BLU-RAY PLAYER REVIEWS

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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 4 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.

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.”

David Vaughn Posted: Aug 02, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $350 At A Glance: Exceptional speed • Plethora of streaming services, including Netflix, Blockbuster, and VUDU • Built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi • Blu-ray 3D

Blu-ray 3D Is Here

To 3D or not to 3D, that is the question. Sorry to go Shakespeare on you, but I’m skeptical as to whether 3D is the next big thing on the horizon. Samsung is one of the major players vying for your 3D dollar, and I have to give the company credit for leading the charge on the next advancement in home entertainment. You may recall that Samsung was the first company to release a Blu-ray player (BD-P1000). While that launch wasn’t as smooth as the company would have liked due to a faulty noise-reduction setting, Samsung eventually fixed it, and the format has now become mainstream. Is history going to repeat itself for Blu-ray 3D? And if not, is the BD-C6900 worth your 2D investment?

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.

David Vaughn Posted: Jul 12, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $430 At A Glance: Fast loading of Blu-ray Discs • 250-GB built-in hard drive • 802.11n Wi-Fi • VUDU HDX streaming • CinemaNow • Netflix

More Than Just a Disc Player

LG Electronics has proven itself to be the most innovative manufacturer of Blu-ray players in the world. It was first to market with an HD DVD/Bluray Disc combo player (BH100), a player with Netflix streaming (BD300), and a player with 802.11n Wi-Fi (BD390). To continue its string of firsts, LG’s BD590 is the first standalone Blu-ray player to include a builtin 250-gigabyte hard drive. It provides storage for BD-Live interactivity and can store movies purchased from VUDU, plus you can rip your favorite CDs for easy access. The player also lets you access Gracenote’s vast database of movie and music metadata. You can look up information by pushing a button on the remote. Let’s take a look and see how the BD590 stacks up to LG’s previous efforts.

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?

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