Home Theater Review

 

Blu-ray Player Reviews and Information

Buying a Blu-ray player can be complicated but we are going to simplify things for you so that you can find the right player for your system at the right price. HomeTheaterReview.com has many of the best Blu-ray players reviewed below but before you get to those reviews here are some Blu-ray resources that you might find helpful if you are doing research on what player to buy next.

Blu-ray Articles, Education, and Resources:

16 Terms That You Should Know Before You Buy A Blu-ray Player
From HDMI to DTS Master Audio to Dolby TrueHD to H.265 compression and more… This is the education that you aren’t going to get from a check out clerk at Costco. Read more.

Why Blu-ray Is Better Than Streaming Video
So many people are talking about streaming video like what you get from Netflix, CinemaNow or Amazon VideoOnDemand but the quality is nowhere near as good as Blu-ray can deliver. Find out why in this article.

Five Tips to Successfully Setup Your Blu-ray Player
Not every Blu-ray player is as easy to setup as others. Here are five tips to make sure your installation is a piece of cake.

The 10 Best Blu-ray Demo Discs
Most people still rent most of their Blu-ray discs but here’s a list of the movies you need to OWN on Blu-ray and why. Read on.

Blu-ray Community
Have more questions and or expert help from people who really know their stuff about Blu-ray? Check out HomeTheaterEquipment.com’s friendly Blu-ray player forum here.

Search Reviews By Category

Home Theater Review's Best of 2013 Awards

Home Theater Review's Best of 2013 Awards

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
0 Stars
 

It's that time of year again. The HomeTheaterReview.com staff has discussed all the products reviewed over the year and decided which ones rated the best. Check out our list of the best of 2013. Read More

 
Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD Universal Disc Player

Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD Universal Disc Player

By Dennis Burger

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Cambridge Audio's Azur 752 BD universal disc player put Dennis Burger in a quandary. During the course of his review, Burger found the objective and subjective measures of the Azur 752 BD coming into conflict. Read More

 
Yamaha BD-S673 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Yamaha BD-S673 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

By Alex Lezcano

Overall Rating
3 Stars
 

Yamaha's BD-S673 Blu-ray players carries a pretty hefty price tag for a Blu-ray player. Alex Lezcano spends some time with the Blu-ray player to see if the performance and features justify the price. Read More

 
Panasonic DMP-BDT230 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Panasonic DMP-BDT230 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

By Adrienne Maxwell

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Adrienne Maxwell has a go with the Panasonic DMP-BDT230 Blu-ray player to see if the players lives up to what is expected of a modern Blu-ray player. Read on for her findings. Read More

 
Oppo BDP-105 Universal Blu-ray Disc Player

Oppo BDP-105 Universal Blu-ray Disc Player

By Myron Ho

Overall Rating
5 Stars
 

Oppo Digital has become the default recommendation when looking for a high fidelity source component. Myron Ho investigates one of the company's newer offerings in the BDP-105 universal Blu-ray player to see if that is still the case. Read More

 
Yamaha BD-S473 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Yamaha BD-S473 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

By Alex Lezcano

Overall Rating
3 Stars
 

Blu-ray players are everywhere. Every manufacturer has a slew of models to compete. Alex Lezcano takes a look at the Yamaha BD-S473 to see how it stacks up against the offerings of the market. Read More

 
Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

The Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray player comes packed with features, some of which, many consumers may not need. Adrienne Maxwell reviews the Blu-ray player to see how these features stack up in the real world. Read More

 
Sony BDP-S185 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Sony BDP-S185 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

By Adrienne Maxwell

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Blu-ray players have become more and more ubiquitous in consumer's homes, but the best ones still cost more. But that is not always the case, as Adrienne Maxwell reveals in this review of the Sony BDP-S185 Blu-ray player. Read More

 
Sharp BD-AMS20U Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Sharp BD-AMS20U Blu-ray Player Reviewed

By Adrienne Maxwell

Overall Rating
3 Stars
 

Sharp introduced two models of Blu-ray players last year. The top tier of the two was the BD-AMS20U, reviewed and put to the test here by HomeTheaterReview.com writer Adrienne Maxwell. Read More

 
Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
5 Stars
 

It's that time of year again. The Home Theater Review staff has looked over all of the year's impressive offerings - of which there were many - and narrowed it down to what they believe to be the best of 2012. Read More

 

