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AVS › AVS Articles › Sony Launches 4k Ultra HD Flat Panel - AVS Coverage at the Event

Sony Launches 4k Ultra HD Flat Panel - AVS Coverage at the Event

 

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Last night, Sony launched its much-anticipated 4K Ultra HD flat panel at a gala event held at a palatial private residence known as the House of Rock, located in the high-end Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood. The 84-inch XBR-84X900 (seen here with the lovely Allison Holmes of Sony's Cierge customer-service group) is now available to well-heeled consumers at a list price of $25,000—but don't expect any holiday-shopping discounts, at least not this year!


Sony is using the term "4K Ultra HD" to distinguish the pixel resolution of this flat panel (3840x2160, exactly four times the resolution of full HD) from "true 4K" (4096x2160) as provided by commercial 4K digital-cinema projectors and Sony's VPL-VW1000ES, which also lists for $25,000. In fact, the VW1000ES was being shown in another room on a 150-inch Stewart FireHawk, displaying upconverted Blu-rays—and quite beautifully, I might add.

Of course, the emergence of 4K in the consumer marketplace is a chicken-and-egg problem—the display is only half the battle. You also need content at a native resolution of 4K, or else you must settle for viewing upconverted 1080p and your own digital photos.


Addressing this issue head on, Sony announced that the XBR-84X900 will ship with a PC-based media server called the 4K Ultra High Definition Video Player. Not only that, the server will come loaded with 10 feature films such as The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall (the new remake), and The Bridge on the River Kwai, as well as several indie movies and shorts and a video gallery of eye-candy footage.

Even better, Sony will continue to periodically provide new 4K content on Blu-ray data discs that can be loaded onto the server, and these titles will be free of charge to owners of the TV. The company will also install the system and load the new content as it becomes available, again for no extra charge.


Naturally, all this content will come from Sony Pictures and its partners. No other consumer-electronics company has its own movie studio, giving Sony a distinct advantage over the competition. Still, one can hope that other studios will release 4K titles that can be loaded onto the Sony server—and that Sony will let them be loaded onto the server.

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Also included in the TV's purchase price is a Sony tablet that provides touchscreen control of the system. You can even install a universal remote-control app on the tablet to control just about anything else in your home.

I was disappointed to learn that the set on display was not optimized in any way—it was simply taken out of the box and set to one of the picture modes. The black letterbox bars and interstitials between clips were nowhere near true black, and the colors were a bit garish in some clips, but the mostly bright demo material looked stunning nonetheless. Native 4K Ultra HD images were razor-sharp with no pixels visible even from less than one screen height away, and upconverted 1080p was generally excellent. The only exception I saw was some older documentary footage in Katy Perry: Part of Me, which exhibited lots of jaggies.

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In another room, Sony's SS-AR1 speakers were being demo'd, driven by an Accuphase E-460 integrated amp and DP-600 CD player. Also on hand was a Clearaudio turntable and Parasound phono preamp, which I didn't hear. The system sounded marvelous with CDs—very clean and detailed with lots of air around the instruments. Of course, it had better sound good; the SS-AR1s cost $27,000 per pair!

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Despite the superb sound of the Sony speakers, I maintain that no audio-reproduction system can match a live performance. This was ably demonstrated at the event by nine-time Grammy winner John Legend, who sang several songs for the glitterati in attendance.

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The House of Rock is named for the fact that it includes a full-blown recording studio, in which many legendary artists have laid down tracks. The centerpiece of the studio is this custom-made, 48-input SSL Duality mixing console designed by Grammy-winning engineer Jack Joseph Puig. Also visible in this shot at the ends of the console are two prototype speakers from Barefoot Sound, each with a 12-inch woofer, two 6-inch mids, two 2.5-inch high-mids, and a 1-inch tweeter. Man, they sounded fine!

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The 10,000-square-foot House of Rock was originally built in 1926, and was once owned by actress/singer Kathryn Grayson. The updated back yard features this LED-illuminated infinity pool and hot tub suspended 30 feet above the canyon below, while the interior has been completely modernized by Prime Sound Systems with 16 Sony TVs, 65 speakers (including underwater speakers in the pool and Polk waterproof speakers in every shower), two Middle Atlantic racks full of electronics, and four in-wall iPad controllers. Many rooms are connected to the studio control room with Belkin cabling, so they can be used as recording booths.

After all that renovation, the house is for sale for a mere $22 million. I must have left my wallet in my other pants, so all I could do was marvel at the home's magnificence—and at Sony's farsightedness by including a 4K server with its new 4K flat panel. I can't wait to try it out for myself.

Comments (57)

Crap! I just bought a new house. I wish I would have known.
I the server can connect to a projector, that gives a little hope. It also would be nice if "other" content can be loaded on to their server. But then again, this is Sony, so that kind of dashes my hopes..
Hey scott, glad to see you on avs forum!. Love your podcast.
Thanks DDigitalGuy05; I'm very glad to be here! And glad to know you enjoy the podcast, 'cause I sure do enjoy making it.
Hey Scott, you have now made me into a daily AVS site reader since you will be publishing some articles here now. Love listening to your podcast as well and watching you on the weekends during The Tech Guy Show.
Thanks for the kind words, engrey! I look forward to contributing more to AVS Forum!
under water speaker????
Dear members of the 1%: Please give me $25,000 so I can make my high def dreams come true. Thank you.
Digitally challe, yep, underwater speakers!
Thats nice, but there is no content. It doesn't pay to be an early adopter.
I wonder exactly how many gigabytes a 4k 60fps movie are going to occupy? This is definitely going to require a new media format and super fast internet like google built out in Kansas City.
reminds me when I first saw HD at CES in the 90's
Why would they come out with a less than 4K Panel? Where's the sense in this? To save a couple thousand $'s? Who would put the monies out for a less than a 4K unit? Sony trying to have a Mustang version all their own?
Nice work Scott...keep it up.
jeffkro, actually, there is content; that's the big news here. Sony is including with the TV a media server with 4K content, and they will deliver more content for that server. Also, I learned after I posted this that the 4K Spider-Man on the server occupies about 56GB, much less than 4 times the Blu-ray version at 36GB, probably due to the use of a much more efficient codec. I don't what codec was used in this case; I'll try to find out.
p5browne, actually, I think it's a good idea to come out with panels at 3840x2160 rather than 4096x2160, because it's much easier to scale 1920x1080 up to 3840x2160. Even though Sony is shipping a server with 4K content at the same resolution as the panel, there won't be all that much of it for a while, and HD broadcasting will remain at 1920x1080 for quite some time, so high-quality scaling of 1080p is important.
Just saw the new Sony 4K XBR at the Manhattan Sony Style store last weekend. We watched about an hour of passive 3-D Avengers on it. Very impressive. I can't help but think that by the time 4K displays hit mainstream, 8K displays will be close on their heels... let the great waiting game commence.
nathanddrews, yes, passive 3D is among the most important aspects of 4K flat panels in my book, at least until 4K content becomes more plentiful. With 3840x2160 pixels, each eye sees 1080 lines of vertical resolution, not 540 as in 1920x1080 passive 3D panels. And I prefer passive over active glasses big time, because they let more light enter the eyes, they are much lighter weight and more comfortable, and they cost less. As for 4K and 8K, you might be right; Japan seems to be going for 8K as fast as it can.
Scott, yes sony is basically selling a HTPC/media server to provide the 4K content but I don't really see that as a practical way to distribute 4k content. They need to be able to stream it, broadcast it, or come up with a new disc format. There was talk about you bringing a thumb drive to a redbox type machine that would then flash a rented movie to the flash drive.
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