their money.
SS-CS8 and SA-CS9
The CS3 and CS5 are complemented by the SS-CS8 center channel speaker, which offers a dual crossover configuration with two four-inch foamed mica drivers matched by a single 1-inch tweeter in a bass reflex cabinet. And the series is rounded out by Sony’s new SA-CS9 subwoofer, which packs a 10-inch speaker cone, powered by an on board 115-watt amplifier. The SS-CS8 and SA-CS9 will be offered at $170, and $240 respectively, allowing users to round up an entire 5.1 surround sound speaker setup from the new Core Series for just over $1,100.
For a first impression of the performance of the new Core Series speakers, we again turn to Caleb Denison.
“Until now, Pioneer’s Andrew Jones line of affordable speakers had the market cornered on value, but Sony just stepped up right alongside Pioneer, and is going to give them a serious run for their money.
BDV-N7200W Hi-Res Blu-Ray Home Theater System
The final piece to Sony’s new affordable hi-res puzzle, the $700 N7200W, offers everything one might need to setup a home theater system – besides an HD TV – in an enticing new all-in-one package. The N7200W provides a Blu-ray player, and a built-in amplifier/receiver with support for 4K and 3D pass-thru. The system boasts a claimed 1200 watts of power to push its included 5.1 speaker/subwoofer configuration.
Like the new receiver lineup, the N7200W offers Wi-Fi for streaming Pandora, and Spotify, with the addition of Netflix, and Hulu Plus as well. It also offers Bluetooth streaming with NFC compatibility, and can be controlled by Sony’s Songpal app. Perhaps most relevant to Sony’s new drive towards high resolution audio, the N7200W offers support for a range of digital file types, from MP3 to DSD.
All of the new components are slated for release in May, and Sony has partnered with Best Buy, which will carry the new receiver lineup, and holds exclusive rights to sell the new Core Series speakers. Sony is also working further with Best Buy in an effort to “educate the public” on the benefits of high resolution audio in order to push its new hi-res agenda.
|SS-CS3 floor speakers||$240 each|
|SS-CS5 shelf speakers||$220 per pair|
|SS-CS8 center speaker||$170|
|BDV-N7200W Hi-Res Blu-ray Home Theater||$700|
Sony’s new aim for the proliferation of HD audio won’t go unnoticed. Like Neil Young’s PonoPlayer, the new lineup is a hardsell of high-resolution audio to the public at large, marking a calculated push towards affordability for the technology. Whether or not it will catch on with the MP3 generation remains to be seen. But for audiophiles looking to keep their wallets in check, things just got a lot more interesting.