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Sony BDV-FS350 Blu-ray 2.1-channel Home Cinema System - Sony BDV-FS350 Blu-ray System
The audio capabilities of the sub unit aren't bad, but there are limitations. For example, it only offers plain old Dolby Digital, DTS and Pro Logic II decoding instead of Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, which would have made more sense on a Blu-ray-centric system - after all, there are still sound quality benefits to be had through two speakers. But the good news is that it supports LPCM via HDMI, and because the BDP-S350 can output Dolby TrueHD as LPCM you can still enjoy the higher sound quality, although the player's inability to decode DTS HD Master Audio means you'll only get the 5.1 DTS core. If you upgrade to a more advanced receiver, rest assured that the player can output Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks in bitstream form.
Elsewhere the HT-FS1 features a 24-bit S-Master digital amplifier and a Sharc digital signal processor with a range of Sound Field modes, including Movie, Music, Sports and Game, as well as a Portable Audio Enhancer to boost digital audio playback.
As for the BDP-S350, it's a highly attractive, slimline Profile 2.0 player (provided its firmware has been updated from the original Profile 1.1 spec), and it's beautifully built for a so-called 'budget' player. It also spins DVDs, CDs and recordable Blu-ray discs, although it doesn't support MP3 or DivX playback from any of them - only JPEG is supported.
It supports BonusView and BD Live, but for the latter there's no built-in memory, so you'll need to plug a USB memory drive into the back to store downloaded content. Also on the rear are an Ethernet port and an HDMI output that outputs 1080/24p pictures, as well as component, S-video, composite, optical/coaxial digital and analogue stereo audio outputs.
You won't find many players with a better operating system, which makes the deck gratifyingly simple to use. It employs the dubiously-named but ingenious XrossMediaBar, which displays a horizontal row of icons interjected by the corresponding options. One of these is the setup menu, which presents all of the options in an understandable way, including the HDMI and secondary audio options, although there's no specific setting that makes the deck output in LPCM.
Although it's not up there with LG and Samsung's latest players, it's fairly fast to load a disc. We clocked Spider-Man 3's first screen appearing at around 55 seconds, which is well within acceptable limits. In general the deck is slick and speedy at handling Blu-ray discs, surfing around pop-up menus, scanning through discs and skipping chapters without the annoying pauses that blight some of its rivals.
You get two remotes, one with the sound system and the S350, although you can control both using the HT-FS1's remote which makes life a lot easier. It's generally well laid out with decent labelling of the most-used buttons but it feels overburdened with icons in places.