Sony UBP-X1000ES Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Will lightening strike twice for Sony's second UHD player?

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Our Verdict

Offering superb video and musicality, this high-end Sony is a star performer. But sans Dolby Vision, it seems feature-lite at this end of the UHD player market...

For

  • Excellent 4K UHD picture performance
  • Accomplished audio player, with universal disc support
  • Premium build-quality
  • Solid collection of streaming services

Against

  • No Dolby Vision support
  • Lacks MQA file playback
  • Cheaper UBP-X800 is the better value buy

The UBP-X1000ES is Sony’s premium 4K Blu-ray offering, a posh stablemate to the unfeasibly fine UBP-X800. In terms of performance and value, the latter can be considered one of the best value UHD Blu-ray players available, so clearly this more expensive sibling needs to be rather special to warrant a premium.

A cursory glance would suggest that the decks are cut from the same cloth, thanks to a shared chassis design and stippled matt finish, but there are some significant differences.

The UBP-X1000ES incorporates a high-end 192kHz/ 32bit DAC and offers a gold-plated phono analogue audio output on the rear. It also has a more substantial power supply, plus an FL status display. Even its feet have been upgraded, to provide better isolation. Less obviously, the UBP-X1000ES supports all the major smart home control protocols, specifically Control4, Savant and Crestron. This alone could be a clincher if you have a custom installed AV smart home system that you want to integrate the deck into.  

Set-up and features

In addition to  the widely space phono audio output, there are two HDMIs, one offering full AV, the second audio only. The idea here is to provide a pure audio HDMI feed for those that need it. There’s also coaxial and optical digital outputs, USB, IR remote port and wired Ethernet as an alternative to the onboard dual band Wi-Fi.  

Audio output options are comprehensive. PCM can be output from the digital outputs at 48KHz, 96KHz or 192KHz. There’s also a DSEE HX audio upscaler for low-bitrate audio content, should you still have some knocking around. 

Two HDMI outputs allow you to avoid having to use the pass-through on your home cinema amplifier

Two HDMI outputs allow you to avoid having to use the pass-through on your home cinema amplifier

Usability is identical to the step-down UBP-X800. The Home page offers quick tiled access to featured apps, which include Amazon, Netflix, YouTube (all of which stream in 4K when available), Rakuten TV, BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News & Sport and Spotify.

There are thumbnails for connected USB devices, media servers and screen mirroring. The player instantly discovered my QNAP NAS and twonky server. 

Wireless connectivity is good, with Bluetooth plus LDAC, and MiraCast is available for compatible smartphones.

The player is compatible with 3D Blu-ray discs, even if your new 4K TV isn’t. Disc loading seems reasonably fast, with discs going from tray to menu in just over 35 seconds.

The Home page offers quick tiled access all of the major streaming apps

The Home page offers quick tiled access all of the major streaming apps

Performance

When it comes to UHD playback, this flagship really knocks it out of the park. Images are supremely detailed (test patterns play with absolute fidelity and no obvious artefacts), while colour gradations are smooth and band-free. The deck also does a fine job upscaling regular HD Blu-rays.

Perhaps oddly though, the player only supports regular HDR. There’s no compatibility with Dolby Vision, which you might think would be a given (for universal appeal) at this higher price point. Oddly, Sony’s incoming, low-cost UBP-X700 model does support Dolby Vision, yet Sony maintains there are no firmware plans to add DV to this deck. The player isn’t compatible with the upstart HDR10+ dynamic metadata standard either. 

Is this a big deal? It depends on your display. If you own a top-end 4K HDR TV, capable of a high peak luminance, the benefits of any dynamic metadata HDR system are actually negligible, as the set will not/or-only-rarely need to tone map (which is the process by which a TV brings content outside of its luminescence capabilities down to a level that it can handle). 

The player interpolates UHD with 4:4:4 subsampling. By default, the UBP-X1000ES sends the maximum data from disc to screen, based on the capability of the connected receiving device. For example, when playing a 4K 60p disc, if the sink (receiver) permits, then the player will send resolution at 4K 60p, Deep Colour at 12 bit and chroma at 4:4:4.

If this isn’t possible, then the amount of information is reduced in the following priority order: resolution, frame rate, HDR, Deep Colour and Colour Space. Use a high-speed 18 Gbps HDMI cable for the best possible picture quality. If you use a lesser 10.2 Gbps HDMI cable, the player could output 4K at SDR, and 8bit with 4: 2: 0 colour subsampling.

As an ES music player, the deck is fine. The DAC used here is a quality item, offering an analogue output that’s crisp, airy and musical. It does a superb job with rock  - the beautifully engineered Back In Black (AC/DC) sounds sensational - and lighter acoustical pieces alike.

Like the UBP-X800, it sounds excellent over HDMI too. Stevie Wonder’s Living in the City (Blu-ray) is grindingly rhythmic and musical. The deck paints sonic detail across a wide, believable soundstage.

In addition to high-res file support (which includes AAC, ALAC, DSD up to up to 11.2MHz, FLAC, WMA, MP3/MKV and MPEG), the X1000ES is compatible with both SACD and DVD-Audio. It rewards audiophile archeologists with a level of high-fidelity playback that remains as good as it generally gets. The multichannel mix of  London philharmonic Orchestra playing Morning Mood (Peer Gynt Suite No 1 Opus 46, from the Grieg Classical Masters Series), for example, is entirely uplifting in a way that listening to the same classic pouring forth from a Sonos system simply isn’t.

We liked

Sony has done a cracking job with the UBP-X1000ES. If you want sensational 4K video and audiophile grade sonics, you’ve come to the right place. 

The UBP-X1000ES delivers pristine UHD Blu-ray images and its audio performance is excellent, be it via HDMI or two channel analogue. The player is also artfully built, and if you have a custom install smart home system it’ll fit right in.

We disliked

There are a few niggles which chip away at the value of this premium player.

The X1000ES is considerably more expensive than the UBP-X800, and doesn’t quite have the feature roster of the Dolby Vision-enabled, MQA-playing Oppo UHD-203 - and if you’re looking for a UHD player with comparable audio chops (although admittedly not universal disc compatibility), then Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 provides cheaper competition. 

If you’re shelling out for a high-end 4K player, then you might reasonably expect to see Dolby Vision HDR (or HDR10+) support in addition to vanilla-flavoured HDR. The lack of any form of dynamic metadata compatibility is disappointing.

Final verdict

The provision of a high-end DAC and integrated smart home support clearly warrant a premium over Sony’s hard to resist UBP- X800, but at more than twice the price the UBP-X1000ES can hardly be described as a bargain. That said, when it comes to performance this deck can’t be faulted. Video quality is excellent and it sounds supreme, both with stereo sources and multichannel mixes.