Few manufacturers can match the performance pedigree and brand loyalty that Sony has developed over the decades.
The global company’s reputation as a go-to manufacturer for professional and consumer AV solutions was recently bolstered with the launch of its new Sony ES AVRs (audio/video receivers). Sony’s new ES AVRs offer professional integrators a choice of four models that span a range of price points and included technologies.
The flagship Sony ES AVR is the 13.2-channel 8K STR-AZ7000ES receiver. Rounding out the product line are the 11.2-channel 8K STR-AZ5000ES, the 9.2-channel 8K STR-AZ3000ES, and the value-minded 7.2-channel STR-AZ1000ES 8K AVR.
Explaining how these new Sony ES AVRs fit into the home technology market and how Sony’s latest audio products help integrators, Andrew Turner, audio video sales supervisor ES, Sony, points out how these products stand out in today’s competitive marketplace.
“When developing the current line of Sony ES AVRs, the most important aspect was the voice of the customer—in this case it’s the custom integrator,” states Turner.
“Our engineering teams have decades of experience and a passion to design and build exceptional audio video products, but without the support of the CI [custom integration] channel this only takes you so far. We used feedback from dealers all over the United States to understand how these were being used in installations and how we could make them better for control and performance.”
Sony ES AVRs Stand Out Through Proprietary Audio Technologies
With modern surround sound including the option of spatial audio and specific object-based immersive audio formats, Sony’s research & development (R&D) set out to provide consumers a unique immersive audio option. The result is Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping (360SSM) technologies, which are available with the new Sony ES AVRs.
Turner says the company’s 360SSM technologies address the need for integrators when confronted by the scenario in which they cannot install speakers within their clients’ homes in ideal locations.
“While every integrator loves designing the perfect theater, the reality is we often do not have the ability to place speakers correctly to achieve this result. More importantly, when it comes to meeting the needs of the client often placement wins out over sound quality,” he comments.
“360SSM allows us to address this need by compensating for poor speaker placement. I have completed demos and trainings with rear speakers being placed too close together, too far apart, or even missing all together. In all these demos our autocalibration in the form of Digital Cinema Auto Calibration IX [DCAC IX] has saved the day by compensating for the placement and expanding the sound field creating virtual speakers withing the soundscape.”
Further supporting the at-home performance of the Sony ES AVRs the products also incorporate the company’s Center Speaker Lift Up, Acoustic Center Sync, and Dual Center Speaker technologies. These technologies address the intelligibility of center-channel loudspeakers, which is a critical element in AV system performance. Like the 360SSM technology, Sony’s center-channel technologies also utilize DCAC IX to overcome the issue of center-channel intelligibility through its ability to recognize where listeners are and the placement of the display.
Here is a brief explanation on how Sony’s center-channel intelligibility technologies work:
Dual Center Speaker Technologies: Turner says the AZ5000/7000 models have dedicated terminals that can be assigned for dual center channels. Running in a top/bottom configuration each center gets a dedicated feed and processing that allows both centers to meet for the perfect center image.
Front Height: After Sony and its team met with integrators Turner points out that Sony learned that front-height channels seem to be the most under-utilized speaker configuration. With front heights providing Atmos effects, he says they can also be used to improve center channel performance. By directing a portion of the center-channel information to the height channels, DCAC IX can precisely raise the center channel to match perfectly with the TV.
Center Channel Sync: “This is where I see us getting the most traction,” admits Turner. Many dealers he states will use the Center Channel Mode on [Sony] MASTER Series TVs that provide speaker terminals to allow the TV to be used as a center channel, which is only a fix for poor center channel placement. Center Channel Sync now allows the use of a proper center channel and leverages the audio performance of the TV. With a 3.5mm stereo connection between the AVR and TV, Sony uses two channels of processing to redirect select center-channel information to the TV to “lifting” the center channel. According to Sony, this provides a more open sounding dialog and dramatically changes the virtual placement of the center channel.
Turner estimates the next hurdle for Sony will be to have integrators adopt these technologies as problem solvers.
“The challenge with all of these is getting the system designers and installers to support these features. Center channel sync requires a Sony TV with a compatible input … this is the easy part,” he says.
“Currently we have 17 models in the XR K series with more models coming in the new L series that support this capability. Education is the key to getting dealers to adopt this system. Over the past few months, we have had a series of roadshows that has been to 15 cities and reached over 1,000 attendees. In these sessions we have demonstrated these features and have provided instruction on how to successfully install. The buzz around these features has also been driving end users to seek out ES AVRs. Just recently I had completed a training in Chicago when a client walked in asking for a 5000ES that could integrate with his Sony OLED. We are definitely doing some things that are outside the box, but the performance is there, and we are pushing continuous education to help convert to a few new best practices for installation.”
Integrators Can Design Complete Sony Systems with new Components
With the release of the Sony ES AVRs, integrators can now choose one of the four ES receivers and pair it with a Sony TV, soundbar, projector and more to use the popular company’s products as the foundation of a state-of-the-art home entertainment system.
Noting a couple of examples of what integrators can do to pair up complementary Sony products Turner recommends that integrators can mate solutions like the Sony VPL-XW7000ES projector with the STR-AZ7000ES.
“Even with the light output of the XW7000ES perforated screens still lose light output,” says Turner.
“With features such as Center Channel Lift or Dual Center Channels we can go with a solid surface screen and still obtain exceptional center channel performance. In addition, the AZ5000 provides up to 13 channels of processing to fill even very large rooms and accommodate demanding speaker systems. If more power is required, full pre-outs allow us to pair up with third party amplifier options.”
Working with other some of the other Sony ES AVRs Turner continues that dealers needing to meet more budgetary friendly system requirements can mate the STR-AZ3000ES AVR with the VPL-XW5000ES projector to deliver nine channels of surround sound with screen sizes as large as 140 inches. Accommodating the middle ground he advises, the pairing of the STR-AZ5000ES AVR with the VPL-XW6000ES projector. This product pair supports larger screen sizes, along with 11 channels of immersive audio, and the AVR provides the ability to use Dual Center Channel technologies and external amplification.
Completing a full Sony system, dealers can add a Playstation 5 to accommodate homeowners’ gaming activities and their streaming entertainment needs. The Sony ES AVRs incorporate VRR, ALLM, 4K at 120Hz and 8K at 60Hz to make gaming action smooth and responsive, while delivering accurate immersive audio for high-level gaming experiences. If the homeowner owns a media library that includes physical media, including DVDs, Blu-rays and Ultra Blu-ray discs, Turner suggests adding a UBP-X800M2 Ultra Blu-ray disc player as a source solution.
Turner stresses that with all of the technologies and system configuration bundles available to dealers, the best way for integrators to take advantage of the Sony ES AVR product line’s capabilities is through the education programs Sony offers.
“We have put out a serious push to get the word out on ES AVR and this does not end with our last round of trainings. Over the summer we presented roadshows attended by over 1,500 dealers to educate on the full lineup of Sony TV, AVR, and FPJ systems.,” he adds.
“In addition, we have launched a CI Specific YouTube channel. The YouTube channel is aimed at providing easy to absorb sales and installation content for Sony ES products.”