Sony DVP-S336 DVD Player

    The Sony DVP-S336 is Sony's new entry-level model DVD player. At a recommended retail price of $599, it is at a price that would simply be unthinkable as little as 12 months ago, and yet it compromises nothing in quality. Indeed, this player is stunningly capable in its performance, and puts the performance of many higher-priced players to shame. The Sony DVP-S336 is a solid, mature product that delivers where it matters most - in its ability to play DVDs.

What's In The Box

    The following items are included in the box;     The review unit that I received was an extremely attractive looking unit, and the slimmest player that I have seen to date. Sony have done their homework in the style department with this player, as this player really does look stunning on the outside. It comes in an attractive silver finish. This may be a slight disincentive to some potential purchasers, as silver is the only colour this player is available in.

Front Panel

    The Sony DVP-S336 has an extremely attractive and highly functional front panel.

    The left side of the front panel carries a hard power on-off switch. To enter stand-by mode, the unit needs to be powered down with the remote control.

    The centre of the front panel carries the disc tray and the very pleasing-to-the-eye fluorescent display. The fluorescent display can be dimmed in two steps via the set-up menu. There is, however, one minor irritation that I found with the fluorescent display. The display will show the current title, current chapter, and the time elapsed within the current chapter, or it will show the current title and the total time elapsed without showing the current chapter, but it will not show the combination of current title, current chapter and the total time elapsed at the same time. Other than this minor irritation, the fluorescent display is attractive to look at and discreet in its presentation of information - there is nothing in the way of unnecessary indicators or flashy bells-'n'-whistles to distract you on this display.

    Immediately to the left of the disc tray is a button labelled VES, which engages the various Virtual Surround Sound modes of this unit.

    Immediately to the right of the disc tray is the tray open/close button. This is the position that I like to see this button in, as it is by far the most logical and obvious place to put it. Pressing this button when the player is in stand-by mode activates the player and ejects the disc tray, which is as it should be.

    The right side of the player carries the player navigation buttons. The PLAY, PAUSE and STOP buttons are placed within a continuation of the fluorescent display's escutcheon. Immediately above these buttons are the CHAPTER SKIP FORWARDS and BACKWARDS buttons.

    To the right of this are four small selection buttons, which correspond with the same keys on the remote control;  TITLE, MENU, DISPLAY, and RETURN.

    Finishing off the right side of the front panel is a joystick mechanism. This acts as both the arrow keys and as an ENTER key.

    All-in-all, the layout of the keys on this front panel is highly functional, and this player is fully operable without its remote control, which is a genuine rarity in the world of DVD. However, one notable omission from the front panel are FAST FORWARD and FAST REVERSE keys. Still, it would have been difficult to keep the ergonomics of this very slim front panel under control if any more keys were present.

Rear Panel

    The rear panel of this player is equipped with a reasonable selection of outputs. Unusually, the metal top panel of the DVD player has the names of almost all of the outputs stamped into it. This is a nice touch which facilitates hooking up the player if you don't have ready access to the rear of the unit.

    From left to right;

    An analogue subwoofer output is present, and is aimed at enhancing the bass capability of DVD setups utilizing only TV or small stereo speakers. Two sets of analogue left and right audio outputs are next to this connector, completing the analogue audio output section of this DVD player.

    The digital audio output section of this DVD player consists of both coaxial and optical digital outputs.

    The video output section consists of two composite video outputs, two S-Video outputs, and colour-coded component video outputs. There is no provision for RGB video output from this DVD player.

    Finishing off the rear panel is the power cable, which is fixed into the player instead of in the more usual "figure-of-eight" connector arrangement.

Remote Control

    I have mixed feelings about the Sony DVP-S336's remote control. On the one hand, it has all of the features that I consider make up a good remote control. On the other hand, I found myself continually needing to look at the remote control in order to figure out which button to press. I suspect that this is the sort of remote control that you would eventually get used to using, but it would take some time before you were comfortable using it without actually looking at it.

