We've been waiting for a Sony OLED TV for quite some time now, but we could never have expected the Bravia A1 Series. Announced at CES 2017, it was certainly one of the highlights of the show, bringing this TV technology to Sony in typical Sony style.
It has stunning pictures, Dolby Vision support, superthin form factor and other trademark traits of the imaging tech but none of them quite grabbed our attention as its audio capabilities. Rather than opt for an integrated or separate soundbar, like other manufacturers, the new Sony TV uses its own screen as a giant speaker. A technology the company calls Acoustic Surface.
It vibrates and therefore sends sound directly to your listening position. Amazing and bonkers in equal measure and instantly raising more questions than answers.
So many questions, in fact, that we've seen the TV for a second time. We knew the visuals were stunning from our first encounter - which we'll talk about a little more below, but let's address the elephant in the room first: sound.
Turning the screen into a speaker immediate begs the question of whether the vibration will downgrade the quality of the picture. In fact, it's difficult to imagine how picture quality can be maintained with audio vibration coming though the same panel. However, like some sort of witchcraft, standing in front front of the Bravia A1 in Sony Europe's headquarters, we were treated to an audio demo and given the chance to listen, watch and touch.
You can feel the screen vibrating, but you can't see it vibrating. Even at louder volumes, the visuals remain sharp, which is an impressive feat. Sitting behind the display are pairs of actuators. They are integrated into the design of the rear, positioned left and right behind the display. If you look at the back of the A1, aside from the massive subwoofer stand, there's a bar running across the back, which is where these embedded actuators live.
Impressively, offering left and right actuators means a stereo separation can be made, and the idea is that in dialogue you'll have a degree of separation between those who are talking. Flipping to the rearside, the stand isn't all subwoofer, but it is all mesh cover that looks like subwoofer.
Pull the cover off and you'll find that bass driver at the top and the connections at the bottom. These are designed to be hidden, as they are on the Sony Bravia ZD9 (which sits in parallel with the A1 as a flagship set for 2017), so you have a clean design, front and back for the A1 OLED TV.
Moving over to those visuals and it must be said that if Sony was waiting to perfect the tech before releasing its first consumer OLED television, it was well worth it. Colours are vibrant and sharp, while black levels are exactly as you'd expect on a TV of this type.
Sony has adopted its X1 Extreme processor and it does as good a job with pictures here as it did with the flagship ZD9 last year. There are quite simply awesome. The big difference here is around brightness. Sony's flagship LED TV, the Bravia ZD9, offers much greater brightness, so it is being pitched as the better TV for HDR - an HDR champion if you will.
The Bravia A1, then, is all about colour. It will supports all those HDR formats, like the regular HDR10, but adds Dolby Vision to the mix, and will also support HLG (the prospective broadcast standard for HDR), but the peak brightness isn't quite what you'll get on the ZD9.
This is a TV that's all about seamless design, it's all display, presented in a fuss-free way. It can be wall mounted, but using the kickstand on the rear will set it at a 6-degree leanback, designed to sit on a low table or TV stand and give you the perfect viewing angle when you're slumped on the sofa.
We're left impressed with everything that Sony Bravia A1 offers from the audio and visuals. The fact that it can belt out a soundtrack without distorting the picture remains impressive. This is a great looking TV and it will be coming in 55, 65 and 77-inch sizes. You can expect that 77-incher to be fiendishly expensive.
Prices, dates and availability are still to be confirmed.