Product Review (November 2001)
Sony DVP-S9000ES

By Kevin Nakano


Sony has traditionally introduced new technology with a bang. Their first DVD player, the DVP-S7000, was considerably better than the competition with its smooth scan capability, excellent down-conversion for 4:3 displays and component video outputs. Having been an owner of this DVD player, my expectations were high when Sony announced the introduction of their new DVP-S9000ES DVD/SACD player. The performance on the earlier DVP-S7000 was clearly ahead of its time as was the DVP-S7700. This along with the acceptance of the first and second-generation Super-Audio CD players by audiophiles, made the DVP-S9000ES one of the most anticipated DVD player to hit the market. We were curious to check out the first ES designated DVD player offered by Sony.


Build Quality
The construction of the DVP-S9000ES is well above average with a heavy build and solid feel. At over 27 pounds, the unit is one of the best-built DVD players we've seen. It reminded me of the Panasonic DVD-H1000 we looked at several months ago. The face is made from a solid piece of aluminum giving it a high quality look. The rear panel is firmly in place making connections easy with no flexing of the back panel unlike many currently available mainstream units. The transport is quite and smooth and the tray is very thin. The aesthetic value of this DVD/SACD player is quite evident with the blue diamond-shaped LED at the top center of the unit. However, the blue is quite noticeable and is best turned off while watching movies. Yes, they do allow you to do this. The buttons on the front panel are not the tactile style, but rather capacitive sensing type switches. This take some getting use to since they don't actually move when touched. There is visual feedback provided by the illumination up the perimeter of the pressed button.The rear panel of the DVP-S9000ES has two sets of audio outputs with the left and right connectors spaced apart to allow room for high-end cables. Both optical (toslink) and coaxial digital outputs are provided. The component video output format is configurable (interlaced, progressive, or selectable) with the 3-position switch on the rear of the unit. A pair of composite video outputs as well as a single s-video output is provided. As with pretty much all Sony products, an S-Link jack is designed into the unit.


The Guts
Sony uses R-core transformers to help minimize hum and noise in the DVP-S9000ES. Audiophile grade parts are used throughout the unit to maximize sound quality. Sony has incorporated what they call Precision Cinema Detection in the DVP-S9000ES. This includes several processing features. The first is a very accurate film detection circuit that works in conjunction with the First Field Repeat Flags (FFRFs). Sony put a dedicated processor in the DVP-S9000ES for motion detection in the event the FFRFs are irregular or missing. This is critical in maintaining a good stable picture at all times even when the FFRF become unreliable, as we have seen on some DVDs. The 3-2 reverse telecine capability of this machine ensures the best reproduction of film-based material on a 480p display. As with most high-end progressive scan players, the DVP-S9000ES uses different algorithms for video and film based material. Utilizing the Genesis Microchip for de-interlacing, the DVP-S9000ES shares many attributes (good and bad) with other DVD players utilizing this chipset. They do appear to have tweaked the parameters to get the best performance. Several motion adaptive processing techniques take place in this unit. The field noise reduction, block noise reduction and clear frame still images all take advantage of this motion sensitive processing. The DVP-S9000ES incorporates some pretty sophisticated still frame processing. Rather than showing a single field with interpolation during a pause or alternatively a full frame with possible motion artifacts from the two fields taken at different times, the DVP-S9000ES combines the best of both techniques. By taking the parts of the image that are not changing between the two fields and interpolating the parts that do have motion, the best still picture can be produced. Sony refers to this technology as the Clear Frame system. A gamma correction menu is available to re-map the gray levels of the video. While most users will probably not use this feature, it does provide a way to change the gamma to match the characteristics of different displays. Layer switching on dual-layer discs did not appear any faster than what we have seen on most DVD players currently available. Progressive video is processed by the latest Analog Devices ADV7196 video encoder. This new device is capable of running at 2 times over-sampling or 54MHz. According to Sony, the progressive processing in this unit utilizes a 12-bit DAC for the luminance (Y) signal while the color components use 11-bit DACs. However, I could not confirm that a 12-bit DAC used for the Y component actually exists in the ADV7196. Interlaced video is processed by the Analog Devices ADV7190 video encoder, which uses six 10-bit video DACs. Three DACs are used by the interlaced component video output and the remaining three DACs are used for the s-video and composite video outputs.


