Sony SACD/DVD Combo Player

Aiming at the high end audio and video market (read: people who are serious about their home entertainment and have the wallet to match), Sony Corp. is about to launch a new combination optical disc player that supports both DVD-Video and the company's new Super Audio CD format (SACD).

The DVP-S9000ES is the first device to combine a high end player for both formats.

On the DVD-Video side, the machine is the first from Sony to incorporate a new MPEG Image Processor. The noise reduction technology used in the player was designed for use with MPEG digital video, unlike previous machines which used processors primarily designed for analog systems, said Sony. It also includes a filter that helps to eliminate some of the "block noise" problems sometimes encountered on digital video signals, such as those from DVD.

Sony is also employing a disc tracking mechanism more advanced than those found on most optical disc players. The system moves the CD and not the laser to ensure better tracking and fewer errors and is usually found on high-end models. It also means disc access is faster, according to the company.

For users in areas of the world that use the NTSC video system (mainly Japan and North America), the system can provide a progressive scan output, which reduces screen flicker, assuming the user also has a suitable television.

On the SACD side of the machine, the DVP-9000ES incorporates the same audio processing circuitry as Sony's original, and much more expensive, Super Audio CD players. Like those machines, it incorporates a system called direct stream digital (DSD), which samples music at a very high rate and converts into a 1-bit digital signal -- a process which Sony says provides an extremely accurate reproduction of the original analog waveform and much better than a conventional compact disc.

A special feature of the product is that the audio and video circuitry are powered separately. This means that it's possible to switch off power to all non-audio portions of the player, cutting down any possible interference to a minimum and further enhancing the sound from the system -- for "ultimate audio playback," as Sony describes it. While the difference this makes is unlikely to be noticeable to most users, the feature could prove an attractive point to true audiophiles, the likely purchasers of this machine given its high price.

Model Name: DVP-S9000ES

Manufacturer: Sony Corp.

Price: 200,000 yen (US$1,871) in Japan, 3,499DM in GermanyAvailability: October in Japan and Europe. Plans for other markets are not yet decided.

(Editors: High resolution images to accompany this story are available now on the IDG News Service Image Bank through Lotus Notes or http://www.idgns.com/.

For comments on this column please send e-mail to martyn_williams@idg.com.)

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