Sony DVP-S7000 - The first and the best
Sep 22, 1999
I purchased the Sony DVP-S7000 DVD player when it was first released about two years ago, in the late summer/early fall of 1997. I had to search high and low to find one as they were sold out all over the place. Many stores were selling them for substantially higher than the $1000 MSRP, but I managed to pick one up for the list price (being an early-adopter has it's price). Boy was I happy to get the latest in home theater technology. The best thing is that I am still just as happy today as I was the day I picked it up two years ago.
My only initial fear was that DVD would not be adopted as a mainstream standard. Now that we don't have to worry about that, there are a lot more choices when it comes to buying a DVD player. You can even buy a base model for around $300. At the time I purchased my DVP-S7000, the least expensive DVD player on the market was around $500-$600. So why did I spend all the extra money?
The most important aspect of a DVD player to me is picture and sound quality. Dozens of little features are nice, but if the picture is bad and the sound is awful, nothing else really matters. When comparing the picture quality on the Sony DVP-S7000 to most other DVD players you will see a noticeable difference. The picture is clearer with less artifacts than any other source I have seen. The sound quality is nothing short of amazing. On occasion I use the S7000 for a simple CD player and it sounds superb. The dynamic range will surprise you, and the overall tonal balance and sound is smooth and clear. The reason for this is that the CD mechanism/laser is separate from the DVD laser (most DVD players use a combined mechanism for both DVD and CD). Each one is optimized for the intended application, with the CD mechanism actually taken from Sony's audiophile-grade ES line. I have heard quite a few CD players, and this ranks with the best I have experienced in any price range. Even two years after I initially purchased this player it still looks and sounds as good, if not better than anything else on the market. The model that Sony replaced the S7000 with is the S7700 which retails for around $1400 and I can't see or hear any difference in output between the two players.
One thing that you will notice right away about this DVD player is that it appears to lack any tray for DVD insertion. This is because the entire front panel is motorized and drops down, allowing the tray to slide forward from behind it. I love gadgets and tech toys and I must admit I find this feature really neat. There is a practical side to it though: I have noticed that many DVD players, past and present, are quite "loud". I am referring to the sound of the disc rotating inside the player. On some DVD players it can be downright annoying during quiet passages in movies to hear a whining sound coming from your DVD player. The Sony seems naturally quieter than most others, even with the front panel down, but with the panel up (covering the tray), the noise is basically inaudible.
The build quality of the Sony DVP-S7000 is excellent. It seems very solid and well put together. I haven't had a single problem with it in the two years I have owned it. I use it on a daily basis to play CD's and I watch DVD movies a few times a week. There are a minimum of buttons on the front panel, most likely for aesthetic reasons. Basically just PLAY, STOP, and buttons to either simply lower the front panel (which reveals more buttons) or lower the front and open the tray. I mainly use the remote, so I could care less how many buttons are on the front, and I do think the unit looks quite nice. The remote is well-designed and laid out quite logically. Everything will seem straightforward if you have ever used a VCR, with the exception of the buttons used to navigate the DVD menus. These are pretty easy to figure out, even if you are technically-challenged.
The on-screen menu is easy to use, although I don have one complaint: You must select the audio output in these menus, and the default is Dolby Surround Sound, not Dolby Digital 5.1. On a high-end unit like this the default should be Dolby Digital. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but when power is cut off to the unit (i.e. when you unplug it during a storm) it defaults back to Surround Sound. So you must go back into the menu and change it back to Dolby Digital 5.1 output. The first time this happened, there was no audio output and I couldn't figure out what the heck was wrong with it!
One feature this unit lacks is a built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder. Many units offer a built-in decoder these days, but if you are looking for a truly high-end unit, you probably already own your own decoder, or perhaps a receiver with a built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder. Some people may look for this feature, but many "built-in" type components aren't as high quality as their "separate" counterparts. I encourage you to listen closely to players which have built-in decoders to determine whether the sound quality is on par with separate components.
One nice feature the S7000 employs, is "smooth scanning" which gives you a very fluid picture while fast-forwarding and reversing playback. This is nice because it allows you to quickly jump to the exact part you are looking for. Many DVD players scan forward and backward erratically skipping frames sometimes causing you to miss the desired scene.
Overall, I am very satisfied with my Sony DVP-S7000. Although there are plenty of lower-cost alternatives available today, the extra money is well-spent. The only complaints I have are the "audio output" selection issue explained above and the somewhat high price. If you are looking for a high quality, audio/videophile-grade DVD player, this is the best deal you will find.