Performance
First we started with the SACD performance using a couple of sample discs Sony provided us. The ultra smooth and detailed quality of the SACD format came to life with the DVP-S9000ES. To minimize low-level noise in a product that combines video with high resolution audio, Sony gives the user the option of turning the video circuitry off to further lower the noise floor. We listened to Rebecca Pidgeon's SACD from Chesky Records and found Spanish Harlem to exhibit the incredibly clean and detailed sound this format is known for. Bass was tight and articulate, midrange was slightly forward, but amazingly warm and the highs were detailed and free of any harshness. Unfortunately, the DVP-S9000ES is not capable of decoding the more recent multi-channel SACD discs that are currently available in limited releases.

Video was very sharp with the resolution patterns we used on this player, revealing the best detail DVD has to offer consumers. Colors looked accurate and motion artifacts were minimal thanks to the 3-2 pull-down processing performed on film-based material. Video noise was low and revealed excellent picture quality even during dark scenes. Even the interlaced output looked impressive on this unit, though using it defeats the purpose of having a progressive scan player.

Sony has achieved new reference levels with the DVP-S9000ES. While both the DVP-S7000 and DVP-S7700 were considered excellent players, the DVP-S9000ES has raised the bar once again with the addition of SACD compatibility. The SACD audio performance as well as the progressive scan capabilities of this machine is truly reference quality. Construction is excellent and better than their previous reference DVD players. The picture was as sharp as we have seen from any progressive DVD player. Although the price may seem a little steep for a DVD player, you'll not find a higher quality unit with SACD capabilities in this price range. Furthermore, both the audio and video performance of the DVP-S9000ES is far from mainstream.

- Kevin Nakano

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Review System

Display - Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD 58-inch HD-Ready TV (ISF calibrated)
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Front Speakers - Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers - Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer - Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments - Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Audio Analyzer - Sencore SP295 Audio Analyzer


Review - At a Glance


Sony DVP-S9000ES

Progressive Scan DVD and SACD Player


Video

  • 480p output with Precision Cinema Detection.
  • High accuracy motion detection (for film) with FFRF.
  • Full 3-2 reverse telecine for film-based DVDs.
  • Motion Adaptive Field Noise Reduction.
  • Motion Adaptive Block Noise Reduction.
  • Motion Adaptive Clear Frame Still Image.
  • High Precision Video Equalizer.
  • Graphical gamma adjustment.
  • Custom Memory/Playback Memory.
  • Video Clock and Video Data Time Base Correction.
  • 54MHz Progressive-Scan Video D/A Converter.
  • Optimized Video Filters.
  • High-Speed Video Buffers.
  • DC-Coupled Outputs.
  • Wide Pitch Component Out Jacks.

    Audio

  • 24-bit/96KHz Digital Output.
  • 24-bit/96KHz Current Pulse D/A Converter.
  • VC 24 Plus Digital Filter.
  • Two Audio Master Clocks.
  • Audio Direct Output.
  • Separate Audio Circuit Board.
  • Twin R-Core Power Transformers.
  • Multiple Power Supply Secondaries.
  • Audiophile Parts.

    Super Audio Compact Disc

  • Plays Back Super Audio CD (SACD) Software.
  • Direct Stream Digital 1-Bit Coding.
  • Sample Rate of 2,822,400 Hz.
  • Accurate Complementary Pulse Density Modulation (ACP) Stage.
  • Separate CD and SACD Low-Pass Filters.

    Construction

  • Precision Drive FX Mechanism with Dynamic Focus Pickup and Tilt Mechanism.
  • Copper-Plated Frame and Beam Chassis.
  • Off Center Isolator Feet.
  • Hermetic Shutter.
  • BMC Mechanical Deck.
  • Mechanical Deck Isolators .
  • Aluminum Front Panel.
  • High-Speed, High-Precision Servo DSP.

    Company Information
    Sony Corporation
    One Sony Drive
    Park Ridge, NJ 07656

    Source: Manufacture loan
    MSRP: $1500
    Size: 15-5/8" x 17" x 5" (LxWxH)
    Weight: 27 pounds, 12 ounces
    Warranty: 2 year parts and labor

    URL: www.sel.sony.com

Warranty: 1 Year


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