Sony stumbles with Dolby Vision
There’s plenty to admire about Sony’s premium disc-spinner, but that doesn’t mean you’ll definitely want to own one warns Steve May
The deck apes the styling of Its X1000ES predecessor
IT’S BEGINNING TO look busy at the posh end of the UHD Blu-ray player market. Even as Panasonic and Pioneer jostle for high-end honours with their DP-UB9000 and UDP- LX500/800 models respectively, Sony has bustled back into the fray with a Dolby Vision update on its ES offering.
Feature wise, nothing much else is changed here compared to the previous X1000ES.
In addition to all the usual Blu-ray and DVD variants, the deck still handles Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio discs, and has hi-res audio support. Its 192kHz/32-bit DAC is compatible with native DSD (up to 11.2MHz), and other assorted file formats.
But while Dolby Vision is onboard, there’s still no support for HDR10+, which puts it at a distinct disadvantage against the premium player competition.
Beam me up
The design is minimalist, but Sony’s familiar Frame and Beam chassis enhances structural rigidity. A honeycomb top plate, heatsink and offset feet conspire to reduce unwanted vibration. You feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
Rear connections comprise two HDMI outputs, coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, an analogue stereo output, RS232-C jack for system control,
IR remote port and Ethernet.
High-end UHD Blu-ray player
Top-of-the-range model, positioned above UBP-XB00M2
Wireless functionality covers Bluetooth with LDAC support, and dual-band Wi-Fi. There’s also Bluetooth transmission for compatible wireless headphones.
And the player isn’t just about discs.
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are available from Sony’s home screen (all of which stream up to 4K) and there’s also networked and USB file playback. The UBP-X1100ES immediately recognised both my Twonky and Plex servers.
A drop-down flap conceals Sony’s disc loader, and it’s quite a speedy player.
My stock movie disc went from tray to menu In 40 seconds.
With 4K platters, the player delivers a superb, texturally accurate performance, Interpolating UHD with 4:4:4 subsampling to best match the capabilities of the connected display device. It also looks sublime with regular Blu-ray discs. When partnered with a non-HDR display there’s HDR to SDR conversion, down-mapping brightness and colour.
Unfortunately, the Dolby Vision Implementation Is a mess. The deck can’t automatically recognise a Dolby Vision encoded disc when it plays one. Confronted with Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Ultra HD Blu-ray (one of the few Disney DV-encoded titles), it merely reads the HDR10 static metadata. You have to manually switch on a Dolby Vision mode in the display menu for the X1100ES to read dynamic metadata.
Even worse, once Dolby Vision Is engaged, everything from the player is output with a Dolby Vision flag, be it an HDR10 disc or regular SDR Blu-ray, ‘up converted’ into a pseudo Dolby Vision signal by the player itself. If you want to play back content in its native format, then you’ll need to dive back into the menu to switch off the Dolby Vision output.
This is the same Dolby Vision implementation Sony eventually dropped onto the more affordable UBP-X700 a while back, so It’s disappointing that It hasn’t worked out how to do automatic switching in the interim, like its rivals.
Sonically, the player Is a star. The deck’s two-channel performance can rival any audiophile CD player at a similar price point, offering outstanding spatial presentation, and creating a clean, musical soundstage.
Launched in the wake of those Panasonic and Pioneer machines, the UBP-X1100ES is looking like a victim of circumstance.
It’s outgunned not so much in performance, but execution.
The requirement for manual Dolby Vision switching is clunky at best. It’s hard to imagine AV enthusiasts putting up with a faux Dolby Vision flag for non-DV content, let alone foregoing HDR10+ support.
This Is a shame, as disc playback Is inherently terrific, and it sounds great as a two-channel source
Poor Dolby Vision implementation and no HDR10+ playback take the shine off Sony's universal disc spinner.
4K: Yes HDR: Yes. HDR10; Dolby Vision MULTIREGION: No. Region B Blu-ray; R2 DVD HDMI: Yes. 1 x HDMI 2.0; 1 x HDMI 1.4 (audio-only) MULTICHANNEL ANALOGUE: No DIGITAL AUDIO: Yes. Digital optical audio and digital coaxial audio ETHERNET: Yes BUILT IN WI-FI: Yes SACD/DVD-A: Yes/Yes DIMENSIONS: 430(w) x 54(h) x 265(d)mm WEIGHT. 3.9kg
Bluetooth with LDAC; USB; iOS and Android app control; HDR-to-SDR converter; streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube (all 4K); DLNA media playback; AAC, ALAC, DSD, FLAC, WMA and more file playback