Sony BDV-N590 3D Blu-ray player & 5.1 Home CInema System Review

Sony utilises some space-age tech on their latest 5.1 system

Home AV Review

15

Highly Recommended
Sony BDV-N590 3D Blu-ray player & 5.1 Home CInema System Review
SRP: £350.00

Introduction

The market for all-in-one home cinema systems is highly competitive, with all the manufacturers offering feature stuffed packages at very keen prices. So far we've seen all-in-one systems from LG, Samsung and Panasonic and have been very impressed at the performance, the feature list and build quality. In fact we're amazed that so much can be bought at such a relatively low price, which is undoubtedly an indication of the economies of scale available to the larger manufacturers. Now we come to the last of the big four, with Sony's BDV-N590 5.1 home cinema system. As is pretty much standard these days, the N590 includes a built-in 3D Blu-ray player, built-in WiFi, an iPod dock and a FM tuner. It also uses four identical speakers for the front and rear which provides a tonally more coherent soundstage, along with a matching centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. Unlike the competition, the N590 also includes auto-calibration for easier setup and uses magnetic fluid technology originally developed by NASA in the speakers themselves. Since you can pick the N590 for as little as £325, this impressively specified system starts to look very attractive indeed. So let's see how all this space-age tech performs 'in the field'...

Design and Accessories

When you first open the box containing the BDV-N590 you will find, perhaps unsurprisingly, all you will need to create an audio and video system in your home. There is a main unit which contains both the 3D Blu-ray player, along with built-in WiFi, a FM tuner and all the amplification. There are for identical speakers for the front L/R and rear L/R positions, along with a matching centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. There is also a remote control, a FM wire antenna, a USB cable, a composite video cable and a stereo microphone for the auto-calibration software. Finally, you get an iPod/iPhone dock which you can connect to the BDV-N590 with the provided USB cable and to your display with the provided composite video cable (if you really have to).

Sony BDV-N590

The main unit itself looks like a PS3 on steroids with its sleek black curves and brushed metal effect along the top. Whilst the construction is largely plastic, the entire unit has the well-engineered and solid feel that we have come to expect from a Sony product. It combines contemporary looks with a classical elegance that will grace any living room with its attractive styling. On the front facia, at the far left, is an on/off button and in the middle is a power indicator which can be turned off (thank God) by setting the illumination control to auto. On the right hand side there is a very cool looking display, along with a series of touch sensitive controls for play, stop, previous/next, eject, volume +/- and function. Also on the right hand side is the disc slot and on the front right is a USB port behind a removable cover. The whole unit measures 460 x 74 x 226mm and weighs a solid 3.5kg.

Sony BDV-N590

The identical front and rear speakers (SS-TSB111) measure 98 x 255 x 91mm and weigh 0.6kg. Whilst the speakers are rather plastic in construction, they are attractive with their brushed metal styling and are quite slim thanks to the use of magnetic fluid in their design. The four main speakers use a tweeter driver configuration and a magnetic fluid originally developed by NASA. A traditional speaker will consist of a coil, a damper and a magnet but these new Magnetic Fluid Speakers use a magnetic fluid to replace the damper. This approach results in a thinner and lighter construction and it eliminates the sound pressures generated by the damper and thus offers much reduced distortion. The speakers have detachable bases that allow you to choose between standing them on bookshelves or wall mounting.

The centre speaker (SS-CTB111) follows the same basic design as the other speakers but uses a horizontal configuration to allow you to position it beneath your TV screen. It has two tweeters either side of a driver and also uses a magnetic fluid design with predominantly plastic construction, measures 331 x 59 x 57mm and weighs 0.5kg. The passive subwoofer has a downward firing driver and is ported, it measures 191 x 326 x 376mm and weighs 5.6kg. As you would expect the actual construction of the subwoofer is fairly cheap but as with the whole system, it looks more expensive than it is. All the speakers have spring clip terminals for connecting the provided cables and the digital amplifier is rated at 125W per a channel for the front and rears, 250W for the centre and 250W for the passive subwoofer.

Sony BDV-N590
Sony BDV-N590

At the rear, on the left hand side, there are the standard set of connections found on an all-in-one system these days, with two HDMI inputs and a HDMI output with ARC (Audio Return Channel). There is also a second USB port, an Ethernet port, a composite video output, a FM coaxial antenna socket, a digital optical output and an analogue stereo output. Perhaps more unusually at this price point, there is a connector for the stereo microphone that is used in conjunction with the auto-calibration software. On the right hand side are the speaker connectors which, as is usually the case with an all-in-one system, use dedicated colour coded sockets.

