Home Entertainment ANALYSIS: HOME CINEMA & AV

Left: Sony’s AG9. Below: Philips OLED+ 984 soundbar.


The premium end of the consumer display market remains very, very stable, and the state of the 8K market is healthier than expected.

Craig Cunningham, Samsung Senior European Strategy Manager

Atmos sound system that could win over the most reluctant technophobe.

The main Sib Evo speakers cleverly incorporate a full-range up-firing driver for height audio in addition to front-firing speaker drivers. Finished in piano gloss black, the whole £1,099 set looks deliciously premium.

Seeing is believing

The TV market is also on something of a roll, thanks to a newfound synergy between display technology and audio. But which models should dealers showcase? We’ve got some suggestions... Hardcore cinephiles will be well served by the Panasonic GZ2000. While many screens now offer compatibility with Dolby Atmos, this flagship telly is the first to feature an on-board audio system able to do the format justice. A rear-placed up-firing speaker module handles the height channels, while a soundbar creates a wide front soundstage. But it’s not just the audio handling which makes this set attractive. It also boasts universal HDR support, embracing both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ dynamic metadata standards, as well as broadcast HLG and HLG Photo. It’s as near to future-proof as we have right now.

The GZ2000 also uses a Pro Edition OLED panel that incorporates custom hardware improvements, specifically heat management techniques first developed for plasma TVs. By taking more heat from the panel, Panasonic has created more headroom for brightness. It says the result is a 30 per cent improvement over stock OLED panels. Another big screen winner is the Philips 65OLED984. This 65-incher is part high-end TV, part premium loudspeaker, thanks to a

collaboration between Philips and Hi-Fi specialist, Bowers & Wilkins. The B&W sound system is a three-channel soundbar with tweeters mounted strategically at either edge of the cabinet, which produce a wide stereophonic spread. The centre channel benefits from that classic Bowers decoupled tweeter-on-top arrangement, lifted from its high-end loudspeakers.

The other high-end TV likely to have buyers buzzing is the Sony AG9. It’s the latest Master Series model to incorporate the brand’s innovative Acoustic Surface Audio+ sound system.

This employs a pair of vibrating acoustic transducers placed on the rear of the panel, bolstered by a couple of rear facing woofers, to generate audio. Shoppers will be intrigued by the technology (challenge them to spot any speakers), and is certain to ‘woo’ when demonstrated. Sonic clarity is high, and those rear placed woofers ensure the sound doesn’t appear as thin as the panel itself. Intriguingly, Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ system can also serve as the centre in a multichannel home cinema audio system. A pair of stereo spring clip terminals on the rear allows the AG9 to go into centre speaker mode.

Image quality is outstanding, courtesy of Sony’s X1 Ultimate image processor, which uses Object-Based Super Resolution technology to boost contrast, detail and colour, and a Pixel Contrast Booster to enhance colour and contrast in bright areas. HDR support covers Dolby Vision and regular HDR10.

8K or not 8K – that is the question Of course, the elephant in the high-end TV room remains 8K; the industry is anticipating considerable buzz for the format in 2020, and store demos of 8K

screens running native 8K from USB always look jaw-droppingly good.

According to Samsung, UHD 8K TV sales have outperformed market expectations in 2019. Demand of super large screens (80-inches plus) have been beating forecasts for the past two years, up 55 per cent in 2018 and 60 per cent in 2019. Samsung Senior European Strategy Manager, Craig Cunningham, tells ERT that the premium end of the consumer display market, remains “very, very stable”, and that the state of the 8K market “is healthier than expected. But then initial expectations for a market are always cautious in the early stages”. It’s with super-large screen sizes that 8K is likely to gain early traction. Currently 55-inch and above are now the only market segments that are growing, says Cunningham. “Sales of even 50- and 49-inch screens are declining in almost every market.” The challenge remains content. Despite the

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games providing an 8K technology platform for broadcasters, this content is unlikely to trickle down to consumers. And there’s little prospect of any of the OTT giants adopting 8K just yet. So what are the compelling reasons to buy 8K

now? Well, Samsung has two suggestions. Firstly, AI enhanced upscaling does a remarkable job with 4K and to a lesser extend regular HD. The other, perhaps more enticing hook, is gaming. It’s known that both the PlayStation 5 and the next Xbox, dubbed Project Scarlett, both of which are due Christmas 2020, will offer 8K resolution graphics. It seems there’s never been a better time for consumers to improve their sound and vision.

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