Sony is bringing the Master Series TVs into the 8K future with the latest models, a pair of 8K TVs that boast not only impressive picture, but also excellent sound.
The Sony Master Series Z9G 8K LCD TV comes in two sizes, 98 and 85-inches, and we got an up close look at both.
Eyes-On with Master Series Z9G 8K
Both TVs feature high resolution panels that deliver the sort of sharpness and clarity that only 33 million pixels can provide. Watching a stream of sample videos, I saw sports cars race along an intensely detailed road, with asphalt so sharp and clear you'd expect it to feel rough to the touch. A scene of swimming sharks could be mistaken for a live aquarium tank at first glance.
Watching scenes from film and television drove home ho great any content can look on the new displays. Bright colors popped on screen when watching a green goblin working as a flight attendant in the latest Hotel Transylvania, and I felt transported into a tense interrogation scene in the TV show The Blacklist.
With a 98-inch screen, human figures can be shown in almost full scale, and it made for a more realistic viewing experience to see people in realistic size and detail.
But the Master Series Z9G 8K TVs have more to offer than just 8K. Higher resolution requires more processing muscle, and Sony has outfitted the new TVs with Picture Processor X1 Ultimate, a processor aimed at not only making 8K content look good, but making everything else look better with the X-Reality PRO engine handling upscaling.
Paired with that higher resolution is high-dynamic range (HDR) capability, powered with a potent backlight. Sony calls its illumination tech the Backlight Master Drive, and it's paired with the new IMAX Enhanced video certification, which delivers not only dynamic brightness data, but also includes post-production color enhancement, sharper contrast and overall clarity. It also includes sound, with an optimized version of DTS:X codec technology, for powerful sound.
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Acoustic Multi Sound: TV Audio Gets Real
Sony's newest TVs also bring one of the best features from the rarified OLED line to the new 8K LCD models with Acoustic Multi Audio, which creates a distinct sound-from-screen effect. That used to be restricted to Sony's OLED models, which use the single glass panel as the vibrational surface for internal speakers.
The layered design of LCD panels makes that approach impossible on non-OLED displays, but Sony took up the task of replicating that same approach for more of its displays.
With an array of four speakers set above and below the display panel, placed right along (and built into) the bezel. By pumping out sound so close to the display and in tandem from top and bottom, Sony manages to recreate the same sound-from-screen effect.
We got to try out the new sound system on the new Sony Z9D 8K OLED TV, where we saw and heard a variety of samples to demonstrate the effect. Watching a clip from The Blacklist, James Spader's gravelly voice seemed to come directly from him as he sat tied to a chair.
Switching back and forth between the four channel Acoustic Multi Audio and regular two-speaker stereo sound, the standard Audio sounded artificial notably separate from the scene. Switching back to the four-speaker system put us in the interrogation room with the actors.
The results sound impressive, with audio not only coming seemingly from the center of the LCD panel, but it actually tracks right and left across the screen, providing the illusion that sound is coming directly from the mouths of speaking actors.
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Bravia Gets New OLEDs
While 8K may be the most amazing feature to come to new Sony TVs, the company didn't stop there. Sony is adding a new 4K OLED to the lineup, with the new A9G OLED TV, coming in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes.
These models are thinner, with sharp new designs and a passel of new features. All of the Master Series TVs include a dedicated Netflix Calibrated Mode, which is optimized for streaming 4K and HDR content.
They also get an updated version of Android, with the inclusion of Android TV version 8 (called Oreo), which includes an updated interface and increased compatibility with Google Home and Amazon Alexa smart speakers. If you don't want to buy another device, Google Assistant is built in, handling content search along with general information search and smart home integration.
These 4K OLED models also get the sound-from-screen treatment, with the introduction of Acoustic Surface Audio+. What the plus refers to, in this case, isn't totally clear, but Sony assures us that the audio has been refined from previous iterations.
Apple AirPlay Comes to Sony, Too
Following the surprise hot trend of the show, Sony's smart TVs are getting support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. The feature lets iPhone and iPad users share content easily with Sony smart TVs, with one click access to share video, photos, music and more.
It's also the first such Apple compatibility we've seen on and Android TV. It's not yet clear whether this capability will extend to other current Android TVs, or if it's a capability extended only to individual manufacturers.