Sony is leading its marketing charge into the fall selling season with numerous video and audio introductions that adhere to the “play, watch, listen, create” themes which president and COO Phil Molyneux said define the company’s product ecosystem.
At the ecosystem’s center, on the video side, is 4K Ultra HD technology, and Molyneux said Sony had just gone live, as promised, with its Video Unlimited 4K Download Service, devised to support hardware intros with native 4K content. Seventy full-length HTD feature films and TV shows are now available, and he said that figure should exceed 100 titles by year’s end. They play on the FMP-X1 Ultra HD Media Player ($699, but $499 if bought with a Sony 4K TV), which will sell with 10 preloaded 4K bonus titles.
In 4K TVs, Sony has expanded its offerings with 55- and 65-inch models whose aggressive $3,499 and $4,999 respective price-points are made possible because they are designed without built-in speakers. The XBR-55X850A and -65X850A are available for pre-order at Sony stores now, he said, and the company is offering zero-percent financing for a limited period.
Molyneux said that the new sets as well as all current Sony 4K models will support the just-announced HDMI 2.0 standard, when it’s available, via a firmware upgrade accessible through the Internet, “so that consumers can buy into Sony with confidence we’ll take care of them,” he added.
Sony is also planning to market in October at $3,999 a 65-inch curved TV, Model KDL-65S990A, that is not OLED; rather, it is being touted at the world’s first curved-screen LED LCD TV.
Among Sony’s full-frame camera intros is the Alpha a3000 ($399) and Alpha NEX-ST ($700), which has Wi-Fi and NFC compatibility. The Action Cam HDR-AS30V, also outfitted with NFC and Wi-Fi ($299; October), will work with a companion wearable live remote to be available in December. It is said to be 25 percent lighter than the nearest competitive model.
Being marketed with an eye toward the musician demographic is the HDR-MV1 ($299), which combines linear PCM audio recording, digital imaging and Full HD video recording in a small-footprint device that has Wi-Fi and NFC functionality; a smartphone can serve as a remote for the camera.
Also new is what Molyneux said is the market’s first under-$5,000 4K consumer / prosumer 4K camcorder, Model FDR-AX1 ($4,499).
Sony is also introducing under the Cyber-shot label two Wi-Fi- and NFC-equipped lens-style cameras, DSC-QX10 ($249) and DSC-QX100 ($499), which latch onto Sony’s Xperia Z phones and can be attached to any other smartphone including the iPhone via a bracket assembly. The QX10 comes in black and white and offers 18MP resolution and a 10x optical zoom while the premium model QX100, with its larger image sensor, offers 20MP resolution and a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T 3.6x optical zoom lens.
To the Vaio PC line were added the Flip 13, 14 and 15 convertible laptop notebooks (13, 14 and 15 inches), and the Tap 11, Sony’s first Windows-based tablet PC, which ships with a wireless keyboard cover.
Other intros included the portable SRS-BTS50 Bluetooth/NFC speakers ($129), which come in various colors and are splash-proof and clip-on, and the MDR 10-headphones, equipped with noise cancellation at $199.
Molyneux also took the opportunity to delineate Sony’s game plan to promote high-resolution audio.
Saying MP3 offers convenience to the detriment of sound quality and deprives a younger generation the chance to experience music in high quality, he cited CEA statistics that show 90 percent of respondents to a survey, across all demographics, cited sound quality as a primary criterion for a music purchase, and 60 percent of those say they would pay more for higher-quality content. He said that the plethora of audio formats and codecs has caused additional consumer confusion in choice of listening platform. “What they want is better sound without sacrificing convenience,” he said, noting that Sony and other companies are working to deliver high-resolution audio to a broader audience more cost-effectively. “You need great hardware,” he said, adding, “we’re putting [lost audio quality evident in MP3 files] right with a new ecosystem for high-end sound.”
The newest Sony high-resolution audio products will all play any audio codec available today, said Neal Manowitz, director of home audio for Sony.
Products introduced or discussed included the following:
• For listening to music from a PC, the high-resolution UDA-1 DAC ($799), with a 20-watts-per-channel built-in stereo amp; it is packaged with an asynchronous USB connector.
• The HAP-S1 high-resolution music system ($999), with a 40-watts-per-channel stereo amplifier and a 500GB hard drive and the ability to transfer music from a PC or Mac; it features the DSD Remastering Engine, which will upscale any format file to DSD quality, and is powered by Gracenote technology, which enables display of jacket art on the front of the unit. It is controllable by an included remote or via a downloadable Sony app.
•The HAP-Z1ES reference series high-resolution music system ($1,999), similarly featured and equipped with the DSD Remastering Engine, but also featuring a 1-terabyte HDD with expandable storage.
Both the HAP-S1 and HAP-Z1ES will come loaded with 20 high-res audio tracks.
• The STR-DA2800ES and DA-5800ES A/V receivers will receive free upgrades in the fall that will enable their compatibility with any format.
All products optimized for high-resolution audio performance will benefit from a comprehensive marketing and promotional effort this fall that will include both digital and print advertising; marketing will continue through 2014, Manowitz said.
Winner of multiple Grammy Awards Herbie Hancock was on hand at the announcement to lend his endorsement of the effort. “This is an important breakthrough,” he said. “If digital music enthusiasts could experience music like this, it could be a real game-changer.”