Personal Audio

Sony unveils new NW-A35 Walkman with noise-cancelling in-ear headphones

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I’m not entirely sure who is buying these but I’m assuming somebody is because year after year at CES, Sony continues to introduce new and improved Walkman players that target the entry level and high-end market. Kashfia Kabir writes for What Hi-Fi about the new NW-A35 Walkman which was unveiled at CES 2017:

Sony shows more ‘AirPods’ like prototypes at CES 2017

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Initial reviews of the Sony Xperia Ear haven’t been kind but that doesn’t mean Sony is stopping there. In fact Sony is paving ahead with its voice assistant initiative which includes the Xperia Agent and Project N with Nigel. Though details were next to none, at CES 2017, Sony did showcase the above, a pair of Bluetooth stereo headsets in grey and black.

Sony built a faux plane fuselage to showcase their noise-cancelling headphones

sony_faux_plane_-fuselage

Like E3 on steroids (since way more money is being dumped and is up for grabs, ultimately), companies attending CES have been known to put together extremely elaborate booths in order to draw attention to their product. For its part, Sony has tended to keep things more casual and to the point but this year, they did something a little different. Towards the back of their booth, they put together a faux plane fuselage with speakers all throughout it pumping ambient noise you’d typically hear when flying to show off their noise-cancelling headphones. Elaborate, clever, and tasteful – here’s a preview.

Meet the Sony Nav System (XAV-AX100) With Apple CarPlay & Android Auto

Sony Electronics - XAV-AX100

Earlier this morning and out of left field, Sony unveiled their latest navigation system, the XAV-AX100. As Mitchel Broussard writes for MacRumors, Sony touts their new nav system

 as offering “everything you need” for long car journeys, including smartphone connectivity, a high-quality sound system, and voice command features. 

2016 Sony IFA Predictions

Held in Berlin, the 2016 Sony IFA keynote is just a month away where Sony is expected to show their latest mobile products. Though Sony has yet to send out official press invites (which I won’t receive), they have confirmed that come September 1st, Kaz Hirai and co. will take stage. So what can we expect?

4 Sony Devices Find Their Place on the ’50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time’ List

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From TIME:

 Think of the gear you can’t live without: The smartphone you constantly check. The camera that goes with you on every vacation. The TV that serves as a portal to binge-watching and -gaming. Each owes its influence to one model that changed the course of technology for good. 

This list couldn’t have come at a better time as Sony celebrated its 70th birthday on Saturday and what a 70 years it’s been. I don’t say this lightly when I say Sony is the closest any company has come to matching and perhaps even exceeding the influence that Apple has had on our lives. While the last two decades might be dominated mostly by Apple, Sony’s influence throughout the years cannot be ignored.

From changing how we watch TV with the Trinitron to how we entertain ourselves with Walkman and PlayStation – Sony has forever altered our lives with their rich products. Even today Sony is challenging the notion of how we view photography by being a champion of E-mount cameras and taking on once dominant competitors Nikon and Canon.

 Some of these, like Sony’s Walkman, were the first of their kind. Others, such as the iPod, propelled an existing idea into the mainstream. Some were unsuccessful commercially, but influential nonetheless. And a few represent exciting but unproven new concepts (looking at you, Oculus Rift). 

After the jump, the four Sony products that made the 50 most influential gadgets of all time list.

Sony Future Lab to Show Off Concept “N” Headphones, Preview Software Development Kit at Wearable World Congress

Sony Future Lab Program Concept N Headphones

Back in early March, Sony unveiled their US-based Future Lab Program, which has been tasked with creating prototypes in a fairly open manner in order to gauge consumer interest. For their first product, Sony showed off their concept N headphones. Nick Statt writing for The Verge:

 Codenamed Concept N, the Bluetooth device takes the design of those wacky-looking neck-worn headphones and packs in multi-directional speakers so you can listen to music without buds or over-the-ear pads 

So why is Sony investing time and money into a futuristic headphone? The answer likely lies in where they see the global trend going. As people shift their living habits towards more populated cities like San Francisco, New York, Berlin, and Tokyo, they’ve also shifted their commuting habits towards increased usage of public transportation, biking, and other services. With the sharing economy accelerating, especially in large cities, people are increasingly traveling in more visible ways where you can’t simply close your car doors and blast music.

The idea behind N is to create a system for listening while trying to retain background noise for when you’re wandering about outside or riding your bike. The device also comes with an accompanying pair of cone-shaped ear pieces that communicate with the neckband, in the event you want a more traditional headphone-like experience. The buds, with holes punched through the middle, don’t block outside noises, so you’re still able to, say, hold a conversation while listening to music

More after the jump.

Sony Turntable With Hi-Res Recording Launches Later This Month

If you remember way back in January at CES, Sony had a surprise product of sorts for everybody, the Turntable PS-HX500 which we previewed in our video. As the name suggests, the turntable is everything you’d expect it to be: a record playing machine. So if you’ve been living the hipster lifestyle or simply have an affinity for them, the HX500 is a device worth keeping an eye on when it arrives later this month. But with a $599 price point, it better do a hell of a lot more than simply play old records right? Luckily this record player has one big trick up its sleeve.

