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Sony Press Conference - Evening

Think of yourself as the president, making a speech to an audience, using the latest teleprompters.  That's how Sony's press conference, complete with scripted new product presentations was performed on Thursday evening.  There were several interesting product announcements, but lighting wasn't optimal, so we were only able to take a few pictures of average quality.  

First up were two new rear projection, HD Ready, 16:9 TVs, the KP-57XBR10W (US$4,499) and the KP-65XBR10W (US$5,499) with expected availability of October 2000.  Sony intends to continue the transition to Digital Television throughout their lineup, and their 4:3 HDTV sets will be capable of Hi-Scan 1080i which allows the entire 1080i image to be displayed within the 16:9 portion of the screen.  While no announcements of 4:3 products were made, we'll be seeing them down the road.  All Sony's HDTVs will also be capable of what Sony calls Digital Reality Creation, which will scale 480i material to 960i.  These TVs should be available in late October, 2000.

Three new ES receivers were also announced, each with Cinema Matrix, Sony's proprietary take on matrixed THX Surround EX, and DTS ES.  This is not a discrete 6.1.  The lowest price point receiver is the AVR-333ES (US$800).  The next two models have two zone capability, with video switching included for the second zone.  These receivers also have a zone two remote.  The models are the AVR-444ES (US$1,000) and the AVR-555ES (US$1,200).  All three receivers are available now.

Sony stated that they will be lowering the entry price point for SACD, and on that front announced the first 5 disc SACD changer, the SCD-333ES, pictured below for (US$1,200).  I picked up this unit, expecting it to be relatively light and found it to have a surprising heft to it.

What if you're a road warrior, and want to take your DVD collection with you along with your portable DVD player?  Tired of just getting stereo?  Sony now has the MDR-DS5100 Virtual Dolby Digital Surround and DTS Surround for US$500, pictured below.  This product is supposed to be available in the next few weeks (September).

The DVD-Video front wasn't quiet either, with three more player announcements.  The first two are 300 disk changers, the DVP-CX860D for US$599 and the DVP-CX870D for US$799.  Both have a slew of features, including onboard DD/DTS decoding and the capability to read both sides of a disc without flipping it over.  Product availability was given as November.

Sony's most impressive piece was the first ES DVD-Video player, the DVD-S9000ES.  Combining progressive scan output and SACD capability this unit may well be a bargain for its asking price of US$1500, with availability in November.  Here's a picture of it, and as SS points out, it isn't the most attractive product they've ever introduced.   But, the functionality makes up for its appearance.

Sharp's new Digital Electronics

Sharp's latest introductions at CEDIA include two interesting pieces.  Following hot on the heels of their SM-SX100 1 bit Digital Integrated Amplifier (US$15,000) is the SM-SX1 digital amplifier.  This compact form factor integrated amp uses Pulse Width Modulation (PWM as opposed to PCM, or Pulse Code Modulation) to cycle the output transistors at 2.8 MHz.   It is capable of taking a direct SACD stream from Sharp-branded SACD players using a proprietary DIN style connector.  This integrated amp will take up to 4 digital sources and 4 analog sources, and amplify them regardless of their type.  Its rated output power is 50 watts per channel and priced at US$3,750.

To match up nicely with the SM-SX1 amplifier, Sony introduced the DX-SX1 -- an SACD player with Sharp's proprietary digital output, plus analog output.  This is Sharp's first SACD player, with a price of US$2,750.

Together, these pieces, along with B&W Nautilus 802s, were generating some good sound in the poor acoustic space that they were inhabiting.  According to Sharp, both items are currently available.

In the picture below, the components from top to bottom are:  SM-SX1 digital integrated amplifier, DX-SX1 SACD player, and the SM-SX100 integrated amplifier.

Bryston shows latest gear

Canadian manufacturer Bryston, of the legendary 20 year warranty, brought along their newest products, the SP-1 Preamp/Surround processor and the 14B-ST stereo power amplifier.   Even Bryston's first digital product, the SP-1, has the same 20 year warranty.  There are a few caveats with this warranty.  At some point it will likely become impossible to retrofit the replaceable digital module, and in that case, the customer would be charged only for a current digital module.  This preamp is an interesting design, with full analog bypass.  According to Bryston, the analog section is identical to their acclaimed BP-25 preamp.  The volume control is handled in the analog domain for analog sources and in the digital domain for digital sources.  Bryston has not included video switching capability within the pre/pro, but now offers an outboard Extron video switcher to handle the video switching capabilities.  The preamp sells for US$3800, with the Extron video switcher setting you back another US$900.  The SP-1 is pictured below in silver, but is also available with a black faceplate.

 

Pictured immediately above, is Bryston's 14B stereo amplifier.  This is Bryston's statement in amplifier design and is capable of 500W/8ohms/channel, and 800W/4ohms/channel.  Unlike the smaller Bryston stereo amps, this amp cannot be bridged.  It contains some improvements that have not yet been brought into the rest of the amplifier design, but will eventually make it into all of their designs.  Line conditioning circuitry cleans up incoming power to the amplifier, and a clipping control circuit has been added.  The amplifier monitors its output, and at onset of clipping, gain is lowered until the amplifier no longer clips.  Retail price for the 14B-ST is US$5,500.

Both Bryston products are available now.

Theta Digital (and analog too!):

Theta continues to improve their lines, with a new version of their Casablanca (the II) and two recent DVD introductions plus additions and enhancements to their analog amplifiers.  Relative newcomers to the digital products family are the Carmen and David II players.  Retail prices for these players are US$3000 for the Carmen and US$4500 for the David II which is pictured below.

The superb Casablanca Preamp/Processor is now available in a Mark II edition, with several enhancements to its already excellent design.  The modular card cage makes for easy upgrading by a Theta dealer.

On the analog side, Theta had a brand new amplifier, the Intrepid, which is now Theta's entry level amplifier.  The amplifer is NOT modular (unusual for Theta) and is capable of 100wpcx5/8ohms.  The Dreadnaught, their high power amplifier, is pictured immediately below.

Above, is shown the new module for the Dreadnaught amplifier.  This module contains 2 channels at 100w.  The Dreadnaught can be configured with either the original 1x200w module or the 2x100w module.  Fully loaded with 2x100s the amplifier can now boast 10 channels of differential (a.k.a. balanced) amplification.

More coverage follows on Day 2 - Page 2.

 

-  Stacey Spears and John Kotches -

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