    The remote control is divided into three zones. The lower zone is where the arrow, enter and menu keys are placed. The ENTER key is in the middle of the circularly-arranged arrow keys, which is where I like to see it. The ENTER key itself is large and recessed, presumably in order to make it a nice fit for the user's thumb. I personally did not quite like this recessing, as it seemed to make this key a little difficult to press. I also felt that the ENTER key was a little too large, with the surrounding arrow keys consequently being a little too narrow and small.

    The middle zone of the remote control contains the major DVD control keys, such as the PLAY, PAUSE and STOP keys. These are large, and yet surprisingly seemed quite difficult to locate without actually looking at the remote control.

    The upper zone of the remote control contained the AUDIO, ANGLE and SUBTITLE buttons. These were too far away from the joystick-type mechanism for them to be easily located without looking at the remote control first.

    I think that the low placement of the arrow mechanism on this remote control was what made me have mixed feelings about it. I found that it was hard to reach for keys above this mechanism without actually looking at the remote control, and some keys were simply too far away from this mechanism to be easily located in the dark without looking at the remote. I suspect that I would have taken to this remote control a lot more if this mechanism had been placed more centrally.

    The operating range and angle of operation of the remote control were good, and it is particularly notable that the DVD player seemed to respond to the key presses of the remote control quite promptly.


    The manual is well-written, but it did have a habit of repeating itself, particularly in regards to the inbuilt virtual surround sound modes. The manual runs to a total of 69 pages, and is pleasingly laid out, with only one or two concepts explained on each page, but it could easily have been edited down to approximately 2/3rds of its current size without losing any comprehensibility.

Set-Up Menu

    The set-up menu on the Sony DVP-S336 is elegant and comprehensive. It is highly graphical in nature, as seems to be the case for all of the major DVD manufacturers. Unlike many others menus, however, the Sony's set-up menu is also very colourful and pleasant on the eyes.

    The set-up menu has all of the options that you would expect to see in such a menu, as well as a number of interesting and unusual options.

    In the CUSTOM SETUP section of the set-up menu is a TRACK SELECTION option. This is an immensely useful option which instructs the player to select the audio track with the highest number of channels on a DVD for playback. This is particularly useful for DVDs that have 2 channel audio tracks as their default audio track instead of the also-included 5.1 audio track. Many earlier Columbia Tristar titles fall into this category.

    Another useful option can be found within the AUDIO SETUP section of the set-up menu. The AUDIO ATT option allows you to lower the audio output level from the analogue audio output connectors, a useful option for those whose TVs or stereos are overloaded with the normal analogue output level of this player.

    Finally, there is detailed control over the digital audio output of Dolby Digital, MPEG and DTS audio tracks. Dolby Digital and MPEG audio tracks can be output as their native bitstreams, or as downconverted Linear PCM bitstreams. DTS bitstreams can be merely turned ON or OFF. Oddly, the default setting for DTS output from this DVD player is OFF, which may cause some consternation for some users until they find this option in the setup menu.

Video Playback

    All video playback tests were performed with the player set to 16x9 output mode, utilizing the S-Video output.

    The Sony DVP-S336 produced an exemplary video image, and certainly provided the cleanest and clearest video image that I have seen to date of any DVD player in or out of its price range via its S-Video output. I could find no fault whatsoever with the quality of the video output of this player. There was virtually no detectable video noise, there were no skips or jumps in the image, and there were no MPEG decoding anomalies. In a nutshell, the image that this DVD player produced was an absolute pleasure to watch.

    The player is marked as a Zone 4 player and would only play appropriately zoned DVDs.

    The fast forward and fast reverse functions of this player are remarkably smooth, particularly the fast reverse function, and are the best that I have seen from any DVD player.

    RSDL layer changes result in a short pause, typically of the order of 1/4 second.