Breathe new life into analog masterpieces with DSD. Just hook up the PS-HX500 turntable to your PC via USB, play a record, and capture every aspect of the vinyl with DSD 5.6 MHz native conversion. Convert your precious vinyl collection into High-Resolution Audio, take it out for a walk with your Walkman, or just sit back and enjoy playing your vinyl originals.

In short, via a built-in analog-to-digital converter, you’re able to turn any old records to lossless, Hi-Res audio files in native DSD (up to 5.6 MHz) or WAV files (up to 192 KHz/24-bit resolution). Not only does that mean you can play back your records in lossless quality on devices like the Walkman and some Android phones, but that you’re able to also back up your records as the:

PS-HX500 is equipped with a high-quality A/D converter. So just connect it to your PC with a USB cable and record your vinyl as High-Resolution Audio tracks. This is a great way to backup your precious vinyl collection, or even take tracks outdoors with you on your Walkman.

More on the Sony Turntable after the jump.

Sony Q1 2016 Earnings – Gaming & Media Up, Electronics Flat, and Components Down

(As always, keep in mind that these charts are fairly wide and created in very high resolution so simply click on them to enlarge)

The more I look at Sony’s Q4 FY15 earnings report which comprises of how they did in Q1 2016, the more hopeful and cautious I am of the company. In short, I find the direction Kaz Hirai is pursuing to be the correct one for Sony at the time. The question which remains is if Sony can execute his vision at a quick enough pace and transition to the next phase which is being a more lean and robust company with hopefully better selling devices on the market. That is outside of PlayStation which continues to do gangbuster numbers. Otherwise for Sony, it’s a tale of lower sales but higher profits, thanks to their more premium lineup which offers better margins.

If you look at the above chart, you’ll notice that excluding entertainment endeavors which in my mind comprises of PlayStation, Sony Pictures, and Sony Music, most of Sony’s electronic businesses were down compared to a year ago’s quarter. I’ve already discussed in length what’s been happening at Sony Mobile which you can read about here. However as the chart below shows, despite a drop in sales, Sony’s prospects on each division is improving, including their troubled mobile division. In fact Sony has posted a 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year.

Across nearly all core electronics business, Sony has seen a rise in operating income, even if they’re still posting negative numbers. The reason Financial Services dipped is mostly due to stock market volatility which has been in full affect the entire year. As Sony put it:

 Increases in the amortization of deferred insurance acquisition costs and the provision of policy reserves, primarily driven by a significant decrease in interest rates and the deterioration in the stock market 

For comparison, Apple each quarter has ‘lost’ more money due to currency volatility than companies like Facebook actually make. Context is king, right? Otherwise, as I said earlier, it seems like most of Sony’s businesses are humming right along the path set out by Kaz. However, let’s not forget about the elephant in the room – that division right in the middle – Devices. As you can see, compared to a year ago’s quarter, Devices is down ¥75.3 billion. It’s as if that division fell off of a cliff. For those unaware, Devices comprises mostly of Sony’s semiconductor business which supplies companies like Apple and Samsung things like batteries and camera sensors. According to Sony, the large negative number is in part due to:

Deterioration in the operating results of the camera module business

Deterioration in the operating results of the battery business

Increases in depreciation and amortization expenses as well as in research and development expenses

I’ve heard from a little birdie that Sony may have lost a major customer which could lend credence to the dramatic drop. Otherwise it’s hard to equate their reasonings and that number but for now, all we have is Sony’s vague statement on the matter. For those wondering what percentage of the company each division of Sony comprises, wonder no more with the chart below.

Way more details on each division from the Sony Q1 2016 earnings report after the jump.

Sony Profits Up 666% While Revenue Slightly Dips by 1.2%

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It’s earnings time again and as a whole, things are going well for Sony as evident by the:

 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year 

This can be mainly attributed to the strong performance of PS4 and Sony’s ability to cut costs within its mobile division. All of this has led to:

 income before taxes for the year ending March 31 came in at 304.5 billion yen ($2.81 billion), a big rise from the 39.7 billion yen recorded during the same period last year. Operating profit rose 329.2% to 294.2 billion yen, its largest figure since fiscal 2007 

Looking at things more closely, mobile is still a business that’s struggling for Sony but losses did narrow to:

 61.4 billion yen from 217.6 billion in fiscal 2015 

Ultimately that operating loss of ¥61.4 billion ($544 million) was 57.4% bigger than the company predicted a year ago but that’s mainly due to Sony choosing profits over scale which has also led to a revenue dip of 20% compared to the year prior. Kazuo Hirai:

 If it means that we’re selling less number of phones going out the door. We’re fine with that so long as we have a profitable business, and we’re really on our way to being profitable in that regard 

