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Sony Aims High With Twin Flagship ‘Master Series’ TVs

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Sony Master Series Displays

Sony Master Series Displays

Summary

  • Product Name: A9F OLED and Z9F LCD TVs
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Date: October 10, 2018 09:00
  • MSRP: $3,500 - XBR-55A9F 55-inch UHD OLED TV, $4,500 - XBR-65A9F 65-inch UHD OLED TV, $3,500 - XBR-65Z9F 65-inch UHD LCD TV, $6,000 - XBR-75Z9F 75-inch UHD LCD TV
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • Buy Now

Sony Master Series XBR-55A9F 55-inch UHD OLED TV

  • Display Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Dimensions With Stand (W x H x D): 48.35" x 27.91" x 12.60”
  • Dimensions Without Stand (W x H x D): 48.35” x 28” x 3.5”
  • Weight: 66.1 lbs

Sony Master Series XBR-65A9F 65-inch UHD OLED TV

  • Display Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Dimensions With Stand (W x H x D): 57.05" x 32.76" x 12.60”
  • Dimensions Without Stand (W x H x D): 57.05" x 32.87" x 3.39"
  • Weight: 78.5 lbs

Sony Master Series XBR-65Z9F 65-inch UHD LCD TV

  • Display Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Dimensions With Stand (W x H x D): 57.20" x 35.67" x 12.36”
  • Dimensions Without Stand (W x H x D): 57.20" x 32.95" x 2.64"
  • Weight: 65 lbs

Sony Master Series XBR-75Z9F 75-inch UHD LCD TV

  • Display Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Dimensions With Stand (W x H x D): 65.98" x 40.91" x 15.71”
  • Dimensions Without Stand (W x H x D): 65.98" x 37.91" x 2.64"
  • Weight: 88.4 lbs

Sony was one of the first major TV manufacturers to ditch plasma and focus all of its attention on LCD TVs in the mid-2000s. Sony’s LCD models have maintained a reputation for good image quality, even if their sales have been overtaken by rival Samsung. Sony was also the first to release an OLED TV, the tiny (11-inch) XEL-1 OLED, back in 2007. After abandoning the tech for a number of years, Sony reentered the OLED business in 2017 with a full-size offering, the A1E, which the company produced by applying its own image-processing expertise to OLED panels supplied by LG. Now Sony hopes to become the undisputed image-quality champion for both LCD and OLED technologies with a pair of 4K Master Series TVs with their latest releases. The series consists of the A9F OLED and Z9F LCD models, both of which are available in two sizes. Sony says that its goal with these new TVs was to “faithfully reproduce creators' intent” by building displays with picture quality that “approaches (that of) a professional monitor in post-production.

Sony A9F OLEDThat may sound like so much marketing fluff, but Sony is in a unique position to make good on this promise. The company manufactures a 30-inch 4K OLED reference display called the BVM-X300, which is used by almost every major studio during the mastering process of movies and TV shows. The BVM-X300 is small compared to today’s TVs and sells for over $30,000, so it’s not likely to find its way into your living room, but it does give Sony the perfect benchmark against which to compare its new Master Series offerings. It might seem strange that Sony would choose to build an LCD-based Master Series TV in addition to an OLED; surely the new A9F OLED TV will deliver a picture that more closely resembles that of Sony’s own reference OLED display, which boasts infinitely deep black levels and wide viewing angles. But LED-backlit LCD TVs can achieve much higher peak brightness levels, and Sony decided to leave the choice up to its customers. Both Master Series designs take advantage of Sony’s next-generation X1 Ultimate video processor, which uses “object-based HDR Remaster and Super Resolution” to detect, analyze, and enhance each object in the picture, resulting in “exceptional accuracy and detail,” according to Sony. Both the A9F OLED and the Z9F LCD also feature a “Netflix Calibrated” mode, which automatically activates when the TV detects specific metadata from the Netflix content. Sony reportedly developed this mode jointly with Netflix in order to deliver optimal picture quality for Netflix’s original content. The TVs also include an automated calibration mode to help professional calibrators using CalMAN software to achieve optimal picture quality in less time. Both Master Series models deliver HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision HDR, and both will feature built-in microphones with Google Assistant for voice-activated operation.

The A9F OLED will be available in 55-inch ($3,500) and 65-inch ($4,500) screen sizes, and will feature a Pixel Contrast Booster, which “maximizes dynamic range by widening the area of color reproduction at high brightness.” On the audio side of things, the A9F features what Sony calls Acoustic Surface Audio+. Like last year’s A1E, the new AF9 doesn’t use traditional speakers to make sound. Instead, it relies on actuators that vibrate the screen — the screen itself is the speaker diaphragm. The AF9 uses three actuators and two subwoofers (located in the TV’s “kickstand”) to create a 3.2-channel system, an upgrade from the A1E’s 2.1-channel system. And on the rear of the AF9, you’ll find something very unusual: a pair of speaker terminals, which allow you to power the TV’s built-in speakers using your own AV receiver and a length of standard speaker cable. This clever option turns the TV’s speakers into a dedicated center-channel speaker as part of a multichannel audio system.

Sony Z9F LCD


The Z9F LCD replaces the aging Z9D, which was released in 2016, as Sony’s top LCD TV offering. The Z9F is available in 65-inch ($3,500) and 75-inch ($6,000) screen sizes, both with full-array LED backlighting and Sony’s X-Wide Angle optical design, which reduces the loss of color fidelity when the screen is viewed from off axis. Sony’s Triluminos extended-color display is said to allow the Z9F to produce “a wider palette of colors, and more natural shades and hues,” than other LCD designs, while the X-Motion Clarity feature blinks the local-dimming backlight on a zone-by-zone basis in order to reduce motion blur without reducing brightness.

Will Sony’s A9F OLED and Z9F LCD Master Series TVs achieve the company’s lofty goal of being considered the best of the best? Which model would you choose for your living room or home theater? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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