On Screen Display

    The on-screen display for this player is comprehensive. An initial press of the DISPLAY button will show the main on-screen display menu as a series of icons down the left hand side of the screen. The current TITLE, the current CHAPTER and current TIME ELAPSED are shown and are able to be manipulated from this screen. Additional options on this first screen allow for the adjustment of the current AUDIO and SUBTITLE tracks.

    A bitrate meter is available via this menu, which shows both the audio bitrate and the video bitrate separately, unlike most other displays of this type which merely show the total bitrate at any given time. An unusual option available on this player is a LAYER meter, which shows the approximate position of the laser on either the first or the second layer of a DVD.

    A second press of the DISPLAY button leads to the secondary on-screen menu, where various programmed playback features can be accessed.

    When pressing the SUBTITLE and AUDIO buttons on the remote control, the selected subtitle or audio option will come up as a single line of text. You are able to cycle through all of the available selections by repeatedly pressing these keys. The player is aware of a relatively small subset of the available DVD languages, and languages that the player recognizes will appear with their complete spelling. Languages that the player does not recognize will appear as an incomprehensible 4 digit number. A Polish audio or subtitle track, for instance, will come up with "1428" on the on-screen display.

    Remote control or front panel key presses are accompanied by an appropriate icon-based on-screen message.

Standards Conversions

    The Sony DVP-S336 cannot perform any standards conversions for DVD.

CDR & Video CD

    The Sony DVP-S336 cannot play back CD-R media. It can, however, play back original, pressed Video CDs.

Audio Playback

    I only used this DVD player with its coaxial digital output, and had no problems at all.

    Subjectively, there were no audio sync problems with this DVD player at all. Objectively, the analogue vs digital delay on this DVD player was 1 millisecond, which is as good as saying that there is no delay at all. Based on these measurements, you can expect that this DVD player will never exhibit an audio sync problem that is the fault of the player itself.

    DTS digital output is supported by this DVD player, but as mentioned previously, you need to enable this in the player's set-up menu, as it is disabled by default. Linear PCM digital audio output at 96kHz/24 bit sample depth is not supported by this player. The player will downconvert any such bitstreams to 48kHz/16 bit sample depth digital output.

    MPEG audio bitstreams are either converted to good quality Linear PCM or output as raw MPEG audio bitstreams depending on how this option is set up in the player's setup menu. This is the ideal way of handling MPEG audio, as it allows the most appropriate setting of this option depending on the capabilities of your equipment and avoids the deafening silence that is forthcoming from some DVD players when they encounter an MPEG audio track.

Disc Compatibility Tests

    No DVD that I tested caused any playback problems on the Sony DVP-S336.


The Good Points
    Superb image quality.

    Extremely smooth fast-forward and fast-reverse.

    Great looking unit.

The Bad Points
    Doesn't play CDRs.

    Only available in Silver.

Features At A Glance

Video Component Output RGB Output
Audio DTS Output 96/24 Output
Plays CDRs
Conversion None
Inbuilt Decoder None

In Closing

    Sony are on a winner with the DVP-S336. It plays DVDs superbly, and for a recommended retail price of $599, you would be hard-pressed to find better value-for-money.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality
Value For Money

Technical Specifications (Manufacturer Supplied)

Product Type: DVD-Video, Video CD and Audio CD player
Region: Zone 4 (Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, Mexico)
Signal System: PAL / NTSC
MPEG Decoder: Sony CXD1932Q
Audio Frequency Response: 2Hz - 22kHz (48kHz sampling)
2Hz - 44kHz (96kHz sampling)
Signal to Noise Ratio: 110dB
Dynamic Range: 100dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.003%
Dimensions: 430 (w) x 252 (d) x 69 (h)
Weight: 2.8kg
Price: $599
Distributor: Sony Consumer Products Australia
33-39 Talavera Road
North Ryde  NSW  2113
Telephone: (02) 9887-6666

© Michael Demtschyna
30th June 2000