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Sony KDL-46Z4100 LCD HDTV  Print E-mail
Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs
Written by Tom Volotta   
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Article Index
Sony KDL-46Z4100 LCD HDTV 
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Sound

Sony usually delivers good quality sound in their TVs, but would only score the 46Z4100 as average.  It has the standard assortment of audio inputs and outputs, along with sound quality adjustments through the XMB interface are available.  Sound settings in particular are sensitive to individual hearing limitations, sonic preferences and the effect of the listening environment.  You should be able to find a reasonably happy medium by adjusting bass and treble, applying different dynamic enhancement or boosters and surround options.  Singling out a couple of specific settings, Voice Zoom was effective in accentuating voices, but was a little on the harsh side.  Sony’s artificial surround sound, S-Force Surround, has a bit too much of an delay echo and tinny effect for my ears.  Steady Sound’s attempt to even out the overall volume to reduce the sometimes-jolting increase on many commercials doesn’t help much in that regard.

It’s too bad such TV that originally retailed for $2,800 didn’t have a subwoofer output.  Adding even a small, powered subwoofer would help boost what is only an average sound system.

One final point - concerning listed features and their actual functions.  As with many other HDTVs, Sony’s KDL-46Z4100 can send 5.1 surround sound out of its optical digital audio jack.  Regrettably, the natural assumption that this feature routes surround sound from whatever input sources to the optical digital output, then on to external surround gear for processing is a common misconception.  

Because of licensing restrictions imposed by content holders, the only intact 5.1 surround that can be looped back through the optical digital out is that coming into the TV’s tuner.  Since the new High Definition audio formats (Dolby Digital Plus & True HD; and DTS-HD High Resolution & Master Audio) can only be transported over HDMI anyway, and neither optical nor coaxial S/PDIF is capable of carrying those formats, the notion of connecting your Blu-ray player to the TV via HDMI, then looping either the full blown, new HD formats, or even 5.1 DD/DTS digital surround sound to an AV receiver isn’t going to happen.  The best you’ll get with that path is down-conversion of whatever HDMI surround content is present as Dolby Pro-Logic LCRS encoded in two channels.

So, unless you connect your Blu-ray player directly to an AV receiver via HDMI (then pass-through HDMI video to the 46Z4100 for 1080p24), or if the BD player can decode the new HD surround formats to analog outputs (and the receiver can properly handle those signals), you’re not going to hear the latest and greatest.   Assuming you don’t have a Blu-ray player that has two HDMI AV outputs, and connect the player directly to the TV via HDMI, you’ll be running an optical or coaxial digital line from the BD player to the receiver, which will only yield 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS, not any of the HD surround formats.

They’re getting close, but TVs aren’t quite there yet to being a complete multimedia switching devices.

Picture Settings

The KDL-46Z4100 really does make nice pictures.  There are two levels to accomplishing this, one simple, the other requiring a bit more effort.  Today’s television sets are a far cry from the limited Brightness, Contrast and Color control dials of the past.  The Sony 46Z4100 has a dizzying array of settings not only for those, but all kinds of sub-categories like separate Red, Green and Blue values, Gamma (relative whiteness), Backlight (internal fluorescent light that boosts overall brightness of all the pixels), Color temperature, and on and on.  Just trying to get a good picture can be a chore, especially if you’re attempting this by simply watching your favorite show or movie as the reference.

Sony, like all other manufacturers, provides several preset AV profiles already stored into their TVs.  What you’re typically seeing at a large store selling walls of TVs is (in the case of Sony) the “VIVID” profile.  Although it’s possible to melt your eyeballs at the length of a football field, the actual purpose of this extreme setting is to counteract the horrid overhead fluorescent or other stark lighting in most of these stores, and to help make the set stand out amongst the crowd of other displays competing for your attention.   The concept is that you will perceive the brightest, most color saturated, eye-popping TV as the best one.

From the factory, Sony’s are set to VIVID, so when you first fire it up, you are assaulted with virtually every video enhancement control pegged to the max.  Other presets include, Standard, Cinema and Custom.  Each is designed to deliver certain content in a way more closely matching the input source (TV or DVD/Blu-ray) and whether that material is the local news, night football game or a movie with subtle lighting and shadows.  The complete range of customized AV settings can also be saved for each input, so you’ll be able to fine-tune Blu-ray content, DVRs, Game machines and television sources.  Even separate Cinema settings could be saved for your Blu-ray HDMI input and another Cinema with slightly different values for a component input.   

Picture Adjust



 
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