September 01, 2009
| by Grant Clauser
The gaping hole in the Blu-ray market has been the lack of a multidisc changer. Finally Sony has deposited two on the field, and the flagship BDP-CX7000ES comes from the company’s Elevated Standard line. It’s a 400-disc changer—Sony calls it a megachanger—equipped with a network connection that pulls disc art and title information from a database so you can scroll through your high-def collection with the ease of an iPod.
This isn’t Sony’s first Blu-ray megachanger. In 2007 the company launched the HES-V1000, a 200-disc player with a 500GB hard drive and network streaming capability. That $3,500 product didn’t last long in Sony’s catalog, though, and the company hasn’t come out with an upgraded version yet.
So why a megachanger anyway? Aren’t we so past discs? That depends on what you value for the home theater. Currently there are several media servers, downloaders and streamers that can provide you with an endless parade of high-definition video. But if you compare the quality of streamed or downloaded content to that from a 1080p Blu-ray disc you’ll wonder how the other stuff gets away with calling itself high definition. And streamed movies don’t come with actor commentaries, deleted scenes and silly games.
Because it’s part of Sony’s ES line, the company packed it with high-end processing specs, yet it left out some of the fun features you see in a few of the more plebian BD players (see sidebar for the Cons). On the video side, it upscales 480 resolution DVDs to 1080p and outputs them through HDMI. Rather than just let BD movies slide though in their native glory, it also greases them with something Sony calls Super Bit Mapping, which turns 8-bit video content into 14-bit content in an effort to smooth surfaces.
For audio, the player can handle all the current formats (DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD) and send their bitstreams flowing out via HDMI. You can also take advantage of analog 7.1 jacks or the digital optical/coax outputs if your preamp or receiver is a pre-HDMI vintage. Under the hood there’s a 192kHz/24bit digital-to-analog converter.
The megachanger includes both an RS-232 port and an IR port on the back panel allowing connection to control systems. The 31-pound monolith is almost 9.5 inches high—that’s three times the size of a standard DVD player—so expect it to take up as much room in an equipment rack as a big receiver.
Setting up this dishwasher is pleasantly simple for such a high-end unit. I just ran one HDMI cable from the player to my Onkyo receiver, then connected an Ethernet cable from my nearby router to the Sony, plugged it in and turned it on.
The player is no speed demon when it comes to booting up, but it’s not terrible either. From a cold start it takes about 50 seconds for the home screen to come on. If you engage the quick start mode, the start time is cut down to about 25 seconds, but you may still hear the cooling fan when the player is in standby. If you only watch moves once or twice a week, you’re probably better off leaving the quick start mode off.
The player uses Sony’s Xross media bar on-screen guide for all system settings and for navigating your disc library. This is the same guide that originally showed up in the handheld PSP and the PS3 game systems. It’s an exceedingly user-friendly menu that allows fast, intuitive access to the player’s controls.
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.