Sony BDV-N590

The provided remote control is another wonderful example of Sony's mastery when it comes to economy of design. Despite being small and comfortable to hold, you will find all the buttons you need, logically laid out and easy to use. There are all the controls you would expect for a Blu-ray player as well as those for smart features and media playback. There are also controls for the amplifier, with function, volume and sound modes, along with a volume control for your Sony TV, if you have one. The remote is made of black plastic and whilst it isn't flashy, it gets the job done with the minimum of fuss.

Setup and Menus

Setting the BDV-N590 is very straightforward thanks to some sensible design and useful features. Once you have positioned your speakers and decided to wall mount or use the stands, you then connect them using the provided colour coded connectors on the main unit and the spring clip terminals on the speakers. The terminals and wires are marked for positive and negative connections to ensure correct polarity. Then you can position the provided stereo microphone in the main listening area at ear height and run the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (D.C.A.C.) software. The entire process only takes a few minutes and you're good to go, although if you want to take the old school approach or make some minor adjustments, you can input the measurements yourself and use a SPL meter to set the levels. After that all you need to do is connect the BDV-N590 to your wireless router or use an Ethernet cable, if you prefer, and attach the FM antenna and setup the tuner. Since the BDV-N590 doesn't have Bluetooth capability, you'll probably want to use the provided iPod/iPhone dock, which just attaches to the USB connector at the rear.

As you would expect, the BDV-N590 runs Sony’s Cross Media Bar (XMB) user interface, so if you're already familiar with it, great, but if you're not, it can take a bit of getting used to. However once you have familiarised yourself it works quite well and is extremely responsive. To access the XMB you press the Home button on the remote and to navigate you have a series of main menu sections which you move between by going left or right and then within each of these sections you access the sub-menus by going up or down. The horizontal bar is split up into eight main categories – Setup, Photo, Music, FM Tuner, Video, Input, Network and Sony Entertainment Network - as well as the optional Recommendation section that allows uploading of your viewing or listening habits to Sony's database, which results in reciprocal suggestions based upon those habits. The function button on either the remote or the main unit itself or the Input menu in the XMB, allows you to choose between the various inputs - BD/DVD, USB1, USB2, FM, HDMI1, HDMI2, TV and AUDIO.

Sony BDV-N590
Sony BDV-N590
The Setup menu contains all the sub-menus needed to correctly setup the BDV-N590, including Screen Settings and Audio Settings which we will address in the relevant sections. Aside from these, the other sub-menus within Setup are Network Update, where you can update the software on your player; BD/DVD Viewing Settings, where you choose the language and subtitle options; and the Parental Control Settings, where you set all the parental control features. There are also the Music Settings, where you setup the SACD playback; System Settings, where you set the remaining player related settings the External Input Settings, where you can setup up each of the external inputs being used and skip the ones you aren't; and the Network Settings, where you make detailed settings relating to your network. There is also a button the remote called OPTIONS which brings up some other setup related features, the most important of which are the video settings. It is in here that you are offered a series of Picture Quality Modes - Direct, Brighter Room, Theatre Room, Auto, Custom 1 and Custom 2 - make sure you have selected Direct.

Features

The BDV-N590 includes Sony's full smart platform, which is generally excellent, especially as it concentrates on the areas of Video on Demand (VoD) and music services. This makes sense since the BDV-N590 is primarily an audio and video device and the BDV-N590 has around 30 VoD widgets pre-loaded with just about every major service covered - Netflix, LOVEFiLM, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Demand 5. All that’s really missing are 4OD and ITV Player but considering those are available on the PS3, we assume it won't be too long before they also appear on this platform. Other items of interest include Sky News, Eurosport and Dailymotion – which is nearly as ubiquitous on Smart platforms as YouTube and BBC iPlayer these days. Also available is Sony’s streaming 3D Experience service which has a decent variety of sports, video games and nature clips plus some music videos, Harry Potter, Travel and ‘World Heritage’ material.

Sony BDV-N590
Sony BDV-N590
The Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) includes both Sony’s Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services. These services can be accessed via the Music, Video or SEN menus on the XMB and are subscription based, giving you access to a multitude of Sony Entertainment created content. The Music Unlimited service is similar to services like Spotify but feels a little bit restricted given Sony doesn’t have the rights for a lot of recordings; still there should be enough to keep most users happy. Venturing out of the Sony world, the Opera TV Store has an assortment of mostly basic games to download, including Sudoku, Chess and Backgammon but it's also the place to download the videophile’s answer to YouTube, Vimeo. The good news is that all of the nearly 25 apps in Opera TV appear to be free. Sony have also included software from Gracenote, allowing you to access their database and download information about the content you are watching or listening to.

