Ken Taraszka M.D. is an anesthesiologist by trade based in Tampa Bay, Florida. Ken is also a professional audiophile and home theater writer specializing in AV preamps and all facets of the audiophile market. In the past, Ken has been a staff writer and editor at AVRev.com. He has also at times been a frequent contributor at AudiophileReview.com.
Blu-ray is here to stay, and while initial players were expensive and problematic, the newest generations are much more user-friendly and offer advantages not available in the early models. One feature sorely missed was the ability to play SACD and DVD-Audio discs, and even CDs on very early units. Fast forward to the present and we are finally seeing such universal players allowing a single source for everything in your home theater. Lexicon has just released such a high-quality player with their BD-30 Blu-ray player. The Lexicon will spin any disc you can fit into its drawer, including CD, SACD, DVD, DVD-Audio, Blu-rays and even AVCHD files, listing for $3,500.
• Read the Oppo Digital BD-83SE review from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Read more high end Blu-ray player reviews from Krell, NAD, Cambridge Audio, Sony and many others.
The Lexicon BD-30 has the best build quality of any Blu-ray player I have seen to date. The thick, machined faceplate with deeply indented lettering and recessed area for the drawer and display are exceptional-looking, while the remainder of the case is rock solid. This isn't some Japanese stamped steel player, and for the price, it shouldn't be. The unit comes with topnotch packing as well, with high-density foam surrounding the player. It comes double boxed. I was going through the accessories, caught sight of the combined stereo analog composite video cable and felt my heart fail. Since the first players, most have come without an HDMI cable, and this has always frustrated me. I was thrilled to see Lexicon did include a nice quality HDMI cable, power cord, remote, a bound manual and one other bonus, a copy of Digital Video Essential HD: Basics (DVD International) on Blu-ray, to help users calibrate their displays to get maximum performance out of the player. This is missing from every other Blu-ray player at any cost that I have seen in the marketplace so far.
The front controls are pretty simple: a small power button is on the bottom left with the disc tray over the display in the center of the unit. An eject button is to the right of the tray, and further to the right is a plus sign arrangement of buttons that control all the transport function and menu navigation. There is a USB 2.0 port is on the far right side of the fascia. The buttons are all well-placed and have a solid feel to them. The rear has everything you'd expect from a player that does it all. A 7.1-channel analog output and a dedicated stereo output are included, one each optical and coaxial digital outs, composite and component video, LAN port, a second USB 2.0 port, HDMI and RS-232 control. A two-pronged IEC connector for power and a small fan to control heat finish out the rear of the unit. The included remote is pretty basic and a tad clunky, but performed its job well. The backlighting was excellent and easily triggered. The buttons were large and well laid-out.
I connected the BD-30 to my Krell Evolution 707 AV preamp both with an AudioQuest HDMI cable and with three pairs of interconnects from the multi-channel analog output. I only used three pairs, as I run a 5.1 system for my reference, since my room is too shallow to justify surround back channels. This fed my Krell Evolution 403 amplifier and Proceed HPA 2 amp for the rears. My speakers were the Escalante Fremonts for fronts and Canton Vento center and surrounds, with a Definitive Technology Supercube Reference subwoofer. Power was fed by my PurePower APS 700 and my trustworthy 70-inch Sony XBR was the display. Additional cabling used Transparent Reference XL interconnects and speaker cable for the front three speakers.
The first thing I would encourage anyone to do is have the TV calibrated, if this hasn't already been done. You can use the included DVE to get the picture as close to perfect as possible. I had previously done this, but did a quick run-through on the player to confirm my settings. I next put in a Blu-ray that is a torture test for black levels, Underworld: Evolution (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and was truly impressed by the level of detail in the gradations of blacks in this film. I had slightly tweaked my contrast and brightness when I ran the DVE, so I went back and compared the Lexicon to both my Denon DVD2500BTCI and Sony BDP-S350. Neither came close to revealing the detail in the blacks as the Lexicon. I watched the opening scene on each player and there was no contest which was better: it was the Lexicon by far.
