BLU-RAY PLAYER REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 23, 2011 0 comments
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Crisp, vivid imagery • Superb audio playback • Limited features

Back to Basics

The fundamental purpose of an optical digital disc player is to play back optical digital discs. While that may be self-evidently redundant, there’s a wide selection of players on the market that offer a numbing range of additional, gee-whiz features. These include such things as SACD and DVD-Audio playback, streaming and downloading of movies and other Internet content (sometimes wirelessly), and of course, today’s top banana, 3D.

Shane Buettner Posted: May 24, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $9,950 At A Glance: Breathtaking picture and sound with all 5-inch silver discs • State-of-the-art audio performance with USB audio • No 3D

The Last Great Silver Disc Player?

The era of 5-inch silver disc players began in the 1980s, and it isn’t over yet. But even quality-driven, Blu-ray- and CD-playing dinosaurs like me are compelled to admit that there are fewer days ahead for the disc player than there are behind it. The Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Universal A/V Engine ($9,950) builds a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. The DX-5 is a universal disc player. It plays CD, SACD, DVD-Video/Audio, and Blu-ray Discs. But it’s also a cutting-edge digital-to-analog converter for digital audio files from a variety of sources, up to 24-bit/192-kilohertz. Its supertrick analog audio outputs are stereo only, so the only people who need apply are extreme videophiles and two-channel audiophiles who want a reference-quality universal Blu-ray player and state-of-the-art playback of digital audio files. The DX-5 is loaded with crucial and daring proprietary technology, and it’s the best-sounding, most versatile digital source component I’ve had in my system. The price tag? Who cares. Don’t you want to know more?

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Jul 09, 2007 Published: Jun 09, 2007 0 comments
Two that do one; one that does two.

LG shocked the consumer electronics world at CES when they announced that, not only were they coming out with a player that would play Blu-ray and HD DVD, but it would be shipping in less than a month. True to their word, it did, and I got one in to try out. Around the same time, Toshiba released a pair of second-generation HD DVD players. The model I look at here, the HD-XA2, is notable as it is the first HD DVD player to output 1080p. The Blu-ray camp (seeing as they had just released most of their players) had no such exciting newness beyond what you read about in our April issue. So, we got in the Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player, which is unique in that it doesn't seem to be a clone of any other players (which you can't say for many of the BD players out there). Where should your money go (if at all)? Just keep reading.

HT Staff Posted: Sep 19, 2007 0 comments
Hi, I'm Troy McClure, and you might remember me from such educational films as. . . Sorry couldn't help myself. The Simpsons are on the big screen as I write this, and obviously that's gotten to my head. But seriously folks, the reaction to a recent Blog I wrote on next-gen interactivity brought to my attention that now is a very good time to catch you up on what is going on with Blu-ray Disc interactivity and how the players currently on the market and about to be on the market will (and won't) handle these features.
Geoffrey Morrison Posted: May 18, 2007 Published: Apr 18, 2007 0 comments
No, for real this time.

After a rocky start with the flawed-out-of-the-box Samsung BD-P1000 player, Blu-ray finally hit the stores for real at the turn of the year with several new players. These range from the top-of-the-line Pioneer BDP-HD1 ($1,500), to Philips' the more sedate BDP9000 ($1,000), to the Sony PlayStation 3 ($499 or $599).

Joshua Zyber Posted: Aug 04, 2008 0 comments
Can Blu-ray be more than the next Laserdisc?

Although I don’t usually pay attention to such things, the other day as I was opening a recent Blu-ray purchase, I took note of the “Compatible with PlayStation 3” sticker that either the studio or the retailer had attached to the shrink wrap. It was trivial, hardly worth glancing at, but it got me thinking about how closely the Blu-ray format is tied to Sony’s multipurpose game console. Of course, I seem to recall similar stickers about the PlayStation 2 appearing on early DVD releases, but the situation is very different now. DVD’s benefits over its VHS and Laserdisc predecessors were so obvious that the format achieved explosive growth, and its success was never dependent on just one playback machine. Certainly, the PS2 brought DVD into a lot of homes very quickly, but standalone players and computer drives were equally (and soon more) popular with the public. Everyone wanted DVD, whether they wanted a game console to go with it or not.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 02, 2010 0 comments
Price: $699 At A Glance: DVD-Audio and SACD playback • Pure audio mode • Not a Blu-ray 3D player • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Decoding•

Fastest Drawer in the West?

A quick Internet search can easily turn up a Blu-ray player or two for sale at close to $100—and plenty of decent-performing ones for less than $200. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a refurbished player for under a hundred bucks. The great thing about the situation for consumers is that there are plenty of goodperforming, affordable Blu-ray players out there—but that means any upscale manufacturer has its work cut out for it to distinguish itself from the herd. So if a manufacturer is going to be bold enough to come out with a Bluray player for $699 or so, that machine had better be top notch.

Shane Buettner Posted: Jun 28, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,999 At A Glance: Reference-quality picture and sound • Anchor Bay video processing • Slow disc access and load times

A Chip Off the Flagship’s Block?

