|Sony BDP-S560 Blu-ray Player Review|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Thomas Spurlin|
|Wednesday, 28 October 2009|
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After selecting the Video icon, a handful of varied yet fairly standard adjustments can be made. Along with tweaking the TV Type (16x9, 4x3) and Screen Format for signals not in the TV’s aspect ratio – which was toggled to Fixed Aspect Ratio instead of Original, since the latter stretches 4x3 material and makes non-16x9 zoom unavailable – adjustments can also be made to DVD Aspect Ratio for 16x9 content on a 4x3 television (Letterbox, Pan and Scan), Output Video Format (same as Easy Setup functions), BD-ROM functionality, and 1080/24p output. Under more complex video adjustments, we also have access to tweaking YCbCr/RGB color space over HDMI (YCbCr in both 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 varieties, RGB in 16-235 and 0-255), Deep Color Output (Auto, 12bit, 10bit, Off), and x.v.Color Output (Auto, Off). Most points were left set at the Auto setting, though the functions underneath do allow adjustment in case of unnatural color or the like.
Underneath the Audio icon, the sound output can also be shaped– once again, just to minor but important degrees. Along with setting the Audio Output Priority (HDMI, Digital, Stereo) and setting the Audio output over HDMI (Audio, 2-channel), the BD Audio setting allows for interchange between Direct and Mix. Mix must be selected in order to enable internal decoding, while Direct – the function more extensively concentrated on here – controls streaming the raw audio directly to the receiver. After that, we’ve also got Audio ATT toggle, Dolby Digital adjustment between 5.1 and Downmixed PCM, DTS adjustment in the same fashion, 48-96khz toggle, Audio DRC (Standard, TV More, Wide Range), and Downmixing properties to either Dolby Surround or Normal.
A few icons down lies the Internet Settings function, which allows for either Wired or Wireless interconnectivity with the player. Sony’s player makes the process pretty simple again, asking what type of connection desired (Wired/Wireless) and the method of Wireless LAN setting (including Access Point scan to streamline the selection process). After it searches, any local networks will pop up in a scrolling menu – which, then, the right option should be selected and a passkey can be entered, if the security level is that high. After that, it cycles through the rest of the elements – Acquisition of IP address, DNS setting, and Use of Proxy Server. Following this, a Network Diagnostics test can be run to verify the options selected. Signals are picked up extremely easy through the access point scan, making the process a relative breeze in activating BD-Live and conducting a System Update.
To keep with the theme of October, Sony’s BDP-S560 was put through a series of seasonal Blu-ray discs and DVDs matching the mood – ranging from blisteringly loud sound mixing and visual delights to subtle treats to create atmosphere. Sony’s S560 was certainly up to task at all bends around the road, rendering respectable high-definition quality at 1080/24p and upscaling DVDs to extremely pleasant degrees. Though not quite a pristine or depth-conscious as more costly models – and maybe a hair behind the PS3 – it still performed exceptionally well.
First up in the player was Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, presented from Universal in a 2.35:1 AVC image and a DTS HD Master Audio that’ll really push the limits of a home theater build. It’s a robust horror feature with a myriad of fine details, richly used shades of subdued yet compelling shades, and a broad range of movement. Sony’s S560 handles all of these elements exceptionally well, rendering details like the pattern in Christine’s shirt, tree leaves, and the rather bold textures used in the gruesome CG-effects with tight precision. Though a strong visual treatment, Drag Me to Hell’s prowess really comes in the signature Sam Raimi-style of lavish sound design through the Master Audio track – which is a blisteringly potent experience. Surround elements, like invisible monsters swirling in the background and aggressive wind blowing, fills the rear channels with expansive fluidity, while the lower frequency channel pounds with graceful, rightly-balanced mid-range and lower punches.
To give a harsher disc a chance to work its magic in Sony’s player, Takashi Miike’s Audition was tossed in the machine. Presented from Shot Factory in a greatly-improved but still difficult 1080p AVC image and a delicate Dolby TrueHD/DTS Mater Audio track, it showcases how low-cost content can be handled extremely well in high-definition. The S560 handled it with aplomb, yet the sharpness was a little softer, the colors a little less stable, and the grain a bit heavier than in other players. With that said, Sony’s unit still took the disc to task, presenting a very pleasing image that retained crisp lines and a handful of impressively etched details – like a pan of acupuncture needles and the detailing in Asami’s apartment. The TrueHD track, however, echoes with brilliant breadth, from the harsh ringing of a telephone in Asami’s place to the bloodcurdling effects that occur during the picture’s climax.
Next up was a more subdued, controlled color palette in Momentum’s UK Import of Let the Right One In, offered at 2.35:1 and with a legacy DTS track as the sound function. Sporting mostly cold blues with only a few flickers of louder colors through the crisp photography, just about every detail was exceptionally sharp and handled potently. Motion rendered a flowing disposition, while the solidity of contrast and coloring were rather impressive – though the overall contrast leans towards being minutely lighter than others. The DTS legacy track filled the speakers with delicate sound throughout, being a more subtle-minded horror film with little in the way of punch or bombast. It does retain ambiance well, showcasing the S560’s ability to handle a high-quality (core) legacy track to high standards.
Finally and possibly a diversion from the theme just a bit, it was time to give Warner Bros’ immaculately-constructed Wizard of Oz Blu-ray a spin. Rebuilt from the ground up with a new, correctly restored transfer from the original Technicolor elements, it’s a stunner in high-definition – and Sony’s Blu-ray player does a tremendous job in replicating this quality. Minor elements could have been a bit tighter (with a few stronger lines), but all of the textured elements – the waffle print in Dorothy’s dress during the sepia scenes, the sheen against the plasticized leaves when she enters the world of color, and the astounding rich set design – looked impressively detailed and densely colorful. More importantly, the grain structure looked rather strong, retaining a very tight and pleasing veil of film presence about the picture. The TrueHD track exhibited a proper richness as well, maintaining a well-executed balance throughout.
Operating the BD-Live functionality was made a lot easier by putting the responsive wireless connection to work within the unit, though it comes at the expense of a lack of internal memory. In order to access these features, a 1.0 GB memory stick must be inserted to the rear of the unit (the expansion USB port mentioned earlier). This is a shame, considering that the like-priced PS3 has an extensive hard-drive for this purpose and many other step-up units have at least 1 GB of internal memory for this purpose. Once that’s been taken care of, everything operates as normal – as tested with Warner Bros’ copy of The Matrix on Blu-ray with its In-Movie Experience. This player can’t register BonusView material while in Direct (Bitstream) Audio mode, just like many others; however, hopping out of the film and activating the function is pretty quick underneath Sony’s framework. Hitting the Home button on the remote takes us out of the film and into the XMB, where the audio function can be toggled from Direct to Mix quickly. You will, however, have to start from the beginning of the film. Furthermore, the BD-Live online function also worked well, as tested by Sony’s presentation of the live-action Blood: The Last Vampire. It took quite a while for the information to pop up, but it eventually opens the gateway up to trailers and other downloads available on the site.
Sony’s BDP-S560 is a verified Region-A locked Blu-ray player, as tested by a Region-B locked copy of The Fountain. Fox’s Blu-ray booted up, only to show the rejection screen stating that the disc should be placed in a Region-B machine. This player also cannot handle PAL-encoded material, as giving the interview footage on the UK Blu-ray of Ashes of Time wasn’t successful – not even sound.