With the recent proliferation of Dolby Vision content, Sony decided to release a new line of Ultra HD Blu-ray players this year, all supporting this high-performance HDR standard. The company's UBP-X1100ES, priced at $599, is their newest flagship player aimed towards the custom installation market. Compared to Sony's lower priced players, the X1100ES adds niceties like IP and RS-232C control and rack-mounting capabilities. The player also falls under the company's Elevated Standards (ES) product designation, generally reserved for the highest performing products in a given category. As such, the X1100ES comes with a generous three-year warranty.
Those familiar with Sony's Ultra HD Blu-ray players may confuse the X1100ES with Sony's UBP-X800M2, for understandable reasons. The chassis is reused here, but with the addition of several features that the X800M2 lacks. Sony has added an information screen on the front, and around back you'll find stereo RCA analog audio outputs, an optical S/PDIF digital audio output, a detachable AC power cord port and the aforementioned RS-232C and IR ports for system control. There's also, of course, the standard array of connections, including a single 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 port, legacy audio-only HDMI 1.4 port, coaxial S/PDIF digital audio port, a USB port, and a10/100Mbit LAN port.
Sony is marketing the X1100ES as "the ultimate disc drive," and it's easy to see why. The player supports just about every disc-based format available from the past two decades, including CD, SACD, DVD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray.
On top of this, Sony claims the X1100ES has the ability to "stream and play everything." That's mostly true as far as home network and USB-based file playback is concerned, as the player supports the vast majority of MPEG2 and MPEG4 encoded video formats in various commonly used containers, such as M2TS, MP4, and MKV. It also supports most of the current codecs such as HEVC/H.265 and VP9. For audio, playback of popular PCM-based formats such as FLAC, ALAC, MP3, and AAC are supported. It even supports DSD-based formats like DFF and DSF up to double-rate DSD.
App support on the X1100ES is fairly competitive against players from competing brands near its price point, but not competitive with Sony's own, less costly, players. I was a little surprised to see the X1100ES offers only Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, especially considering the company's far more affordable Sony UBP-X700 ($199) gives owners access to nearly ten more apps, including popular ones such as Hulu and Spotify. Hopefully a software update down the road will give X1100ES owners access to these apps.
You also have access to the player's UPnP/DLNA home network media player app, allowing you to send files to the player from a PC or server within your home as mentioned above. All of these apps support at least HDR10, with Dolby Vision supported as long as the app has access to such content.
For those who own a Sony Bravia series television, the X1100ES offers a special video processing mode designed specifically for these televisions. It's aptly named Bravia Mode and, despite what you may think, enabling this mode actually reduces the amount of video processing done within the player. Sony's philosophy is to do as little redundant processing as possible, or processing they know is of higher quality on their televisions, so Bravia owners get the best image quality possible with this specific combination of hardware. Things such as noise reduction and video upscaling are handled by the display instead of the player, where Sony deems a higher quality processing can be done instead. Though, it should be noted Bravia Mode doesn't work when playing back Dolby Vision or 3D video content.
The X1100ES supports detection and bitstreaming of both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos surround sound formats. Sony has also included their proprietary DSEE HX audio upscaling algorithm, which can be used to enhance any two-channel CD quality audio (44.1 kHz/16-bit) that's being decoded. This processing upsamples the audio to 96 kHz/24-bit and could be a good option to use for anyone pairing this player with an A/V receiver that lacks such processing or for those hooking up a two-channel amplifier directly to the analog audio outputs on the back of the player.
Another proprietary audio processing feature of the X1100ES is LDAC Bluetooth. This Sony-developed technology allows for three-times as much bandwidth compared to standard Bluetooth, allowing any high-resolution audio to remain high resolution, something regular Bluetooth can't do. The catch is that your Bluetooth speaker or receiver needs to have a compatible LDAC chip for this to work; otherwise you'll have to revert back to a regular Bluetooth connection.
Powering up the player, you'll see the user interface is straightforward and easy to use. You have direct access any disc currently loaded in the tray, streaming apps, or the player's menu system. Discs load lightning fast, as do all of the streaming apps themselves. The user interface within each of the streaming apps was fluid and fast-acting anytime I scrolled through the options of content to watch or if I needed to scrub through videos to find a particular spot to begin watching.
For those with a Dolby Vision compatible display, you'll need to go into the menu system and enable Dolby Vision mode, otherwise any Dolby Vision content will revert to the HDR10 base video. I had to learn this the hard way, not realizing why Dolby Vision content wasn't working properly with my LG B8 OLED television, which is Dolby Vision compatible. It should also be noted the X1100ES currently lacks the ability to auto-detect Dolby Vision encoded content on discs, so you'll need to manually disable this setting anytime you're playing a disc that's only HDR10, otherwise the player will incorrectly stay in Dolby Vision mode. Oddly enough, the X1100ES had no problems disabling Dolby Vision mode when playing back HDR10 content within the Amazon Prime app. It seems this shortcoming is limited to disc playback only.
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