Denon turned the Blu-ray world on end when it introduced the $4,500 DVD-A1UDCI universal Blu-ray player (HT, October 2009). At 41 pounds, that player is overbuilt for an A/V receiver. It played all past and current high-end audio and video formats and offered astonishing pure audio and video performance and the most impressive host of performance-enhancing features we’ve yet seen on a Blu-ray player. But ergonomically, it was sluggish loading and playing Blu-ray Discs. When you consider that, along with the hefty price tag and the superlative performance we’ve seen from lower-priced players, Denon’s flagship rated too low on the value scale to earn an unqualified Home Theater Top Pick. Now comes Denon’s DBP-4010UDCI, another universal Blu-ray Disc player. This player has an impressive number of performance-oriented features, and at $1,999, it’s less than half the flagship’s price. So, at this lower price point, is this Denon a solid choice in a high-end-priced player?

David Vaughn Posted: Sep 09, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Incredible build quality • Anchor Bay video processing • Slow disc access and load times • No streaming services or 3D support

Denon started out way back in 1910 as part of what was then Nippon Chikuonki Shokai (Japan Recorders Corporation), a maker of records and gramophones. Over the last 100 years, the company has seen a lot of changes, but in modern times, it’s recognized for making high-quality A/V receivers, Blu-ray players, tuners, and turntables.

Kris Deering Posted: Apr 18, 2008 0 comments
Breaking new ground in HD.

Since the arrival of Blu-ray, I’ve been waiting for a player from Denon, whose high-end DVD players have served as references for me for years. So far, the standalone Blu-ray players I’ve used have left me wanting. Pioneer and Sony are the only manufacturers offering players with the construction quality I expect from a top-end player. But both of these manufacturers have delivered products with their own issues, including extremely slow response times and lack of support for cutting-edge Blu-ray features.

Shane Buettner Posted: Aug 31, 2009 0 comments
Price: $4,500 At A Glance: Full interactivity and advanced audio • Reference-level picture and sound • HQV video processing • Slow disc access and load times

The Chosen One?

This isn’t the first player we’ve reviewed in the high-end price category. In some respects, we’ve walked away impressed by the high-end players we’ve reviewed, but none of the high-end designs we’ve looked at has earned their pay grade by making our Top Picks list. It’s possible that this tells us more about the less expensive players on the market than the more expensive ones. Blu-ray’s inherent quality, advances in video processing, and the proliferation of HDMI have resulted in sub-$500 players that will satisfy even the most finicky videophile with a front-projection system. In short, midrange and even entry-level players have gotten so good that, although we’ve been waiting to be floored by a high-end player, so far it hasn’t happened. Whether it’s lack of speed, audio or interactivity features, or performance, we’ve been waiting for a player that makes us stand up and shout, “Noooo!” when the UPS man comes to take the player back to the manufacturer. With regards to both its price and its performance aspirations, the $4,500 Denon DVD-A1UDCI is the most ambitious Blu-ray player we’ve yet reviewed. Is it the chosen one?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 25, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray drive • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • USB port for direct iPod connection

Looking for the Right Fit

Let’s say you hit the mall looking for a leather jacket. You find a store with an especially nice selection and immerse yourself in the joy of leather. At first, you just walk around enjoying the sights. But then you refine your search: by color, style, material, lining, presence or absence of shoulder padding, the mechanical integrity of the zipper, and the little things, like whether there’s a fastened interior pocket the right size for your iPhone. Finally you hit the target, finding the jacket line that meets all of your specifications. You begin pawing through jackets, at first enjoying the little thrill of handling something you actually may buy. You paw through some more, getting nervous. Finally, you reach the end of the rack, and you’re frantic. You turn around, find a salesperson standing there, and ask: “Is this jacket available in a small?” The salesperson smirks and answers: “Sorry, sir, we only have that in large or extra-large.”

Michael Fremer Posted: May 18, 2012 13 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray player • Energy-efficient digital amplifier • Good build quality • No video inputs

My review sample of the Harman Kardon BDS 5 Blu-ray receiver arrived shortly after the death of Dr. Sidney Harman. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the life of one of the audio industry’s founding fathers. Harman and partner Bernard Kardon pioneered the A/V receiver category in 1954 with the Festival D1000, the first audio product to combine the functions of a mono power amp, preamp, and radio tuner. The stereo version, the Festival TA230, arrived shortly afterward. By the time Harman retired in 2008, A/V receivers were wearing his name. Harman International eventually became an audio empire, not only continuing the Harman Kardon brand, but also encompassing JBL, Infinity, Lexicon, Revel, Mark Levinson, and others. Harman was a renaissance man: an activist, philanthropist, professor, and public servant, the quintessential tough businessman with a heart of gold.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 06, 2014 7 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Internal storage for up to 100 BDs, 600 DVDs, or 6,000 CDs
Bit-for-bit downloads of BDs and DVDs from Kaleidescape Store
System interface and operation unmatched by any other movie server
Minus
BD must be inserted to authorize playback, even if movie has been imported
Limited options for adding zones and storage

THE VERDICT
The Cinema One provides almost everything you’d want in a movie server. “Almost” not good enough? Pair it with the DV700 Disc Vault.

Sometimes I’d rather take a jackhammer to my brainstem than dig through piles of disc cases and endure the mind-numbing delays of spinning icons, non-skippable trailers, loading menus, FBI warnings, and whatever else stands in the way of watching a movie at home.

If it seems like I’m exaggerating, it’s only because you haven’t experienced the tidal wave of dopamine that comes with using a movie server in your home theater. For the uninitiated, a movie server is an A/V component that provides near-instant access to movies stored digitally on an internal or external hard drive (or drives). Some servers, such as Kaleidescape’s new Cinema One, include a built-in Blu-ray/DVD player that makes it easy to import movies or music.

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