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CES 2020: Sony adds Frame Speaker to 8k flagship, widens OLED and 4k Full Array TV choice

Not content with vibrating the screen of its OLED TVs to create audio (aka Acoustic Surface Audio+), Sony introduced a Frame Tweeter at CES 2020 that, quite literally, turns the frame of its incoming ZH8 8k flagship set into a speaker. Bizarrely, the company made no reference to this at its CES media conference, content only to drop information in a press release. But we were intrigued and determined to learn more.

The idea behind the Frame Tweeter is to raise the apparent soundstage of an LED TV, away from the low hanging audio of downward firing speakers, to one in line with onscreen action. We went behind the scenes at CES for a listen, and remarkably, it actually works. Sure, it’s not exactly Hi-Fi sweet, but the treble is sharp and clean, and achieves what it sets out to do.

This particular sonic innovation (pictured below) will only be on the brand’s new ZH8 8k flagship (available in 75- and 85-inches), but it does show that Sony still has some tricks up its sleeve. Perhaps with an eye to the PlayStation 5, this 8k set can also present 4k up to 120fps.

Unlike Samsung and LG, Sony is maintaining focus on 4k UHD. At CES it announced a reheated OLED line, comprising the 55- and 65-inch A8, and announced a 48-inch A9 OLED model, although the latter was nowhere to be seen – so it’s clearly not ready for primetime yet.

Sony also announced two 4k Full Array LED LCD models, the XH95 and XH90.

All the above use the brand’s X1 Ultimate picture processor and Netflix Calibrated Mode, with some also boasting IMAX Enhanced certification.

Interestingly, the brand hasn’t jumped onto the Dolby Vision IQ bandwagon, or announced support for the UHD Alliance’s Filmmaker Mode, both different attempts to improve the viewing experience. Instead Sony is introducing its own Ambient Optimization sensor-based adjustment. This not only adjusts picture settings depending on ambient room brightness, but also tweaks audio. The technology can detect curtains, furniture or other items that can absorb or reflect sound, using a calibration routine driven by the mic in its remote control.

When questioned about the lack of Filmmaker Mode, Sony points out that its own Custom image preset is precisely tuned to reflect the visual characteristics of its own BVM-X300 studio mastering monitor.

Design on all its new screens is minimalist. Sony dubs the approach Immersive Edge (pictured above), reflecting the fact that pedestal feet are placed at the edge of the screen (although they can be relocated to the centre if required for narrow AV furniture).

2020 will also see Sony spread features introduced in 2019, wider through its range. X-Motion Clarity, first seen on LED LCD screens, is coming to OLED, thanks to higher refresh rates, while its Full Array backlight and wide angle viewing technology gets greater exposure with the XH95 and XH90 duo. The former comes down to 55-inch models, with the XH95, while FALD backlighting will now be available on the mid-range XH90.

Sony has even given its premium remote control a boost, with the inclusion of a theatre-friendly backlight. The glowing zapper is available on the ZH8 and XH95 models.

There’s no change to Sony’s smart platform choice, which remains Android, but now Apple Airplay 2 and Homekit compatibility is set to join Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice support.

The XH95 will be available in 85-, 75-, 65-, 55- and 49-inch sizes, while the XH90 covers 85-, 75-, 65- and 55-inches. The XH95 adds X-Wide Angle viewing technology (49-inch model excepting) and Acoustic Audio calibration, using the mic in the remote control.

Other tweaks for 2020 are less obvious, but should go down well with buyers. Specifically the user interface has been simplified, and menu items now come with graphical descriptions to explain modes and options. It’s also improved device detection connection info displayed by its TVs.

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