Sony today outlined the company's home-audio and home-theater product line for 2006. Among the products highlighted were five home-theater-in-a-box systems, three A/V receivers, and one surround-sound home-theater package. A quick summary of the announced products follows.
Home theater in a box (HTIBs): The 2006 slate includes four updated DVD Dream Systems, Sony's line of sexy all-in-one home theater systems targeted at the so-called lifestyle market, plus a component-based system that bundles a separate receiver, a DVD changer, and speakers in one convenient package. The big news is that HDMI output and DVD upconversion to 720p/1080i HD resolution is now standard across all five models, as is automatic speaker setup and calibration, a function that--when properly implemented--takes the guesswork out of speaker setup.
- DAV-LF1H ($2,000, July): The top-of-the-the-line Dream System features a high-style, flat-panel-friendly design and the option to connect the rear speakers wirelessly or with wires.
- DAV-FX900W ($900, May): It's less than half the price of the DAV-LF1H, but this model still manages to include the same wireless rear speaker option, a five-disc DVD/CD/SACD changer, and XM-ready satellite radio compatibility.
- DAV-FX500 ($600, May): The FX500 loses the wireless rear speaker option of the step-up model but keeps the five-disc changer and the XM-ready option.
- DAV-DX375 ($400, April): The most affordable model in the 2006 Dream System line offers just the basics--but it's hard to complain when that includes HDMI output and automatic speaker setup. The single-disc system also includes two speaker stands that can be affixed to the front or rear speakers.
- HT-7000DH ($500, April): Prefer features and versatility over look and feel? The HT-7000DH lacks the sexy curves of its Dream System cousins, but the system--which offers a separate receiver, a five-disc DVD/CD/SACD changer, and a 5.1-speaker package in one box--includes an extra HDMI input (in addition to the one dedicated to the DVD changer) that's perfect for attaching an HD satellite/cable box or, eventually, a PlayStation 3. Moreover, the HT-7000DH features the same auto speaker setup and XM-ready capability that's found on most Dream Systems.
A/V receivers: Sony's 2006 receiver lineup includes three models, all of which include the same automatic speaker setup and calibration feature as the new HTIBs. We assume that more expensive higher-end models will be announced separately under Sony's ES line, and we'll update the CNET Alpha blog when and if they appear.
- STR-DG800 ($400, April): This 7.1-channel receiver offers 110 watts of power per channel, is XM-ready, and includes HDMI pass-through capability. (Having not seen complete specs, we assume that means a single HDMI input and output.)
- STR-DG600 ($300, March): The middle of the Sony receiver lineup keeps the same 110 watts of power per 7.1 channels and XM-ready capability of the STR-DG800, but it lacks any HDMI connections.
- STR-DG500 ($200, March): Sony's entry-level receiver is a "just the basics" 6.1-channel model that offers 110 watts of power per channel.
In addition to the HTIBs and receivers, Sony is also highlighting the SA-FT1, a 5.1-channel surround speaker system with a flat-panel design that's intended to complement big-screen LCD, plasma, and microdisplay TVs. The speaker package should be available in June for about $400.