Blu-ray Player Education and Information

1.0 What is Blu-ray?
2.0 The History of the Blu-ray/HD DVD Format War
3.0 HDMI and the Art of Copy Protection for Blu-ray
4.0 PlayStation 3 (PS3) as a Blu-ray Player
5.0 DTS Master Cinema and Dolby True HD
6.0 What About Deep Color?
7.0 Why Is There No Blu-ray For Music?
8.0 Streaming Media Via Blu-ray Players



1.0 What is Blu-ray?

Blu-ray is an optical disc format that competes with DVD and uses a blue (actually somewhat purple) laser to capture the information from the disc, which allows for better performance than the red laser used in traditional DVD players. Blu-ray discs have up to 50 gigabytes of storage and can provide the consumer with 1080p high-definition video images for their HDTV, as well as high-resolution audio via PCM or lossless compression via DTS Master Audio and Dolby True HD. Blu-ray offers a significant upgrade over DVD in terms of picture quality and sound quality, while the players are backwards-compatible with DVD discs, allowing consumers to play their "legacy" DVD collections as they upgrade their collection to high-definition on Blu-ray.

2.0 The History of the Blu-ray/HD DVD Format War

Blu-ray got off to a rough start, with Hollywood movie studios being lobbied by powerful computer and electronics companies to make an exclusive choice between one of two competing formats. The Blu-ray group was backed by Sony, Philips, Pioneer, Panasonic, LG, Hitachi, Apple Computer and, ultimately, many others. The competing HD DVD format, packing the more intuitive name (because it has both HD and DVD in it, telling consumers exactly what the players did) was supported by the likes of Microsoft and Toshiba. Studios like Disney, Sony and Fox exclusively offered Blu-ray discs to the public, thus drawing a line in the sand in the format war. HD DVD garnered support from Paramount, DreamWorks and Universal. Warner Bros., with a huge catalogue, sat on the fence.

Consumers and early adopters hated the format war from the get-go, as players were relatively expensive ($500 to $1,000) compared to DVD players on the market. Load times for both formats were more than a minute, when comparable (and far less expensive) standard-definition DVD players were nearly instantaneous. Both Blu-ray players and HD DVD players needed frequent firmware updates that in many cases killed off the units. Both players also needed frequent hard restarts, which require the pulling of the plug on the unit; DVD players rarely ever need this to perform flawlessly. What consumers fretted over most was the idea that, in their quest to get 1080p video (the highest available resolution from digital cable and/or HD satellite is 1080i), they would get stuck with "Beta" when "VHS" was going to be the deciding format.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the HD DVD group was gaining significant marketplace momentum, thanks to the release of very affordable players (some under $100 at the time) and a handful of strong HD titles, while the Blu-ray group was building somewhat less momentum pushing Sony's PlayStation 3 game consoleas the best, or at least most affordable, Blu-ray player at nearly double the price of the entry-level HD DVD machine. Everything changed on "Blu-Friday," January 4, 2008 - the last business day before the almighty Consumer Electronics (CES) trade show where nearly 150,000 AV and computer industry executives from around the world converge on Las Vegas. Warner Bros., which had been releasing titles for both formats in a somewhat unexpected move, decided to support Blu-ray exclusively with their titles. The conjecture at the time was their allegiance was up for auction and that the Blu-ray group bid more than $300,000,000 higher than did the HD DVD group. With the two competing formats sporting million-dollar booths at CES almost directly next to each other, the Blu-ray camp was celebrating as if they'd won the Super Bowl, while the HD DVD booth was a virtual morgue. Toshiba swore they would fight back, but Wal-Mart dropped its support of the format in mid-February, 2008. Online disc rental house Netflix announced they also would be dropping HD DVD for Blu-ray. Big box retailer Best Buy announced Blu-ray was their preferred HD disc format and it was all over for HD DVD. Only days later, Toshiba announced they would cease making HD DVD players and the format war ended with the last supporting studios scurrying to convert HD DVD titles to Blu-ray releases.

3.0 HDMI and the Art of Copy Protection for Blu-ray

Hollywood studios love Blu-ray, not only because it offers them an opportunity to resell their entire vast catalogue of movies to clients on an HD format, but unlike the compact disc for the record labels, Blu-ray's best features are nicely copy-protected when displayed in HD, thanks to HDMI and its much-maligned HDCP copy protection. HDMI makes a digital "handshake" with other HD components in a home theater system, thus locking the content from source (Blu-ray player, HD DVD player, etc.) to receiver or switcher and then to the video display (HDTV, front projector). This makes it difficult (but not impossible for those with way too much time and skill on their hands) to break the digital lock.

