First look: Sony Master Series

Sony’s goal was to create TVs that replicate the images exactly as the creators would like their content to look – creating what Sony calls “Kando” for the viewer. Kando is, obviously, a Japanese word which loosely translates to having an emotional response in English; something that satisfies and more.

It's with that goal in mind that Sony Electronics President and COO Mike Fasulo took the stage of Sony Hall on Tuesday to talk of its product development from “lens to living room” approach to producing 4K products that are best for professionals and consumers alike, the result of which is the new Sony Master Series.

There are several features that cross the lines between the Z9F LCD and A9F OLED Master Series. Both lines will have full color management systems in order to support professional end-user calibration using CalMAN software from Portrait Displays. This new automated professional calibration process was demonstrated but Sony has also included a new special “Custom” mode already calibrated for consumer use which brings near reference monitor color to its screens.  

Also announced was a Netflix Calibrated Mode which will, for now, only work using the Netflix App in the Master Series TVs. This Mode optimizes movies and shows being streamed from the service to give a more accurate image to what was initially mastered by content creators but can be turned off as you wish.  

Both TV series will include the new X1 Ultimate processor. The new processor will help to improve image quality with “object-based HDR remaster” and “object-based super resolution,” up-converting SDR material and enhancing sharpness, respectively. 

Price and release date

Sony was overall cagey with release dates and pricing – only giving us a vague release window of Fall 2018, with pricing to be revealed as we approach release. Very likely, however, you can expect some hefty price tags for these: The Sony A1E OLED launched at $2,500 (£2,500) for a 55-inch screen size and $3,500 (£3,000) for the 65-inch TV. 

You better start saving.

Sony Bravia Master Series Z9F

The first TV to be unveiled was one we had expected – the new Sony Bravia Z9F, a sequel to the well-respected Sony Bravia Z9D that came out back in 2016. 

Sony talked of their concentrating on three consistent problems with LCD TVs:  viewing angle, motion blur and color consistency, and how those problems could be solved with the latest set. First, Sony’s “X-Wide Angle” technology has almost totally eliminated the problems that are usual to LCDs with regard to losing contrast and color. Next, Sony’s “X-Motion Clarity” is able to control moving images and minimizes blur. Lastly, the X1 Ultimate processor mention above allows light to be managed to handle contrast issues.

The X1 Ultimate, remember, was shown off at CES 2018, where Sony had it put into a TV with a peak brightness of around 10,000 nits. While we don't expect the Z9F to get anywhere close to this level of luminance, the inclusion of the Ultimate does bode well for Sony's upcoming LCD.

Sony Bravia Master Series A9F

The A9F OLED, the second TV to be announced for the Master Series, comes with a Pixel Contrast Booster, which should booster colors at high brightness levels, deep blacks and a wide viewing angle. Sony would not talk about local dimming zones and advised they would leave that information to reviewers to check for themselves.  

The new Acoustic Surface Audio+ sound demonstration was impressive. The 3.2 channel sound system includes an additional center actuator and 2 side-facing subwoofers. The sound was full and rich if missing a richer bass tone.  

Sony also demonstrated the Center Speaker Model which allows the Acoustic Surface Audio+ to be used as the center speaker for a home audio system – a nice compromise for folks who've already invested heavily in their AV setup. 

Like the Sony A1E OLED that preceded it, the A9F screen leans back slightly on its picture frame-type stand. This allows the screen to appear free from any stand with a minimal bezel all around, though, if you prefer, the TV can be hung on the wall as well.

Early verdict

Both TVs have a lot to offer. The Z9F is taking on some of the biggest limitations of LCD TVs that AV enthusiasts have struggled with for years, while the A9F looks set to take OLED's audio closer on par with its video skills. Both screens come with remotes with microphones and include Android TV with hands-free Google Assistant help ... whether you find that a feature or a potential sore spot is up to you.  

All said, it was hard to find anything that Sony didn’t address with these beautiful displays. The Z9F LCD, available in 65-inch and 75-inch sizes, could be the next reigning king of LCDs while the A9F OLED, offered in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, looks to continue Sony's dominance in the OLED arena.

...but we better test them in our own homes just to be sure.

Linda Moskowitz

Linda Moskowitz is a Freelance Writer at Formerly at Consumer Reports & Tech50+