Blu-ray Players

Sony BDP-S570 Universal Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

Once playing, however, the BDP-S570 was a great performer in my testing. One of the first things I noticed after starting up the film was that the player is extremely quiet. Of course, any Blu-ray player is quiet compared to the PS3, which I am used to, but even so, I could not hear any motors or fans whirring during the movie. The video was smooth and glitch free. There are plenty of dark scenes in Angels & Demons, and I didn’t feel like the player had any problem with shadow detail or contrast. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio track came through beautifully. In the scene where Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra are searching the first chapel, you hear a bird flutter by from the rear left channel. I was particularly taken aback by this simple effect because the detail and clarity was so crisp that it sounded ultra-realistic. The Hans Zimmer score sounded magnificent as well.

Speaking of high resolution audio, I had a somewhat difficult time figuring out whether the BDP-S570 could output those tracks as bitstream over HDMI or whether it down-converted them to PCM. There is no easily identifiable menu item that says “bitstream” or “PCM”. So, feeling somewhat ashamed of myself, I consulted the manual and instantly found that the menu item is titled “BD Audio Mix” and the choices are “on” or “off”. When set to “off” the audio is not down-mixed, and thus, the full DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD signal is output through HDMI, allowing your capable receiver to perform the decoding.

Next, I watched Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore’s latest documentary taking on big business. Whether you agree with Moore’s point of view or not, his films are pretty entertaining in the way they present his argument. In this film, there is a lot of archival film and video clips. I was really able to tell the difference in quality between the two. If preserved properly, film ages much better than video, and it was night and day here due to the clarity of the high resolution transfer.

One complaint I had about the player is that when you stop a Blu-ray disc and return to the Home screen, it does not pick back up where you left off. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you accidentally hit the stop button. I am not sure if this is a disc or player limitation, but I did see this behavior with more than one disc. It seems to me that this is a step backwards from how DVDs are typically handled by almost every DVD player.

One question many buyers will start asking this year is whether the Blu-ray player is capable of 3D playback, as this seems all the rage these days. The current software on the BDP-S570 does not allow for this functionality, however, it will be added with the aforementioned firmware update, literally bringing a whole new dimension to the product (yes, I had to fit that in). Having demoed 3D HDTV in the store, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how good it looks. Sure, it is sort of a novelty right now, but as more and more theatrical releases are done in 3D, and the Blu-ray library of these 3D titles expands, it will be very nice to have a setup that is capable of 3D playback. I think Sony has added substantial value to this product by providing this free update.

In addition to being able to play Blu-ray discs and standard DVDs, the BDP-S570 also plays Super Audio CDs. Admittedly, the number of consumers that own SACDs makes up a small fraction of the market, so it is great to see that Sony is still actively supporting it. The BDP-S570 can output the bitstream DSD multichannel audio over HDMI to a compatible receiver, which is how I configured it. This is an improvement over both my SCD-CE775 changer (which didn’t have a digital output for the high resolution audio track) as well as my Sony Playstation 3, which converts the audio to PCM before sending it via HDMI to my receiver (technically this method can have the same overall fidelity, but it is nice to let my receiver take on the task of decoding the DSD stream). Of course, the high fidelity of the sound was evident. I tested with my two favorite SACDs, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out, both multichannel discs. They are as wonderful as ever. The mixture of music and sound effects of Pink Floyd enveloped me with the feeling of a superbly engineered recording. And of course, every time I hear the super-high fidelity of Time Out I feel like I am actually right in the studio with the band.

The BDP-S570 can also play music, videos, and display pictures that are stored on a USB mass storage device, such as a flash drive or hard drive. There are, of course, some limitations with regards to the codecs/formats that are supported, but you can obtain that compatibility information on page 33 of the manual (http://www.docs.sony.com/release/BDPS570.pdf).

Remote Control

The remote control that ships with the BDP-S570 is of standard fare. It’s comfortable in the hand and has a decent button layout. This remote should include backlit (or at least glow-in-the-dark) keys and it doesn’t’ but the main navigation buttons are at least identifiable in the dark. In addition to your typical functions, there is a home button between the navigation keys and the transport keys. This is a useful key as it will take you to the XMB menu from any current task. This makes it very simple to get from, say, music listening to watching a Netflix film without pressing a lot of keystrokes. Still, as I have said in past reviews, the source component remotes are becoming more Spartan as universal remotes become more prevalent. It just doesn’t pay to make the stock remotes overly complex.

However, for those of you with iPod Touches, iPhones, or even iPads (which statistically should be a good portion of this readership) there is an even cooler alternative. Sony has developed an iPhone OS application, freely available in the Apple App Store, dubbed “BD Remote”. As you no doubt have inferred from the title, this application turns your iDevice into a fully functional remote control for the BDP-S570, provided that the player and iDevice are on the same network. At first, I figured that this functionality would be, to some degree, a gimmick to help differentiate and sell more players (who wouldn’t think it is cool to use your phone to control your Blu-ray player?). Still, it had me intrigued and excited to try it out.

I must say, I was pretty impressed with the BD Remote application. There are two control methods in the application. First, there is what they call the “simple remote”, which is really just a touchpad that allows you to navigate intuitively with swipes and taps. You swipe in a direction to move the through the menus on screen, and you tap anywhere on the screen to input a “select” action.

Then, there is what they call the “Full Remote” which is a full representation of the buttons on the physical remote control. They are broken down into different pages to which you get by swiping left and right. The controls are separated into these pages in a very logical way, including transport controls, numeric keys, directional keys, and the color keys.

That would be a pretty decent offering on its own, but Sony also added a page called “Disc Info” which is pretty neat. Remember, the BDP-S570 already has the ability to pull down information on a Blu-ray, DVD, or CD from Gracenote. This page in the application simply pulls that information directly to the iDevice. So, for a film, you can see the cover art, basic film information, synopsis, and some cast and crew information. Furthermore, you can actually tap these listings and it links you to a YouTube search of that person. While this is a pretty nice feature, it would be a lot better if it linked to the IMDB or something like that rather than YouTube. Perhaps in future versions of the application, they could add the ability to customize the search engine (hint, hint Sony…).

Accordingly, for a CD, you get the album information, cover art, and track listing, and can again tap on any of these things to get that YouTube search.

All in all, I ended up realizing that this is far from a gimmick feature that you would use for a short time and then get bored with it. Instead, Sony has created a fabulous application that I hope continues to develop. The control mechanism on the iDevice is great, and as a side benefit, it eliminates the problem of not having a backlit remote. In addition, being able to quickly pull up the cast of a film while it plays in front of you is great when you get that “I know I have seen that girl in a film before…” itch. This turned out to be one of my favorite things about this player.