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Sony announces its first 4K Blu-ray disc player

by on15 September 2016

Only available through Sony AV dealers and installers

This week at Sony’s annual Cedia 2016 press briefing in Dallas, Texas, the company announced its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player, the UBP-X1000ES. Unfortunately, the device will only be available through Sony’s authorized custom installation dealerships.

Sony’s new X1000ES is capable of both playing Ultra HD Blu-ray as well as streaming 4K video over various online content providers, similar to its recently announced PlayStation 4 Pro console. It closely resembles the UHP-H1 1080p Blu-ray player that was released earlier this year, although that device only supported upscaling to 4K rather than native content playback.

Just like Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 and DMP-UB90, the X1000ES includes two HDMI outputs for separate video and audio signals. Other ports include Ethernet, coaxial audio output, optical audio output and analog RCA audio outputs. Sony’s disc player, however, does not offer THX certification like Panasonic’s UB900, although it can be noted that its premium ES-series AV receivers do not carry THX certification as well.

4K HDR playback is determined using algorithms

Sony has developed custom algorithms for determining how HDR content is processed on different display resolutions. For example, when playing 4K HDR content on a non-HDR 4K display, the device will use proprietary algorithms to reproduce appropriate scene-by-scene brightness levels and color gradations, similar to what Dolby is doing with its HDR format.

It appears there is a dedicated picture mode for HDR content to make this possible. More broadly, however, we are interested in how these algorithms compare with the object-based HDR remastering technology found in its 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme, a chip used in the latest XBR Z9D Series UHDTV lineup.

32-bit DAC with LPCM 192KHz

The X1000ES also features a 32-bit digital-to-analog converter supporting up to LPCM at 192KHz and native DSD at 11.2MHz, DVD-Audio, SACD playback, and high resolution music files. If the UHP-1H 1080p disc player is any reference, the 4K player may also include DSEE-HX technology that upscales CDs, MP3s and other audio files to 24-bit 96KHz resolution, although this has yet to be confirmed.

Only available through Sony authorized custom AV installers

Similar to other Sony “ES” series components, the X1000ES is designed for custom home theater installations and will only be available only from custom installers, rather than in retail stores. This is likely the most disappointing aspect of this announcement, considering the company just announced an upgraded 4K-capable PlayStation console earlier this week including everything but a 4K Blu-ray disc drive unit for early adopters.

While the X1000ES will not become available to authorized installers until next Spring, it is expected to have a premium price tag suited towards the top-tier AV home theater market. Sony did promise earlier this year to offer standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray disc players to consumers by the end of its next fiscal year, which is in March 2017. While the company's Ultra HD disc strategy is not clear at the moment, we hope this release timeframe also includes Ultra HD Blu-ray player announcements suited toward wider retail markets as well. Otherwise, the company may end up with marketshare losses that could have been avoidable.

There are currently only four companies offering disc-based Ultra HD players in the market – Samsung, Philips, Oppo and Panasonic. Having Sony onboard would only guarantee price drops likely to benefit the majority of consumers while giving the disc format the recognition it needs for higher adoption rates.

Last modified on 06 October 2016
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