BLU-RAY PLAYER REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 14, 2012 3 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $150 At A Glance: Fast loading of Blu-ray Discs • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Bevy of streaming options • No additional memory needed for BD-Live

The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) requires mutual fund companies to tell investors that a fund’s past performance does not necessarily predict future results—and the same could be said of Blu-ray players. In the case of LG, I’ve had the opportunity to audition its top-of-the-line offering for each of the past four years. In 2009, the company’s BD390 (Home Theater, January 2010) was the fastest player I’d ever used, and in July 2010, I awarded its BD590 a Top Pick because of its solid Blu-ray performance and plethora of streaming services. Unfortunately, in 2011 LG dropped the ball with the BD690 (Home Theater, September 2011) with faulty firmware releases and buggy disc playback.

Michael Fremer Posted: May 18, 2012 18 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.
David Vaughn Posted: Dec 14, 2011 3 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $400 At A Glance: Solid build quality• Speedy loading • Plays SACD, DVD-Audio and Blu-ray 3D • Streams Netflix, Pandora • Possible connection issues

Pioneer’s involvement in optical-disc technology started with the development of Laserdisc late in the 20th century, and the company has continued the tradition with CD, DVD, and Blu-ray. Surprisingly, despite the company’s background and solid history of new product development, it hasn’t been at the forefront of Blu-ray player innovation. The last player I reviewed from Pioneer was in 2009 (the BDP320). It offered fantastic audio and video, but its load times were poisonously slow and it offered no add-on features like streaming or DVD-Audio and SACD support.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 24, 2011 2 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $600 At A Glance: A/V receiver with Blu-ray player • Trove of network A/V content • Supplied iPod/iPhone dock

Whenever I want to watch a movie, I plunge a fiberoptic cable into the back of my neck. Apart from a persistent dribble of blood from my neck jack, the results are enviable. In my mind, I experience a full 360-degree 3D image—there’s not even a frame—accompanied by surround sound with height and depth channels that extend from heaven to hell. Music is just as easy. I just access the 100-zettabyte solid-state drive built into my brain. My doctors tell me that with one more firmware update, I can have lossless audio with a bit depth of 831 and a sampling rate of 90,245 kilohertz. Almost as good as vinyl.

Scott Wilkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2011 6 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $160 At A Glance: 3D at rock-bottom price • Superb A/V performance • Online apps well-implemented • No multichannel analog-audio outputs • No DTS-HD decoding

Samsung's BD-D5500 proves that you don't need to spend a lot on a 3D Blu-ray player to get great results. Its video and audio performance are top-notch, and it provides 3D capability and access to lots of online and locally networked media content. However, it's lack of DTS-HD decoding is a significant drawback, which you can overcome by spending $40 more for the BD-D6500, $20 more for the Sony BDP-S480, or $10 less for the Panasonic DMP-BDT110.

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.

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.

David Vaughn Posted: Aug 17, 2011 6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: Flawless playback of Blu-ray 2D and 3D discs • Audiophile analog performance for less than $1k • Outstanding build quality and first-class customer service

Oppo Blu-ray players have been a fixture in Home Theater's Top Picks section since the introduction of the BDP-83 in 2009. Earlier this year, we added its successor, the BDP-93, to the list due to its flawless playback of Blu-ray Discs, speed of operation, 3D capability, and streaming services from Netflix and Vudu. But good companies don't rest on their laurels, and Oppo has released an audiophile version of the player, the BDP-95, featuring the same reference-quality digital video processing with a beefed-up analog section for those who love their two-channel audio or who haven't upgraded to an HDMI-based AVR or surround processor and want the best audio possible for 7.1-channel soundtracks. Since the BDP-95 is identical to the BDP-93 in terms of video and digital audio, I'll concentrate on the upgraded analog audio here; for more on the rest of the player, see the review of the BDP-93.

Kris Deering Posted: Jul 13, 2011 6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $200 At A Glance: Skype video calling • Reference-quality Blu-ray playback • Limited HDMI options

Building Blu-ray Bridges

Since the beginning of the Blu-ray format, Panasonic has been a leader in the price/performance segment of the market and my go-to recommendation for anyone who’s looking for excellence on a budget. From the top to the bottom of Panasonic’s line, you always seem to get stellar video with both Blu-ray and DVD playback—and typically a host of other great features as well.

Kris Deering Posted: Jun 27, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $300 At A Glance: Top-of-the-line streaming • Exceptional 2D and 3D playback • Compact, sleek design

Stream City

Blu-ray players just aren’t what they used to be—they’re a lot more. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has long offered more than just standard Blu-ray playback. Today’s breed of players bring not only state-of-the-art Blu-ray performance but also connectivity to your home media network and a range of streaming options from the most popular movie and music providers on the Internet. These players can become the hub of your home entertainment system and eliminate the need for separate devices to get the most out of today’s technology.

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?

David Vaughn Posted: Apr 22, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $499 At A Glance: Flawless playback of Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D Discs • Outstanding build quality • The best customer support in the industry

Oppo Ups the Ante

The Blu-ray format has seen its fair share of changes since its introduction in 2006. Its initial launch included players with base playback functionality and poisonously slow boot-up and disc-loading times. Then came BonusView-enabled players, which added a minimum 256 megabytes of local storage with secondary audio and video decoders for picture-in-picture. Next were the BD-Live-capable players. These required an Internet connection via Ethernet or Wi-Fi and a minimum of 1 gigabyte of local storage (sometimes purchased separately), which allowed access to mostly useless online content. After the wild success of Avatar, the studios have jumped into 3D with both feet. Blu-ray 3D players now support a maximum data rate of 72 megabits per second (up from 48 Mbps in previous generations), include HDMI 1.4, and of course, these players support 3D video, 3D menus, and 3D subtitles.

David Vaughn Posted: Mar 07, 2011 0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Google TV and Wi-Fi • Speedy loading of Blu-ray Discs • Ergonomically challenged remote control

Blu-ray meets Google TV

Google TV strives to deliver a new experience by bringing your TV and Internet together. It gives its users access to more entertainment options, and its powerful search capabilities make it easier to find what you want to watch. Two of the first products to incorporate Google TV are the Logitech Revue and Sony’s Internet TV Blu-ray player (NSZ-GT1). While both are based on the same platform, Sony ups the ante by including a Blu-ray player with a $100 price premium. While Kim Wilson explored the virtues of Google TV in our February 2011 issue, I’ll take a look at the NSZ-GT1’s Blu-ray capabilities and see how a Google TV–powered player stacks up against the other streaming Blu-ray players on the market.

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.

David Vaughn Posted: Nov 08, 2010 0 comments
Price: $200 At A Glance: 802.11n Wi-Fi • VUDU HDX, Blockbuster On Demand, and Netflix streaming • Superb video processing

A Streaming Value

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since HD DVD lost the format war. Toshiba bet the farm on HD DVD, and ever since Warner Brothers and several large retailers decided to stop supporting the format, many pundits wondered how long it would take the company to release a Blu-ray player.

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