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Sony BDV-E770W review: Sony BDV-E770W

Audio-decoding capabilities
Dolby TrueHD Yes DTS-HD Master Audio Yes
Dolby Digital Plus Yes DTS-HD HR Yes
Bit stream output Yes SACD/DVD-Audio SACD

Like all Blu-ray HTIBs this year, the BDV-E770W has onboard decoding for both high-resolution Dolby and DTS soundtrack formats. There's also support for SACDs, which is a step up compared with every other Blu-ray HTIB we've seen this year. If you're looking for both DVD-Audio and SACD playback, you'll have to go with a standalone Blu-ray player from Oppo.

AV connectivity
HDMI inputs 0 Analog audio inputs 1
Optical inputs 1 Coaxial inputs 1
Minijack input No Max. connected ext. devices 3

The major knock against the BDV-E770W is the lack of any HDMI input connectivity. Competing systems such as the Samsung HT-C6500 and the LG LHB975 both offer two HDMI inputs, plus optical and analog audio inputs. Even Sony's $300 HT-CT150 sound bar has three HDMI inputs, so it's a bit puzzling why the BDV-E770W doesn't have any. If you can live without HDMI, the BDV-E770W has a decent selection of audio-only connections, including two digital audio inputs and two analog audio inputs. You can connect three external devices overall, which is about one less than most other systems.

Other connectivity
Ethernet Yes SD card slot No
USB ports 2 Headphone jack No

The rest of the BDV-E770W's connectivity is standard. Though the two USB inputs may seem like a step up over other systems, keep in mind that one of them will be occupied by the USB Wi-Fi dongle.

Audio setup
The BDV-E770W's wireless S-Air rear-speaker setup is a plug-and-play affair. Insert the small wireless S-Air transceiver into a clearly marked receptacle on the BDV-E770W's receiver/Blu-ray player and another S-Air transceiver into the surround amplifier. Then it's simply a matter of hooking up wires to the "wireless" surround speakers. You'll need two wires running from the surround amplifier to each speaker; at least it's better than running wires from the front of the home theater. The wireless system performed flawlessly during all of our listening sessions, without dropouts or added noise.

Automatic speaker calibration was painless as well. We plugged the included calibration microphone into the receiver/Blu-ray player's rear panel and initiated the setup sequence of tones, which ran a wee bit longer than usual at around 4 minutes. We can't say the setup radically changed the sound, but we didn't have any complaints before running it.

Audio performance
The BDV-E770W is an accomplished performer. We heard that as soon as we played the awesome-sounding "AIX Records Audio Calibration Disc/HD Music Sampler" Blu-ray. The mix of acoustic and electric music sounded extremely natural--bass was bloat-free, nimble, and reached surprisingly deep--but it was the sound of the acoustic guitars that best demonstrated the BDV-E770W's accuracy. This HTIB is at least on par with Yamaha's three-times-as-expensive YSP-4100 sound bar on that score.

We next watched the "Avatar" Blu-ray and the BDV-E770W's resolution of fine detail was evident during the Pandora biosphere scenes. The range of buzzes, chirps, grunts, and groans from the critters scurrying about seemed to come from all around the CNET listening room. When one of the larger Hammerhead Titanothere beasts charged into a scene, the BDV-E770W's subwoofer made its presence known. The low rumble of the mighty helicopter-like SA-2 Samson, twin-ducted, utility aircraft sounded awesome. Human dialogue lacked natural warmth, but it was clear and clean.

Next, we did a shoot out with the Samsung HT-C6500, and overall the Samsung came out ahead. That being said, the BDV-E770W was tonally leaner and therefore sounded more detailed during the intense battle sequences of "Black Hawk Down." The Sony's subwoofer didn't have as much of a tendency to get muddy when played loud; it's an all around better and much larger sub. Even so, the HT-C6500's richer overall balance and fatigue-free listening won us over. They're both above-average-sounding HTIBs.

The BDV-E770W's lean tonal balance was more problematic with CDs. The clarity was still there, but we were more aware of the satellite speakers' small size, and that the blend with the subwoofer was less than ideal. K.d. Lang's luscious "Ingenue" CD didn't sound as luscious as we've heard it on some of the better HTIBs, like Onkyo's stellar HT-S9100THX. The BDV-E770W's forte is movies, thanks largely to its superb subwoofer.

Blu-ray and DVD image quality
The BDV-E770W's Blu-ray and DVD image quality is perfectly acceptable for a Blu-ray home theater system, with only some minor issues holding it back. It passed all of our film-based program material tests, which means that the BDV-E770W should have no problem with the vast majority of Blu-ray releases. We did notice some issues on the video-based "Tony Bennett: American Classic," specifically jaggies on the clapperboard at the beginning of the Diana Krall segment. Because video-based Blu-rays are relatively rare, we wouldn't put much stock in the BDV-E770W's slightly worse Blu-ray performance compared with the Samsung HT-C6500 and the LG LHB535. For DVDs, the BDV-E770W passed our program material tests, and looked comparable to the other systems we've tested.

It's also worth pointing out that we didn't encounter the same Netflix image quality issues that we noticed during our review of the BDP-S570. The image quality of streaming Netflix content was essentially equal to what we've seen on other devices.

Though the BDV-E770's operational speed wasn't quite as quick as the blazingly fast BDP-S570 standalone player, it was still respectable and significantly better than other Blu-ray HTIBs we've tested. It has an overall CNET speed rating of 89, which is better than both the Samsung HT-C6500 and LG LHB535. It did especially well with movies with complex BD-Java menus, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Spider-Man 3," as it loaded those discs more than 15 seconds faster than the Samsung. It also features a quick start mode, enabling it to load a movie from the off position in just 16 seconds. Our only caveat would be that the BDV-E770W was a little sluggish on our basic disc-loading test with the player on; it actually takes longer to load a disc when the player is on than when the player is off with quick start engaged.

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