On the surface, HDMI sounds like the one-cable dream solution to the audio-video industry's connection needs, neatly paired with the copy protection Hollywood studios demand for their movies in HD, yet all is far from perfect. HDMI and its HDCP copy protection have been horrendously unreliable, to the point where many AV installers and retailers refused to use the connection in the early days of the format. Copy-protected Blu-ray and HD DVD players suffer from copy protection communication issues that left systems crippled, while non-copy-protected sources like HD DVRs worked like a charm. HDMI has updated its software and copy protection to make it current to version 1.3b. However, electronics companies and chip providers struggle to keep up with technological changes, often with the weak link being the receiver/preamp part of the system. Most current displays are HDMI 1.3b-compliant, as are most Blu-ray players. Many receivers and AV preamps on the market today offer only one or two HDMI inputs and often they are HDMI 1.1, which can potentially cause problems with connectivity. Without HDMI connection, the highest-resolution sound from the likes of DTS Master Cinema and Dolby True HD are not released from the disc. Some discs even limit or down-res the video content coming out of the player when not connected via HDMI.

4.0 PlayStation 3 (PS3) as a Blu-ray Player

Many praise Sony's PlayStation 3 game console as being the best, most reliable Blu-ray player on the market. Unlike early players, Sony's PS3 has passed the test of time, including firmware updates to reliably play a Blu-ray movie and many of its most tricky supplemental features with ease. Sony PS3 is currently one of the least expensive ways to get Blu-ray performance into a home theater or HDTV system. Its game controller navigation is hard for the non-gamer to use in many cases.

5.0 DTS Master Audio and Dolby True HD

The two lossless compression audio formats available on Blu-ray are DTS Master Audio and Dolby True HD. They are not always available on the same disc, but both represent a very accurate replication of the master audio 7.1 soundtrack for a film. They run on HDMI cables and require an HDMI receiver with the ability to process the codecs, as well as receive HD video.

6.0 What About Deep Color?

Deep Color refers to 10-bit color which has never been commercially available on Blu-ray. Some say that is could be part of a new Blu-ray format for Ultra HD, which is the new name for consumer 4K, yet to date there have been no moves to improve color in HD or Ultra HD via Blu-ray.

7.0 Why Is There No Blu-ray For Music?

The music business has suffered a terrible loss in market share that they blame almost exclusively on peer to peer file sharing, arising out of the Napster phenomenon of the late 1990s, yet they still sell the 25-year-old compact disc as their main form of music sales. While legal downloads are copy-protected, there are millions of CD titles that are not copy-protected. Blu-ray offers the ability for record labels to resell their best back-catalogue discs in dramatically improved audio formats, like DTS Master Cinema and Dolby True HD, as well as pack HD video footage, high-resolution still images and other impressive supplemental materials, yet all four of the major record labels reject this format. Known as the "Grandfather of Grunge," Neil Young, who owns the catalogue of the music he has composed/performed, announced in the spring of 2008 that he would release his recordings in high resolution and/or high-resolution surround on Blu-ray. No major studio has followed his lead to date. Audiophile record labels have not quickly adopted Blu-ray for music, despite Blu-ray having upwards of a reported eight percent market penetration in American households. Some boutique record labels like 2L records from Norway and AIX Records are pushing for music on Blu-ray but with few exceptions - like Rush's Moving Pictures and a few Pink Floyd reissues - mainstream music isn't being released in Blu-ray.

8.0 Streaming Media Via Blu-ray Players

From day one, Blu-ray players could be more than just units that spun silver-colored discs, as the Sony Playstation 3 taught us. In the current marketplace, even the most inexpensive Blu-ray machines priced as low as $100 come with internet connectivity and streaming possibilities. Internet connectivity makes it easier to do firmware updates and streaming options from the like of Netflix, CinemaNow, and/or Amazon Video-on-Demand. This allows customers to bring movies and TV into their home with need for a physical disc, albeit at a lesser quality than Blu-ray. Additionally, applications are now starting to be part of the Blu-ray value proposition, which allow for popular services like Pandora, internet radio, Spotify, and others to be accessed via your Blu-ray machine.