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight is more optimistic about Sony Mobile’s future. While what he has to say isn’t wrong; it’s up to Sony to be able to capitalize on future opportunities, especially now that they’re more lean than years past and the division hasn’t shown the same foresight as PlayStation to garner the benefit of the doubt. Ben Wood:

 Sony Mobile has embarked on some aggressive cost reduction over the last 12 months. This has seen it exit markets such as China, India and the U.S. as well as reducing its headcount. Now the business unit has more stable financial position to build on as it looks to driving a return to growth 

It’s no secret that gaming continues to become a more critical division of Sony and PlayStation did little to disappoint. Operating income for the Games division rose 84.3% to to ¥88.7 billion ($785 million) and an 11.8% improvement in sales. Both software and hardware sales for PS4 were up year-over-year which is helping offset the predictable decline of PS3 sales. PlayStation VR will also go on sale later this year but I’m doubtful first year sales will have a large impact on the bottom line as larger consumer interest in VR has yet to be determined and it’s unclear how profitable each VR headset is for Sony. However, if VR does take off, Sony is well positioned.

More after the jump.

Sony Wins 18 Red Dot Awards, Including Two ‘Best of the Best’

Red Dot AwardSony is no stranger to winning awards for their design and quality. Unfortunately for them, awards doesn’t usually translate to sales but it does mean that despite their much smaller scale compared to their competitors, Sony isn’t cutting any corners. At this year’s Red Dot Awards, Sony raked in 18 awards which includes two Best of the Best: the Sony Glass Speaker and RX1 RM2 camera.

After the jump, the list of Sony products that won a  Red Dot Award.

14 Sony & PlayStation Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

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When you’re a techie, you tend to find an excuse to give tech gifts whenever you can. This includes Valentine’s Day where you might normally be tempted to give your significant other a box of chocolate and red roses. While I can’t argue with the chocolate part, especially if its dark German chocolate, you can do a lot better than just roses. Tech gifts can not only last longer than those roses that were jacked up in price for the week, but can also be far more personable.

Lucky for you, with the big day just 10 days away, we have 14 Sony & PlayStation Valentine’s Day gift ideas for you that are sure to win you some extra xoxo. Meet us after the jump.

Putting the Sony Q3 FY15 Earnings Results in Context

To better get a sense of the Sony Q3 FY15 earnings results, I’ve put together a few charts alongside official information to give you a better sense of how the company is doing. In short, things are much better compared to a few years ago and even last year when the company posted their first profit in nearly a decade. Sony Mobile, despite pumping out the fantastic Xperia Z5 family, continues to struggle. You can read more in depth about Sony Mobile and their results here.

A quick heads up. All charts can be clicked on to viewed in much more detail.

So, let’s start from the beginning again. For its Q3 2015 financial results, Sony posted a net income of 120.1 billion JPY ($1 billion) on total revenue of 2,580.8 billion JPY ($21.5 billion). That’s up 33.5% and 0.5% year-on-year. Operating income came in at 202.1 billion JPY ($1.7 billion), an 11% rise on the previous year. In short, Sony achieved $1 billion of net profits for the three months to end in December.

As you can see from the chart above, Game & Network Services (read: PlayStation), Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and the company’s Financial Services have been on the rise. Mobile is obviously hurting and in doing so, dragging down their ever-so-profitable Devices division where image sensor sales are accounted for. Here’s how the different divisions within Sony add up.

More info and charts pertaining to the Sony Q3 FY15 earnings results after the jump.

Sony Q3 2015 Results – PlayStation Up, Mobile & Image Sensors Down – But Profits Up

Sony Tokyo HQ

Sony has just posted its Q3 2015 results and, as a whole, the company is doing much better. According to Sam Byford from The Verge:

 third-quarter earnings up on those from a year ago, making ¥202.1 billion ($1.69 billion) in operating profit off ¥2.58 trillion ($21.5 billion) in revenue. Net profit between October and December was ¥120.1 billion ($1 billion), 33 percent higher than the same quarter last year. 

A big reason for the income increase compared to last year is due largely to all the cuts Sony has been making across the company. This includes personal cuts as well as reducing product lineup (i.e. les televisions, phones, and cameras). Restructuring costs were also down 50% this year to $61 million.

Beyond the obvious nature of PlayStation doing great business with sales up 10.5%, reaching $4.9 billion, Sony Pictures did great business as well

 with movies like Spectre and Hotel Transylvania 2 performing well at the box office to help the division make ¥262.1 billion ($2.18 billion) in revenue — 26.9 percent up on last year. 

It’s no surprise that Mobile continues to be a sore spot for Sony but image sensors were curiously down as the two are linked. More Sony Q3 2015 results after the jump.

Sony h.ear go Bluetooth Hi-Res Speakers Preview

CES 2016 - Sony h.ear go Bluetooth Hi-Res Speaker Reveal

Leaked just prior to CES 2016, the Sony h.ear go is the company’s newest stylish Bluetooth speaker. Its very small form factor allows the h.ear go to be extremely portable while still offering a host of unique features like Hi-Res Audio support and pairing via Sony’s SonyPal app.