BLU-RAY PLAYER REVIEWS

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Al Griffin Posted: May 24, 2017 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-quality video upconversion of standard Blu-rays
Plays SACDs, DVD-Audio discs, and native DSD files
Inexpensive
Minus
No announced Dolby Vision support
No analog audio outputs

THE VERDICT
Sony’s ultra-affordable Ultra HD Blu-ray player offers solid video performance, and it also plays SACDs and DVD-Audio discs.

Call it nostalgia, but the launch of an audio or video format strikes me as an opportunity to reflect on what came before it—especially now, with the sun threatening to set on physical media. When the Blu-ray Disc first appeared a little more than a decade ago, Sony was among its main flagwavers. Not only that, but the company’s PlayStation 3 console was considered by many to be the top-performing player in the Blu-ray format’s primitive days. Samsung and Panasonic were quick to push out standalone Blu-ray players, but the folks at Sony took their sweet time bringing their own model to market. When the BDP-S1 did arrive, it was well received for its picture quality—though it had design quirks, including an inability to play CDs.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 14, 2017 9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $549

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding overall performance
Detailed info screen
Plays virtually everything
Minus
No headphone output
No support for HDCD

THE VERDICT
Oppo’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray player has been eagerly anticipated by UHD enthusiasts everywhere. The wait was worth it.

We’re now into the second year of the Ultra HD Blu-ray era, but up to this past January, Samsung, Philips, and Panasonic pretty much had the UHD player market all to themselves. That month’s Consumer Electronics Show, however, saw the introduction of models from LG and Sony, together with new ones from Samsung and Panasonic.

Al Griffin Posted: Jan 18, 2017 10 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-quality upconversion of Blu-rays and DVDs
Effective detail enhancement and noise reduction
Full-featured remote control
Minus
Doesn’t support YouTube 4K video streaming
No Vudu app
No Dolby Vision disc support
Pricey next to competition

THE VERDICT
Panasonic’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray player’s excellent performance and solid build quality make it an easy choice for enthusiasts.

Looking back at format launches over the past two decades, it becomes clear that most first-gen players were clunkers, and pricey ones at that. Dig deep through the Sound & Vision archives (on the web, or in your personal print library—you have one of those, right?), and you’ll unearth reviews of the first Blu-ray player, Samsung’s BDP-1000. Priced at $1,000, this ungainly machine took about one minute to load a disc, did quirky stuff (like first converting progressive-scan signals to an interlaced format before outputting them as 1080p), and delivered pictures that looked soft in comparison with those delivered by the HD-DVD format Blu-ray was aggressively warring with at the time.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 07, 2017 0 comments
At $179, Polk Audio's Signa S1 soundbar is definitely affordable.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 23, 2016 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent UHD performance
Solid build quality
Good value
Minus
Limited streaming apps
Less-than-perfect 4K upconversion

THE VERDICT
It’s not without minor flaws, but the second UHD Blu-ray player on the U.S. market delivers a stellar picture from UHD discs at an attractive price.

The launch of Ultra HD Blu-ray players has now progressed from a slow drip to a trickle. Samsung was first with the UBD-K8500 (reviewed in our June issue and also available at soundandvision.com). At CEDIA, Sony showed its upscale UBP-X1000ES but won’t have it out till next spring and hasn’t announced pricing. Oppo’s new player is expected sometime this fall. And Panasonic’s own high-end DMP-UB900, at $700, became available in late September as we were going to press (watch for a future review).

Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 12, 2016 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
World’s first UHD Blu-ray player
Outstanding overall performance
Reasonable price (for a “first”)
Minus
No auto picture adjustments for HDR, non-HDR, and 1080p discs with current UHDTVs
Small, frustrating remote

THE VERDICT
As the first Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the Samsung UBD-K8500 provides exceptional performance with the right display and disc. But as with any new format, there are growing pains to be sorted out before we can toast to its complete success.

The video world, or at least the segment that still values packaged media, has been waiting impatiently for Ultra HD discs. Many of us still prefer to pay for our movies once and have them on the shelf. More important, we want their video and audio quality uncompromised by Internet bandwidth limitations. Editor's note: For our reviewers' impressions of some the first UHD Blu-ray movie titles, see "Eye on UHD: 14 Ultra HD Blu-ray Movies Reviewed."

SV Staff Posted: May 12, 2016 2 comments
No format launch would be complete without movies to play, and UHD Blu-ray Disc boosters got more than they could have hoped for, with more than two-dozen titles from Sony, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate available concurrent with the debut of the Samsung UBD-K8500 player and all mastered with HDR10 high dynamic range. We asked our movie reviewers Tom Norton and David Vaughn for their top-line observations on 14 titles in the first batch to help you separate the demo-worthy from the duds.
Al Griffin Posted: May 29, 2015 12 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-quality 4K video upconversion
Superb detail enhancement and noise reduction
Excellent digital-to-analog audio conversion
Minus
As pricey as it is heavy
Slim feature set compared with competition

THE VERDICT
Pioneer’s flagship 4K-upconverting universal disc player is something special, even if it’s late to the party.

What’s new in the world of Blu-ray? 4K, that’s what. Expected to arrive sometime in late 2015, the UHD Blu-ray format should offer not just UHD-resolution video but also high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities, an extended color gamut, and up to 16-bit color encoding, among other advanced features. Something to get excited about, right?

