|Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Thursday, 01 February 2007|
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I know this section is usually titled music and movies, but since this player oddly doesn’t recognize CDs, I’ve opted to go straight to movies. I started off with the included disc, The Fifth Element. I now own four copies of this disc, one standard DVD, one Superbit version, the Blu-ray disc version that I bought when I got the Samsung BDP-1000, and now I have a free copy with my new Sony BDP-S1. It seemed a logical first movie, as I could cue it up in multiple players simultaneously and compare them all quickly. To give the DVD its best chance, I used the Superbit version. I cued it up in my Meridian G98 and put the Blu-ray versions in my Samsung BDP-1000 and the Sony BDP-S1. Going back and forth, it quickly became apparent which one was the video winner. The Sony player had far more detail and an overall more realistic and three-dimensional image than either of the other two. The Meridian DVD player upsampling to 1080p looked almost as good as the Samsung Blu-ray player, only beaten out by some distinction of fine details, but on the Sony, the detail was inspiring. During the famed aria scene, the Sony clearly displayed each fleck of glitter on the diva’s face, and the texture of her outfit was spectacular. You could easily see the definition of the wrinkles in her lips and the sides of her face. The texture of the apparently alligator leather on the case that was supposed to house the four stones was unbelievable, and color saturation was rich and lush. You could even perceive the wood grain around the door of the diva’s room. I saw more detail on the Sony than I have ever seen before in this film, and more than I ever knew could be seen at home. I could even see the threads in the actors’ clothing, while on the Samsung Blu-ray player, I only got a hint of it. Throughout this movie, surround effects and the sound in general were excellent, easily rivaling any DVD player I’ve heard in this price range.
I have long used XXX (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) as a demo disc. The opening scene is a favorite of mine and has a great test of surround sound as the arrow flies from the left rear to front center of your room. The first time I played this scene with the Sony BDP-S1, it made me stand at attention. I did see a bit of grain in this film, but the fine detail I noticed in The Fifth Element was present here, amazing and then some. When Xander woke up in the diner, the close-up of his arm was so detailed I could tell the tattoos are drawn on, and when Gibbons clapped, the rocks behind him were so crisp and clear they seemed to be actually in front of me, while the divots in his face where almost scary. The detail in the pans through Prague astounded me; again, they were so clear it was as though I was there, looking at them in real life. I compared this disc through both the Samsung Blu-ray player and the Sony. Again, the Sony won. In the opera house, the Sony showed each speck of dust surrounding Gibbons’ head with a three-dimensionality I’ve never witnessed in a home theater before. The Samsung was better than the DVD version, but lacked the distinction of the Sony. I tried the Superbit version of this film in the Sony to test its upconversion and it did a great job, though it lacked the finer details and was a significant step down from the Blu-ray version in the Sony, adding more grain and motion artifacts, as well as having a slight issue with edge detail. The bolts of electricity in Yorgi’s second club had an amazing flare to them on the unconverted version of the Superbit disc. Eight months ago, I would have been amazed, but I had just watched the Blu-ray version first, and though it was excellent, it now left me under-impressed. However, the Blu-ray version of this scene is truly awe-inspiring.
I wanted to see how good Blu-ray could really look. So far, it seemed I was limited by the quality of software, which ranged from good to unbelievable. I opted next for X-Men 3: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment). I figured that as it was a newer film, it should have the finest image, and I was right. Gone was the grain I found in my first two films, and present was even more clarity and detail. The shots of the outside of Xavier University were absolutely stunning. I have never seen a better image than with the exterior shots, which showed rich greens, purples and whites, with fine distinction on all the plants and vines. The stones of the buildings exhibited a palpable texture. During the scene when Scott goes to the lake to meet Jean Grey, you can see every stitch in his leather jacket and every whisker on his unshaven face. The scene in Jean’s house is truly off the charts, showing lightning-fast action and unbelievable detail without falter. I cannot say enough good things about the film reproduction of this player. The image quality was stunning, from the texture of the roads and skin of the actors to ultra-fast motion, rich colors and excellent black levels with the smoothest motion I have ever seen, seeming not to suffer from any motion artifacts whatsoever.