Sony Home Theater Products Emphasize Quality Experience at CEDIA 2013

Sony-VPL-VW1100ES-0913By Phil Wright

Sony at CEDIA Expo 2013 introduced its latest home theater products for the custom install market. Foremost among the company’s three new front projector offerings is the VPL-VW1100ES 4K home theater projector (see photo).

The latest Sony 4K Ultra HD projector delivers 2,000 lumens for use with screen sizes up to 200 inch diagonal. Sony claims a dynamic contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, and the projector offers several features for the custom install market including dual triggers, a 2.1x motorized zoom, expanded lens shift, an RS232 interface, control over IP and compatibility with leading home automation systems. Furthermore, the VW1100ES has an upscaling algorithm designed for “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray discs from Sony Picture Entertainment, which Sony claims enables more accurate 4K picture quality from HD content delivered on Blu-ray discs. The VW1100ES projector is priced at an impressive $27,999.99.

Even more impressive is the ecosystem of product, update and service offerings that Sony wraps around their its projectors. For example, for owners of their VPL-VW1000ES 4K projector, Sony offers a premium activation service package which includes an in-home service visit, a Sony 4K Ultra HD Media Player (FMP-X1), a Sony Xperia Z Tablet as a controller and a new replacement lamp. The updates are designed to ensure compatibility with Sony’s Video Unlimited 4K download service available through the FMP-X1 player. The updates also ensure compatibility with 4K/60p content from future broadcast or home video sources.

At CEDIA Expo 2013, Sony also announced its VPL-VW600ES 4K  projector and VPL-HW55ES HD projector. I attended Sony’s product demo featuring the VW600ES 4K projector at the company’s CEDIA Expo booth. The booth projection room was well equipped for viewing and comfortable though the usual trade show noise volume complicated appreciating the audio performance of the equipment. Of course the demo theater was fully equipped with Sony branded gear including their ES speakers in a 7.1 configuration and a Sony AV receiver. It was a pleasure to view the native 4K content projected with the Sony system and upconverted content from a 4K mastered Blu-ray disc was also of impressive quality.

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Sony was also demoing and promoting their high-resolution audio initiative aimed at fostering the distribution of music in higher quality file formats. To this end, Sony Music has joined with Warner Music, Universal Music and the Consumer Electronics Association to promote the initiative. Though audio quality was somewhat difficult to judge in the Sony booth theater, owing to the background noise level mentioned earlier, it’s good to hear that equipment developers and content providers are pushing to provide higher quality audio to a world that has become largely dominated by mp3 quality audio files.

The consumer electronics industry move to provide 4K video equipment and content has become a dominant industry theme. Sony’s latest 4K projector is an excellent example of this trend and displays stunning images. The 4K ecosystem offerings of equipment, content and content distribution being offered by Sony and other industry players will determine the uptake of new AV products beyond HD.

Viewing the many examples of 4K flat panel displays at this year’s CES in January in Las Vegas, I was struck by the immersive quality of 4K video viewed up close and at an appropriate distance. Sony’s 4K projector line and supporting offerings bring these qualities to the projection display and home theater world. It was interesting to note that on the outside wall of Sony’s CEDIA booth, the firm was exhibiting their 84 inch LCD HDTV which is available on Sony’s website for $24,999.99. While this display was really very impressive, after viewing the Sony projector demo, the 84 inch LCD HDTV seemed a bit small (???) and drew only limited attention from CEDIA Expo attendees. That large screen viewing experience for consumers that can afford these pricey home theater offerings is clearly why the custom install industry remains in business.