Sony 4K Home Theater has it all: Home Automation, Content, Audio, Video
At CES 2013, Sony's 4K Ultra HD home theater showed the most comprehensive line of audio, video, home automation products available from a single vendor – and the demo totally rocked.
Joe Whitaker · February 22, 2013
With its Sony movies and music artists, a wide range of high-performance video projectors and displays, and some rocking new speakers and receivers, Sony is the one company that can give us the entire home entertainment experience.
And that experience is better than most, thanks to the Sony ES (Elevated Standard) line of products for the custom installation channel.
This year at CES 2013 I had one of the only demos that I have ever witnessed with top-to-bottom products all from one manufacturer … except for the video projection screen.
CES 2013 was a little different. While custom integrators widely accepted the new receivers as being the ultimate audio/video/automation combo device, they had yet to really experience the system in a home theater setting.
They finally had that chance at CES 2013. My home theater tour guide, Amy Escobio (who has since left the company), used a stock Sony receiver remote to control all the devices in the theater demo.
Sure, this is common with just about any universal remote – but not with an original A/V manufacturer’s remote.
With this original remote, Amy showed us how programmable scenes configured into the 5800 ES receiver could not only control the demo’s VPL-VW1000ES projector, Sony Blu-ray player, and ES receiver, but also the lights to create a true theater like environment.
These scenarios can be taken to a higher level when incorporated into a full Control4 ecosystem using Control4 remotes and subsystems.
When Skyfall in 4K Ultra HD started, my jaw dropped.
This was Sony’s 4K message at the core—4K content created by Sony, played on a Sony Blu-ray player through a Sony ES receiver suffered no video loss or EDID issues when projected on a huge screen.
Also of note, and I watched closely, there was no evidence of “jaggies”, screen-door effects or unnatural shadow effects that I had seen in so many other demos.
Sure I have seen other demos of 4K but not one so complete and demonstrating a one-stop shop to bring me everything I need to experience the future of home theater viewing.
The consumer case is compelling—to be able to have this level of entertainment without having to sit in a theater and smell that guy’s feet who decided to wear sandals … priceless.
As a long-time integrator and CE Pro contributor, I finally understood Sony’s foothold and philosophy in 4K.
Producing the first 4K home projector on the market, Sony is the only manufacturer out there that can provide the 4K experience from content to display and every aspect in between.
I asked Amy about Sony’s stance on 4K and that new buzz word Ultra HD. She told me, “Sony is 4K.”
She went on to remind me that Sony was the first and is still the only company that is actively involved in every step of the 4K workflow, from content acquisition to exhibition (both in the cinema and the home). The 4K branding exemplifies Sony’s promise to consumers to be the leader and innovator in a home theater experience.
What does this mean to me? It means: Ultra HD is the bandwagon term for those that are trying to catch up.
The big announcement this year at CES was the Sony ES speakers.
Sony has been known for electronics, and for those of us who do remember back in the day, great speakers.
About a year ago Sony introduced the killer AR series speakers. These handcrafted audiophile-grade Scandinavian Birch/Japanese Hokkaido maple musical-instrument quality speakers have reestablished Sony as a leading audio company.
At CES 2013, Sony added to its high-performance speaker line with the new ES Speakers—the SS-NA2ES floor-standing and SS-NA5ES book-shelf speaker systems, as well as the SS-NA8ES center channel speaker and the SA-NA9ES subwoofer.
Created by the same speaker engineering team as the AR series and crafted in the same factory by skilled artisans, the product differs somewhat from the AR speakers in that the entire body is now Scandinavian Birch featuring some additional bracing but also keeping common internal chamber separation seen in most traditional tower speakers.
This, however, was not the biggest innovation for the ES line of speakers.
Sony introduced a new tweeter array called I-Array, which may sound gimmicky but is actually an innovation that truly noticeable.
I-Array is Sony’s method of taking one tweeter and surrounding it vertically by two smaller tweeters. Amy tells me that this configuration is not only for better sound response and dispersion but is created to produce a “real life” listening experience.
Sony’s philosophy behind the design is to bring a true concert venue experience in a manner never before seen in a home environment.
Enough of the mumbo jumbo—how do the speakers sound? Amy sat me down in the home theater sweet spot and demo’ed some Billy Joel/Tony Bennett live at Shea Stadium in 1080p (upscaled to 4K by the projector).
The sound made my ears smile! The lows were not overpowering, the highs were crisp and discernible and the mids were to me where the magic happened.
The I-Array was noticeably different from what I am used to in high-end speakers. Instead of the standard “aiming” of the highs, the Sony speakers spread sound throughout the theater, so you felt like you were actually at the concert. It was so not what most people would expect.
Sound engineering theory sounds great on paper, but the demo was evidence of something so much more, almost emotional. I wanted to camp out in the theater all day. Alas, my duties as a CE Pro Blog Mobster beckoned.
Summing Up the Sony Home Theater Experience
As to the total Sony ES Theater experience I left more than just satisfied. This was truly one of the best manufacturer demos I had ever seen, not just showing off products but demonstrating a vision. Sony is proving that innovation is back in Sony’s hands and that the joy of the consumer and the support of the custom installation industry is once again a priority.
Predictions, assumptions, and “Well I Hope” thoughts: I really think we are going to see even more on the horizon in the speaker category from Sony, not just on the ES side but also on the consumer home audio side.
I predict that we are going to see more of the awesome features of the ES receivers on the consumer line. I also assume that we will be seeing even more in the 4K world of Sony with more displays and if we are lucky a more affordable 4K projector.
I am personally hoping for a return of Sony-branded architectural speakers and a few non-ES projectors that will break into the consumer market exposing more of the masses to some of the greatness I have just witnessed.
We shall see at CEDIA 2013 and the next CES.
Joe Whitaker’s CE Pro handler Julie Jacobson contributed to this story.
Sony to Ship Native 4K Ultra HD Content with New 4K TV
Sony Wows Listeners with Speakers Built into 4K Ultra HD TVs
John Legend Loves Sony SS-AR1 Speakers
New Sony A/V Receivers Have Control4 Inside
Review: Sony, Control4 Wrap A/V, Home Automation into A/V Receivers
With over 20 years of experience in home systems installation and design as well as being an award winning product designer, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm thethoughtfulhome.com. He is a current member of the CEDIA board of directors first elected in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Joe at [email protected]
Follow Joe on social media:
Home TheaterCE Pro 100 Integrators Name Top Brands in Audio, Video, Home Automation, Networking, Security
Electronic House Names 2017 Product of the Year Award Winners
#TBT: Inside Walt Disney’s Home Theater
Dish Integrates with Amazon Alexa for Voice Control, Dish Anywhere with Fire TV
How DPI’s Concierge Service Can Save Integrators a Headache (or Two)
View more on Home Theater