Many CEDIA-centric manufacturers are broadening their distribution channels in an apparent response to recessionary pressures. Today, however, Sony announced that it is taking the opposite approach by narrowing the availability of its new ES products, offering the high-end line to only qualified specialty retailers and custom installers. The strategy, the company says, will help put their more technically advanced 3D and multi-room audio and networking gear in the hands of trained experts, instead of consumer electronics hobbyists.
Sony product manager Amy Lloyd explains the multi-room features of the new ES receiver line.
During a press preview in Los Angeles on July 1, Sony executives introduced three new Elevated Standard (ES) receivers and a new Blu-ray player that the company hopes can serve as the “core” for creating “an immersive 3D experience.”
The new AV receivers include the STR-DA5600ES, STRA-DA4600ES, and STR-DA 3600ES and a Blu-ray 3D player, called the BDP-S1700ES.
In addition to Sony’s latest 3D-capable BRAVIA HDTVs, the new ES components were designed with custom installers in mind, with the ability to integrate with multi-room, third-party control systems, the company says. ES products will no longer be offered for sale online or through telesales. For last few years ES has been widely distributed to many national accounts and via the internet,
Sony is also changing its pricing structure for ES, moving away from the unilateral pricing of its SURE program to MAP pricing. The move, the company says, will enable the integration channel more flexibility in the way it prices jobs involving extensive integration and service.
Top, the STR-DA5600ES receiver can function as a DLNA Live Audio Server that can stream music to other DLNA clients. Bottom, the ES Blu-ray 3D Player includes iPhone or iPod touch device control via a BD Remote app from the Apple Store.
“By focusing on seamless integration with custom home theater control partners, Sony is working to deliver products that support the custom and specialty retail business like no other manufacturer,” said Brian Siegel, vice president of Sony’s home audio and video business.
Siegel says that because Sony is involved in every stage of the 3D ecosystem, specialty dealers and installers can leverage the company’s deep expertise to deliver the most technically advanced experience possible. In fact, Sony’s press event last week included a tour of Sony Studios in Culver City, California, where most of the company’s 3D work takes place, from production to post-production and DVD and Blu-ray mastering.
Third-Party Control of ES Receivers
Sony’s 2010 ES AV receivers feature IR input jacks and two-way serial control. They also offer control over IP which allows installers to integrate the receivers into the home automation systems including Control4, Crestron, AMX, Savant, URC, and RTI. Sony is a Control4 Certified Partner, an AMX Device Discovery Partner, Crestron Integration Partner, and a Savant Excellence in Audio and Video Partner.
The new models offer 3D pass-through and flexible multi-room features. They can connect to a home broadband network through an Ethernet port offering easy access to digital photos, music and videos from Digital Life Network Alliance (DLNA) sources. They also function as an Ethernet hub featuring four ports that connect other network devices.
Additionally, the Ethernet connection provides access to both Shoutcast Internet Radio and Rhapsody Music Service, and offers access to firmware upgrades via the Internet. The STR-DA5600ES model also functions as a DLNA Live Audio Server that can stream music to other DLNA clients.
Users with an iPhone or iPod touch device can control the models using a free app that transforms your mobile device into a full ES receiver remote. The app features zone control, full GUI menu, and Sony’s Quick Click remote function which allows users to control source components (such as Blu-Ray player, set-top box) in the main home theater room to be controlled from a second zone.
The STR-DA5600ES and the STR-DA4600ES offer the ability to distribute audio and video to multiple rooms via the second HDMI output and video to a second zone via Cat-5 output. They can both also up-scale all sources to 1080p in the main zone and 1080i in a second zone via the Faroudja chip. The connected video zones feature a high-grade, icon-driven menu system that allows for simple device and content navigation.
All three models feature Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (DCAC) with Automatic Phase Matching (APM). Without changing the front reference speakers, APM corrects for phase differentiation between front, center, and surround speakers, which Sony says helps ensure an ideal sound stage regardless of speaker type. The STR-DA5600ES also offers DCAC EX, which includes speaker relocation (not only adjusting for the distance but also the angle of the listening position to create an optimal listening environment.)
The receivers also feature Sony’s new HD Digital Cinema Sound, which was developed together with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Incorporating high-mounted front speaker placement, HD DCS was designed to replicate both the sound quality and acoustics of a movie theater in the home environment.
All of the models support 1080/24p video signals and x.v.Color and Deep Color video codecs, as well as all advanced audio formats (Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, dts Master HD, dts ES, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, and 8 channel Linear PCM). They also feature an audio return channel, allowing network content originating from the television to be played through the receiver without additional cables.
The models feature Sony’s Digital Media Port for simple connection to an iPod and other digital music players, and are both XM and Sirius ready.
The 7.1 channel network multi-room STR-DA5600ES AV receiver features a 130-watt power amplifier x7 (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.09 percent THD) With six HDMI 1.4 inputs (five rear, one front) and two switched or simultaneous HDMI outputs, the model will be available this September for about $2,000.
The 120-watt x7 (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.09 percent THD) STR-DA4600ES features four HDMI outputs and two switched or simultaneous HDMI outputs. It will be available this August for about $1,500.
The 100-watt x 7 (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.09 percent THD) STR-DA3500ES features four HDMI output and will be available in August for about $1,100.
The company also added the 110-watt STR-DN2010 network 3D-capable model to its receiver line up. The model will be available in August for about $800.
ES Blu-ray 3D Player with iPhone/iPod Control
Available next month for about $400, Sony’s BDP-S1700ES Blu-ray 3D player features an IR input on the back panel for integration with control systems. It also offers built-in Wi-Fi (802.11n) for access to Sony’s BRAVIA Internet Video platform and Sony’s new premium video service, Qriocity.
Also, users with an iPhone or iPod touch device can control the player using the free “BD Remote” app available from the Apple App store. The app, which will also be available soon for Android devices, allows the handheld to function as a remote control and displays Blu-ray Disc details such as jacket artwork, actor, and production information as well as search for related video clips online.
All Sony ES products are supported by a five-year limited manufacturer warranty, a 90-day advanced exchange program (two-to-three-day expedited replacement unit), and a dedicated installer support line to San Diego-based CEDIA trained product experts.
The models will be available through authorized Sony ES dealers and custom installers across the country. For further information on the products, please visit www.sony.com/es.