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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Home Theater Review!
Sony BDP-S570 3D-Ready
Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player

A Budget, Screaming, Streaming BD Player


By Tom Jung

Sony was a little late joining the streaming movement, but they sure caught up to (and maybe even surpassed) many in the do-it-all Blu-ray player arena. Not only is the retail-priced $249 BDP-S570 a really good Blu-ray player, with fast load time and excellent 1080p picture quality, but it also has built-in (sans dongle) Wi-Fi for streaming and is 3D-ready with a future firmware update.

Features
The S570 is a feature-rich player that can handle just about any disc type including SACD, which is a format that is dear to my heart. Other disc formats supported are BD-ROM, BD-R, and BD-RE as well as DVD-ROM, DVD +/-RW, CD-ROM, CD-R/RW. Supported video file formats include MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, and AVCHD, and it will play MP3, AAC, WMA, and LPCM music files and display JPEG photo files.
Typical of low-cost BD players, the S570 sports HDMI-only multichannel playback of Dolby TruHD, DTS Master and SACD soundtracks. Dolby Digital and the lossy forms of DTS can also be accessed via the digital output jack.
The front panel is clean looking and pretty basic — with power, eject, play and stop buttons — and a USB port. HDMI, component and composite video outputs are located on the rear panel — along with both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs. Analog audio outputs are stereo-only, which is a bummer for those who do not have a receiver or pre-pro with the latest hi-res decoding engines but do have multichannel analog inputs. (At press time, Sony had no BD players available with multichannel audio output - Ed.)
A back-panel USB port and an Ethernet jack are also available for hardwiring the player to a network. And best of all, the BDP-S570 also supports Wi-Fi, thanks to its built-in 802.11a/b/g/n adapter.

At a street price of $215, the feature-rich Sony BDP-S570 is hard to beat for the money. With a 1080P picture (that rivals $1,000 players from just a couple of years ago) and its Wi-Fi streaming option, it is, indeed, a bargain.

Those familiar with the Xross Media Bar user-interface used on Sony's PlayStation-3 and Bravia HDTV will find it easy to navigate through the player's various menus. Upon powering up the player for the first time, an Easy Setup wizard guides you through the basic settings screens to get you up and running fairly quickly. More advanced adjustments can be made using the Setup page on the main menu, where you can tweak audio, make network adjustments, and perform general system settings. A network update option automatically searches for and installs firmware updates.

The audition
I used the HDMI output of the Sony player to feed an Integra DHC-9.9 preamp/processor. The HDMI output of the Integra was connected to my Epson PowerLite 1080p projector; the balanced-audio outputs fed six channels of Bel Canto e.One power amplifiers. Six SLS ribbon speakers, along with four SLS subwoofers completed the reference system.
The Blu-ray, Avatar, looked absolutely gorgeous in its video quality; the soundtrack is a masterpiece, as well, with incredible bass and excellent, clean surround and dialog, thanks to the Integra. Up-converted standard DVD’s looked as good as some Blu-ray discs I’ve seen; Netflix streaming in HD looked almost as good as up-converted DVD.
When listening to multichannel SACD, the DSD bitstream from the HDMI output decoded fine in the Integra. It would be nice to have discrete multichannel analog outputs, but it seems the lower price players with that feature are becoming increasingly rare. Just two years ago, there were plenty of $350 range BD players with good-performing, multichannel analog outputs. The multichannel analog output Sony BDP-S550, for example, was a highquality video/audio player for $350. However, today, with the lower-the-price pressures and the “let the receiver handle it” approach, low- and medium-cost BD players with analog multichannel outputs are scarce.

The verdict
At a street price of $215, the feature-rich Sony BDP-S570 is hard to beat for the money. With a 1080P picture (that rivals $1,000 players from just a couple of years ago) and its Wi-Fi streaming option, it is, indeed, a bargain. For more info, click Sony BDP-S570.

A professional audio engineer for almost 50 years (Sound 80, DMP Records), Tom Jung reviews home theater, audiophile and high-end recording gear for the Everything Audio Network. He tests products from his home studio in North Carolina. He can be reached via email at tjeverything.audio@verizon.net

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