Sony BDV-N590
Sony BDV-N590
These days almost every manufacturers provides remote apps that allow users to operate their TVs using their smartphones and tablets. More recently we have seen increasing support for remote apps aimed at receivers, Blu-ray players and other assorted smart devices. Sony’s Media Remote app for Android and iOS is one of the best and offers full control of the player through a simplified or full interface. Not only that, there’s also the ability to ‘catch and throw’ the built in web browser between your tablet or smartphone and the TV, which makes page navigation much easier than using the remote control. It’s not a bad browser but the lack of Flash support makes most embedded video content unwatchable on the TV.

Sony BDV-N590
Sony BDV-N590
Since the BDV-N590 includes a full Sony 3D Blu-ray player, it can play BDs, DVDs, CDs and SACDs and you can also access content via a connected USB thumb drive. In addition you can connect the BDV-N590 to your network either via an Ethernet cable or using the built-in WiFi and it's fully DLNA compliant. We were able to connect to our network without any issues but we do recommend that owners download either Servio or the Sony branded Homestream version of it, to ensure there are no connection issues. With either installed we were able to play most of the popular files including DivX, AVCHD, avi, wmv, mkv, mp4, mpg, mp3, wma, wav, jpeg, gif, png and mpo; there is however no lossless support. Other features include the detachable iPhone/iPod dock and the built-in FM tuner with up to 20 preset stations and RDS.

Video Performance

To set up the video features within the BDV-N590, you need to access the Screen Settings in the Setup menu. These settings all relate to the built-in Blu-ray player, with the first being 3D output, which we recommend leaving on Auto. Cinema Conversion Mode is the option to engage film cadence detection for standard definition material and should also be set to Auto. The Output Video Format offers an option to output 576i over HDMI which will interest those with an outboard video processor but otherwise the Auto option will be the best, as will selecting Auto for the BD/DVD-ROM 1080/24p Output options. The YCbCr/RGB (HDMI) option should also be left as Auto unless you know which is better at converting 8 Bit 4:2:0 - the BDV-N590 or your TV. There's also a Deep Colour option which you can just leave set to Auto and Super Bit Mapping which is designed to smooth out the gradation of video signals output over HDMI. Whilst this feature did smooth the gradations it did so at the expense of image accuracy and resulted in pictures that had a processed look, so we recommend leaving it off.

Sony BDV-N590

We would expect any capable Blu-ray player to be able to deliver a flawless performance when it comes to 3D and 1080p content and the BDV-N590 doesn't disappoint. In fact the BDV-N590 appears to share many of the characteristics of Sony's award-winning BDP-S790, so as long as you choose the Direct Picture Quality mode, you will enjoy a superb level of performance from the BDV-N590, with pristine 1080p and 3D images being delivered to your display. We used a number of our favourite Blu-rays to test the BDV-N590 and its performance was flawless, delivering reference 1080p images and equally impressive 3D, with no crosstalk or other nasty artefacts. Loading times could have been faster and the BDV-N590 was surprisingly slow with DVDs but it was reasonable quiet when playing a disc. There was a bit of noise during disc navigation and rear fan was audible when there was no sound but neither of these factors were an issue when watching BDs and DVDs.

One area where Blu-ray players can really add value is video processing and the BDV-N590 performed superbly with 1080i, passing almost every cadence test. We also checked the quality of the video deinterlacing and that was also top notch on the Sony. The BDV-N590 had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts. The Sony was thus able to handle discs with content encoded at 1080i without any problems and this is very useful for anyone who watches a lot of concert films or BBC programmes on Blu-ray.

The BDV-N590 also displayed an excellent level of performance when it came to processing standard definition signals, giving your DVD collection a new lease of life. It correctly scaled DVDs without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing and the video deinterlacing test results were also excellent; the BDV-N590 reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom line. In the cadence tests the player also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common 2:2 cadence without any problems. The player also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding.

Audio Performance

To setup the audio features on the BDV-N590 you need to access the Audio Settings in the Setup menu. Here you will find the BD Audio Mix Setting, which outputs the audio obtained by mixing interactive and secondary audio when set to on but if you’d prefer to only output the primary audio, leave it off. Then there's an Audio DRC (Dynamic Range Control) setting for those that wish to reduce the dynamic range of the audio, so they can watch content without disturbing other members of the family or neighbours. Then you have the Attenuate - AUDIO feature which is designed to reduce any distortion when using the analogue audio input. You can also set the Audio Output to either Speaker, Speaker + HDMI or HDMI, most will obviously use the Speaker option. The Sound Effect options give you a choice of Off, Auto, Movie, Music, Enhancer, 3D Surround, Sports, Night, Hall or 2ch Stereo. There is Dolby Pro Logic and DTS Neo:6 Cinema/Music for use with two channel sources. Finally you have the Speaker Settings and the Auto-Calibration feature. The BDV-N590 has a separate sub-menu called Music Settings, where you can select the SACD playback layer and channels.

