Sony has taken the wraps off its latest lineup of all-in-one home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs). The 2007 line spans seven products: three models being sold under the Bravia banner--a label previously reserved only for the company's flat-panel TVs--three affordable component-based systems and one model that integrates a complete surround speaker system into a TV stand.
The Bravia line includes the DAV-HDX265 ($300, March), DAV-HDX267W ($300, April), and DAV-HDX500 ($500, March). Each model is a 5.1-channel system with a five-disc CD/DVD changer built into a unified slim head unit, all of which are designed to match the eponymous flat-screen TVs. New for 2007 is what Sony calls "Bravia Theater Sync"--that's the company's proprietary name for Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), a feature that lets similarly supported products operate with each other when connected via HDMI. When properly implemented, it allows (for instance) a connected TV to power up and automatically switch to the correct input when the DVD player is selected. Also included in the Bravia HTIBs for the first time is Sony's new Digital Media Port. The jack allows consumers to interface with any one of four accessories (sold separately) that provide connectivity to iPods, Bluetooth-enabled audio devices (such as Sony Ericsson's Walkman music phones), streaming network audio, or Sony's own Network Walkman portable music player.
All three of the Bravia home theater systems also offer HDMI outputs with the ability to upscale DVD movies to 720p and 1080i resolutions--while that doesn't deliver a true high-def image like the ones found on HD DVD and Blu-ray, it offers the potential for improved picture quality on some HDTVs. Home theater novices will appreciate each system's inclusion of automated speaker calibration (which Sony calls Digital Cinema Auto Calibration)--it automatically adjusts the speaker levels to the vagaries of your room at the touch of a button.
While each member of the Bravia trio has a lot in common with its siblings, there are some distinguishing characteristics. The DAV-HDX500 and DAV-HDX265 are merely "wireless ready"--their rear speakers can be connected to a $130 accessory that precludes the need to run speaker wires to the back of the room (although it does need to be wired to each of the rear speakers and plugged into a power source). The DAV-HDX267W, meanwhile, includes the wireless module in the box. Furthermore, the more expensive HDX500 is the only one of the three that sports a black finish (rather than silver), XM satellite radio compatibility (with the addition of a Connect and Play tuner and subscription), and "tallboy" style front speakers. Sony also highlighted the HDX500's optical and coaxial digital audio inputs, implying that they may not be present on the other two models.
Despite the dearth of Dream Systems in the lineup, a company spokesman insisted that the venerable line of high-style home theater systems is alive and well, so don't be surprised if Sony announces updated Dream models in the summer or fall. In the meantime, at least from a features standpoint, the new Bravia line looks to be offering some of the best home theater values seen under a Sony nameplate in a long time.