Now that I’ve dropped that tidbit, let me tell you about the Pioneer Elite BDP-88FD, a universal player that can handle Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, SACD, DVD-Audio, regular DVDs, and CDs—just about everything except UHD Blu-ray. And it lists for $2,000. Excited? No? Well, let’s see if we can work you up.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 06, 2015 2 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
State-of-the-art wireless (WiSA) audio performance
Includes full WiHD Wireless-HDMI link
Substantial, very high- quality design
High-res audio compatible—wirelessly
Minus
File-streaming feature not fully baked
No mixed wired/wireless multichannel output
No video processing on HDMI inputs
Limited system control features

THE VERDICT
The SD-WH1000U is beautifully built and an outstanding A/V performer wired or wireless, but it’s not quite up to service as a full-system hub controller.

Trundle down to your local big-box store, and you will find quite literally dozens of Blu-ray Disc players on offer, starting well under $50. Big ones, little ones, skinny ones, flat ones, cheap ones, and cheaper ones.

None of these will be Sharp’s new SD-WH1000U, a Blu-ray player with a difference. Two differences, in fact: First, it has a jaw-slackening price tag of $5,000; second, Sharp’s design is wireless-centric, being the first WiSA-compatible player to appear, and one of the very first WiSA sources of any description.

David Vaughn Posted: Dec 16, 2014 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $130

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Multiple streaming options
Remote app with unique Private Sound mode
Makes your dumb TV somewhat smarter
Minus
Glacially slow user interface
Lightweight build quality

THE VERDICT
One heck of a bargain for a Blu-ray player with virtually every major streaming option.

When Blu-ray and HD DVD launched in 2006, electronics manufacturers and movie studios alike were looking to strike gold again, with consumers rushing out to replace their hardware and software to enjoy the new formats’ better video and audio. At the time, DVD players had become commodity items with little or no profit margin, and the bargain bin at Walmart offered discs for under $10. Unfortunately, the format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD left many consumers on the sidelines, and the online enthusiast community became a virtual showdown at the O.K. Corral, with insults being tossed back and forth if somebody said the slightest negative thing about one side versus the other—kind of like Congress?

David Vaughn Posted: Jun 06, 2014 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $180

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding audio and video performance
Loaded with streaming options
Unique screen mirroring with Samsung smartphones and tablets
Minus
Suspect build quality
Controls are on top of the player, limiting placement options

THE VERDICT
A good budget player that makes up in performance and features what it lacks in build quality.

Last week I was playing poker with a bunch of guys and our topic of conversation turned to home theater. I was asked what I was currently reviewing, and when I mentioned the Samsung BD-H6500 Blu-ray player, one of my friends was shocked. “They’re still selling Blu-ray players! Why?” Needless to say, I was shocked, too. When I asked the table of nine other guys, only two said they had watched a Blu-ray movie in the past three months; the rest were getting their movies from PPV (pay per view) or streaming them from Netflix, Vudu, or Amazon VOD.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 13, 2014 2 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good video performance
Unique ergonomics
Vertical or horizontal placement
Minus
No front-panel display
Sluggish YouTube access

THE VERDICT
Its video performance, 4K upconversion, and atypical form factor may well attract buyers, while its slight edge enhancement and mixed performance on some Internet sites may not. But it’s clear that this Toshiba is not your father’s disc player.

It’s getting harder these days for a manufacturer to build and sell a high-end Blu-ray player simply as a Blu-ray player. The market is saturated, and the latecomers, who finally realize that DVD is not high definition and a Blu-ray Disc offers the best quality video currently available to the consumer, seem content to pop for the $49.99 Blu-ray special on aisle 5.

Kris Deering Posted: Feb 07, 2014 25 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Darbee video enhancements
DSD file support
Zero-compromise video playback
Minus
Still looking for one

THE VERDICT
Our Top Pick Blu-ray player only gets better with onboard Darbee video processing and full support for DSD file playback.

Awarding a Top Pick rating is always a big deal with us, but I don’t think we’ve ever had two Top Pick products merge into one. That, however, is exactly what we have with Oppo’s latest generation of Blu-ray players, the BDP-103D and BDP-105D. The second D stands for Darbee Edition, as Oppo has thrown Darbee video processing right into the players. I reviewed the Darbee Darblet DVP 5000 standalone video processor in 2012 and proclaimed it a must-have for making the most out of your display. But the BDP-103D, reviewed here, is more than just a BDP-103 with Darbee processing. Oppo has done a few more tweaks to their player, making it an even stronger Top Pick than before.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 06, 2014 17 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.

Kris Deering Posted: Dec 24, 2013 4 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-resolution audio chops
Reference-quality 2D and 3D Blu-ray playback
Streaming-video paradise
Minus
No support for SACD, DVD-Audio, or DSD formats

THE VERDICT
Spectacular video performance at a budget price point, but not the best choice for true audiophiles.

How things have changed since Blu-ray arrived on the scene. Debut players from the larger electronics companies were pretty full-featured, with substantial build quality. Now it seems that most mass-consumer players are in a race to the bottom when it comes to price and build. While I understand that’s probably the market most of the country buys in, I’m always surprised that most of the big names in consumer electronics don’t keep at least one model for enthusiasts who don’t want to buy a featherweight piece of plastic for a principal player in their home entertainment system. Panasonic evidently feels the same way this year.

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