Sony BDV-N590
Sony BDV-N590

In terms of audio performance, the BDV-N590 punched well above its weight, especially in the volume stakes. Perhaps it was due to the magnetic fluid damping or the built-in amplification but the system was capable of going very loud without distorting, as a result it could easily fill a living room, even a very large one. Even when running the BDV-N590 at reasonably high volumes the audio always stayed restrained and never became harsh or brittle. The use of identical speakers for the front and rear clearly paid dividends, delivering a nicely cohesive sound field with precise positioning of sounds and smooth panning of effects. As a result the performance with reference soundtracks, like the one found on Prometheus, were just stunning with an immersive and absorbing surround experience. Dialogue was also clear and anchored to the centre speaker and thanks to the BDV-N590, it never got lost in what is a complex mix.

The Prometheus soundtrack also has serious levels of bass and again the BDV-N590 held its ground, although in terms of low end presence, this is where these budget systems show their limitations. Whilst the amplification could deliver impressive levels of volume without distortion, the passive sub is never going to compete with a dedicated active unit. However, the sub was still able to deliver plenty of low frequency effects and the bass felt properly integrated with the rest of the system. The BDV-N590 was also able to deliver plenty of clarity and detail in the mid-range and high frequency moments could be picked out, even in the most active of soundtracks, without sounding abrasive. We tried the various effects modes but whilst they sometimes expanded the soundstage, we always felt it was at the expense of the clarity and precise imaging and as such we left them off.

The BDV-N590 was also a very competent system when it came to music, delivering a very assured performance. In stereo we found the localisation of instruments and voices to be very precise and the clarity was excellent, with plenty of detail on orchestral recordings. The impressive mid-range, along with the well-integrated bass meant that rock music was also effectively reproduced. However, clean higher frequencies meant that the BDV-N590 could also handle acoustic music with a delicate touch, delivering pianos and female vocals without any harshness. If dance music is your thing, whilst the bass could sometimes sound a little boomy, overall this was a wonderful all round performance. The same was equally true with multi-channel music and once again the tonal cohesion offered by the identical speakers resulted in a highly enjoyable surround experience.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Very good audio performance
  • Built-in 3D Blu-ray player
  • Excellent video performance
  • Auto-calibration
  • Smart features
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Attractive design
  • Smartphone remote

The Bad

  • No headphone socket
  • No Bluetooth capability

Sony BDV-N590 3D Blu-ray player & 5.1 Home CInema System Review

The BDV-N590 is a real looker, combining the design aesthetic of the PS3 with a more traditional piano black and brushed metal effect. Whilst there is a degree of plastic in the construction, the main unit feels solid and well-engineered. The system comes with four identical speakers for the front and rear, a matching centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. The construction is again heavy on the plastic but the attractive design and finish matches the main unit resulting in an overall system that is both contemporary and elegant. The remote control is simple but effective, the rear connections are sufficient and the menu system, whilst remaining an acquired taste, is at least responsive.

The features on the BDV-N590 are impressive with a built-in 3D Blu-ray player providing BD, DVD, CD and SACD playback, as well as a built-in FM tuner and WiFi. You can connect to your home network, allowing you to stream media content and we found the file support to be reasonably comprehensive, except for lossless audio. Sony's smart platform is excellent and offers a wide choice of catch-up and premium video services and music services as well. Sony's remote control app is one of the best available - smart, slick and very effective - allowing you to ‘catch and throw’ the built in web browser between your tablet or smartphone and the TV. There is also a detachable iPod/iPhone dock and our only real complaints are the lack of a headphone socket and Bluetooth compatibility.
In terms of its video performance, the BDV-N590 is very impressive with excellent video processing that resulted in standard definition material looking fantastic. It is equally assured with 1080i content and as long as you select the Direct picture quality mode, the 1080p and 3D playback is flawless. The built-in player is reasonably quiet in operation, although there is some noise when navigating discs and the load up times could be quicker but overall the BDV-N590 offers a video performance that is as good as any player we've reviewed.

The setup of the BDV-N590 was very straightforward thanks to the colour coded speaker cables and the inclusion of auto-calibration. The use of magnetic fluid damping in the speakers resulted in a design that was thin but capable of quite high volumes without any distortion. The overall sound quality was excellent, with an immersive and cohesive surround experience and an effective sense of musicality with stereo content. Only the passive subwoofer betrayed the all-in-one nature of the system but overall this was an impressive audio performance.

The Sony BDV-N590 is a fantastic all-in-one system, offering a gorgeous design, cutting edge technology, an impressive feature set, flawless video and excellent sound. If all that wasn't enough, the BDV-N590 is also available for a very attractive price, making it an easy winner of a Highly Recommended badge.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
.
7

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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