Sony is taking the wraps off a streaming music service called Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity.
The new service will operate via subscription, like Rhapsody, versus download, like iTunes. It will enable owners Sony TVs, Blu-ray players, HTiBs, and PS3 gaming consoles to enjoy a catalogue of six million songs. Eventually it will also cover Android phones, Sony portable devices, and other things.
While the service is making its debut in the U.K. and Ireland, it will expand in 2011 to the U.S. and other countries. Pricing will be four euros a month (about $5) for basic service and 10 euros a month ($13) for premium service. The latter lets you hear every song on demand, create personal playlists, and access the premium Top 100 channels.
The Sony SS-AR1 has been around since 2006 but we didn't notice it till this show. The three-way, four-driver floorstander features a chambered enclosure with a baffle of Hokkaido-grown maple and side panels of Finnish birch, both of which the designers prize for their "generous reverberation." Drivers include aluminum woofers, sliced-paper midrange, and a tweeter backed with six concentric neodymium magnets. Pricing in mid to high four figures. This is the kind of thing a big manufacturer will do just to prove it can. But don't scoff. We've reviewed other Sony SS-series speakers in the distant past and they were, in fact, superbly musical.
The Sony Vaio WA1 Wireless Music Streamer ($350, availability TBA) looks like a boombox. A real smart boombox. It streams music from a PC via wireless home network or wireless P2P connection. Compatible file formats include MP3, AAC, unprotected WMA, and Sony's own massively popular ATRAC codec.
The HD-capable Bravia Internet Video Link (pricing and availability TBA "within the next few months") will bring free a/v content to the majority of Sony's 2007 TV line, starting with Bravia LCDs. It is intertwined with content partnerships involving AOL, Yahoo, and of course Sony's own music and motion picture divisions.
AT A GLANCE Plus
Built-in noise cancellation for supplied earbuds
Selectable DSD rolloff filter
Up to 70 hours per charge
Challenging headphones will need more power
The Sony Walkman NW-ZX100HN delivers beautifully balanced and transparent sound in a not-too-bulky form factor with excellent ergonomics and the unique plus of built-in noise cancellation, but only for its proprietary earbuds.
With the iPod classic gone, smartphones in almost universal use, and streams elbowing out downloads, is the dedicated music player obsolete? Or could it possibly be a retro survivor that mocks its replacement, the way the resurging turntable mocks the CD player? With emerging specialists like Astell & Kern, FiiO, and Questyle being joined in the market by old-school manufacturers like Onkyo and Sony, there seems to be growing interest in building high-quality players that do a better job of delivering highresolution audio than a phone does.
AT A GLANCE Plus
Deluxe build quality and beautiful design
Plays DSD and files up
128 GB plus microSD slot
Sony’s top-of-the-line Walkman music player is comfortingly overbuilt, loaded with bells and whistles. And it sounds fantastic.
The new top-of-the-line Sony Walkman is not the smallest or lightest dedicated music player out there. But is smaller always better? The smallest music player in my possession is the sixth-generation iPod nano. The tiny touchscreen device has about the footprint of a postage stamp, but that doesn’t make it easier to use. There’s not much room for a fingertip to move. For the seventh and final generation, Apple moved to a larger form factor, similar to early nanos except with the touchscreen replacing the clickwheel. Likewise, Sony went for an old-school nano-like form factor in its Walkman NWZ-A17. But that was a relatively lightweight device in more ways than one. For the top-drawer Walkman NW-ZX2, reviewed here, Sony decided on more substantial build quality—and more of it.
Lacking the high-end street cred of a boutique brand, Sony probably won't get much credit for producing the best sound of CES 2013 (at least so far) with its new ES speakers. The NA-2 tower ($10,000/pair), NA-5 monitor ($6000/pair), N-8 center ($3000), and matching sub ($4000) have the same Scandinavian-made multi-chambered birch cabinetry of the existing AR-1 and AR-2. Note the triple tweeter configuration, shown here on the center but present on all the new models. No, you're not seeing two super-tweeters flanking a tweeter, just three tweeters, though they're not the same size and are not all getting exactly the same frequencies (we'll have to get into the intricacies some other time). Fed by Pass amps and high-res sources including vinyl and DSD, the tower established an instant comfort zone with its super silky sweet top end, fatigue-free and convincing midrange, and controlled bass. In addition to today's press announcement at the Venetian, Sony is also showing the ES speakers in a 9.2-channel configuration at its gigantic booth in Central Hall.
You've probably read elsewhere that Norio Ohga died last week at 81. As chairman of Sony from 1982-95, he got the company into the motion picture and music businesses. An accomplished musician and music lover, Ohga was the guy who insisted the Compact Disc format should hold at least 74 minutes to accommodate Beethoven's Ninth Symphony without flipping. See obituary.
Perhaps the person best suited to reminiscing about Ohga would be the one who wooed him away from his career as a performing musician, Sony's legendary founder Akio Morita, who died in 1999. Following are some passages from his 1986 book Made in Japan. He starts by describing Ohga as "the young music student who asked so many audacious questions of our salesmen in 1947 that they finally brought him around to the company to talk to the engineers."
Sony is now shipping the BDP-S350, a next-generation Blu-ray player that is far slimmer than its predecessor and even comes in a much smaller box. It uses a third less packing material, and what it does use is biodegradable paper. And due to the lightness of both the product and its packaging, shipping it will involve 43 percent less diesel use and other carbon emissions. Proof, were any needed, that I'll do anything for a novel lead.
A new form of digital rights management from Microsoft has been adopted by Sony and Samsung, among others. Its first high-profile use is in the Sony BDP-S380 Blu-ray player, available since February.
PlayReady DRM allows downloading and streaming of video, audio, games, and images on multiple home and mobile devices. Supported formats include MPEG Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), AAC+, Enhanced AAC+, H.264, Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Windows Media Video (WMV). Embedded licenses allow content to play without a constantly active broadband connection.