Hello, first of all I would like to say that I am an owner of a Sony XBR2 46" Sony that I purchased from CC a month ago. As with many users in this thread (most of which I read), I too am a victim of the clouding effect. I certainly feel for all the users out there who are going through this ordeal. I took my first set back to Circuit City regarding the clouding effect within 3 days of purchase and exchanged it with another new one. I even had CC staff take it out of the box and plug it in to some video sources to make sure that the clouding effect was not there and I didn't notice any in the store. (I have to hand it to the CC store manager in Bellevue, WA (Don) for being very understanding. The staff also apparently knew about a "clouding issue" and they seemed empathethic.) Then with great care, and with a help of a friend, we took the new TV home and ,yes, there was the clouding issue again but not as bad. The next 3o days was a long story of more research and dilemma of whether to take this "great" TV back to the store or just bite it and stick with it.
Yesterday was my last day of the 30-day return policy. I tried a user's (kandoi??) suggestion of PLACING THE TV FACE DOWN on a flat surface for some time - and it kind of WORKED!! Well - at least it helped noticably (but didn't solve the problem completely). I was able to watch Star Wars III on a cloudy Sunday with all blinds closed and my settings at default with no visible cloudiness and no distraction.
For any users out there who would like to try this (at their own risk!), I suggest placing the TV face down on the original box, with the stand dangling at the side of the box. I left my TV like this overnight (8 hours). I took before and after pictures with a Canon G7 camera at ISO 3200 in the dark and you can see the difference with your own eyes when I post them later this evening. (I don't have the pictures with me right now).
I decided NOT to return the second set. It's just too much of a hassle (as I have to arrange for transportation) and there's no better alternative to buy right now. I was thinking of replacing it with a Samsung but apparently they are prone to the same issue. If you are a new customer who's thinking of buying a new HDTV, my recommendation would be to HOLD OFF for a year if you can until the technology is improved. All technologies available today have some sort of issue. Plasmas have burn-in, LCD's have uneven blacks, other TVs have low brightness or small viewing angles etc..
I have looked at many LCDs in the last month (not just LCD TVs, but actual LCDs) to see if they have the clouding issue. I wouldn't call it "clouding", but to some degree, all LCDs I have looked at have uneven-blacks, namely brighter closer to the light source (i.e. edges). Personally, I think the issue may have always been there but only become noticable at huge screens like the Sony. I also think that if during the delivery, the TV is let stand on it's side, the issue becomes worse. (My friend took the first TV off his SUV and put it on its side for like a minute.)
I agree with all the complaints of buyers of these TVs. Yes, a TV shouldn't be so 'touchy'. Yes, after spending thousands of dollars, you are entitled to expect much better quality - especially from an established brand. Yes, users shouldn't be made to go through this ordeal.
As for my final comments... To 'nay-sayers': this really is a big big issue that must be handled by Sony. My satisfaction with Sony has gone way down after this ordeal. If the TV wasn't such a huge beast and if there was a better alternative, I would take it back w/o regrets. How big is the issue? Well, if you watch any kind of movie with dark scenes (Matrix, Star-wars, Memento, you name it), you will be totally distracted by the brightness as if somebody was shining a lamp on the TV. It's really hard to enjoy a movie that way. To be accurate the cloudiness is much less apparent when there are brightly lit scenes (like travel shows or Shrek2) or music concerts or football games, but I've found that pretty much most shows and all movies have a dark scene. That will defitinely take your mind off of what you're watching and leave you wondering whether you made the right decision to spend so much money on a TV.
I will post the pictures tonight.