I next cued up X-Men: The Last Stand (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) to see how it would handle the colors of Xavier University, and was again pleased. While my other players seemed to strain to produce the color palette, the Lexicon did it with an ease and naturalness that was just right. Flowers weren't overly bright, and the lushness of the greens looked perfect. When I went back and did the comparisons again, the Lexicon came out on top. The Lexicon was also one of the fastest on load times for Blu-rays and was DVD player-quick on DVDs.
I am sure people will attack this player as a "rebadged" Oppo, so I went out and bought an Oppo BD-83 SE in order to fairly compare the two. First off, there is no comparison between the build quality of the two players. The Oppo is lighter and the buttons have a far less solid feel to them. The Lexicon is a taller, much heftier unit. Black levels were close, but the Lexicon had a more natural contrast and color palette than the Oppo. More importantly, the Lexicon was nearly totally silent when loading discs and changing tracks. Those familiar with the Oppo know it is a rather noisy player when loading discs, switching tracks and scanning, even sometimes for no apparent reason. The drive is in the Oppo is noisy enough to catch my attention during quiet passages in movies, while the Lexicon is inaudible during use at all times.
DVD scaling was excellent, thanks to Anchor Bay's Reference Series (VRS) technology. When I watched the seriously twisted John Waters film A Dirty Shame (New Line Home Video), the rendering was great. The wildness of Tracy Ullman's hair was resolute, while Johnny Knoxville's pimp-like Ray-Ray character came across bright and bold, as you might expect from such a snappy dresser. Though not as good as native 1080p, it was certainly a step forward from when I turned the scaling off and let my display do the scaling.
Sure, the Lexicon can do excellent video, but it is after all a universal player, so I spun up the SACD release of Miles Davis Kind of Blue (Columbia). From the start of the horns on "So What" to the subtle bass lines of "Freddie Freeloader," everything was presented in a smooth and detailed fashion, with good air around the various instruments, and made for great listening. I used Neil Young's Harvest (Reprise) on DVD-Audio to further test the multi-channel analog outputs and was pleased with what I heard. While this is not the best recording, the music is timeless and the Lexicon brought these aged tracks to life. "A Man Needs a Maid" is one of my favorite songs on this album and I was treated to an open and lush rendering of the track. Gone were the edge and glare often found in lesser players. The openness of the piano was excellent. Moving on to "The Needle and the Damage Done" kept me enthralled with the wonderful way the guitar was portrayed. I switched between the HDMI and analog outputs and preferred the HDMI, as it was more open and distinct, but this is to be expected as the digital signal was now running through the DACs in my $30,000 reference AV preamp.
Read more about the Lexicon BD-30 on Page 2.
For CDs, I went to a favorite new test disc of mine, Puscifier's V is for Vagina (Puscifier Entertainment) and went straight to the last track, "Rev. 22:20 (Dry Martini Mix)." I was glad to hear the Lexicon could reproduce the deep and solid bass lines, giving them sizeable air, while the vocals stayed separate. "Momma Sed" started with lively guitar. When the bass came in, the room filled with the notes. I had to compare this unit to my reference $21,000 EMM Labs TSD1/DAC2 combo and, as I suspected, the EMM Labs did outdo it, giving more depth and a larger soundstage, but both were fun to hear. The Lexicon was just less inviting and a bit more confined than the Meitner gear. As I say, just a little, which is a feat in itself.
It is really tough to fault this player. It sounds better than many more expensive universal players I have owned (pre-Blu-ray) and offers all the bells and whistles available to the Blu-ray format, with 2.0 spec and 1 GB internal memory. I felt the remote was not quite up to the level of the player, but worked well, if seeming a little cheap. This is likely not an issue, as most, if not all, people buying this unit are going to be controlling it with a Crestron or AMX system via the RS-232 interface, as is to be expected at this level of gear. The sound of all formats ranged from quite good to excellent. However, there still is that Nth level of performance for those audiophiles willing to spend exponentially more to climb audio's Everest.
Blu-ray is unquestionably the new standard for video playback. I personally have been wondering when would be the right time to buy a high-end Blu-ray player. Until I spent some time with this Lexicon unit, I was convinced I should wait, but this unit has swayed my belief. Offering every feature available to Blu-ray, a full BD 2.0 spec player, playing any disc you can fit into its drive and making them all sound good, this piece has changed my thinking.
Lexicon worked with the drive makers to customize this unit to their specifications and the quality they added really shows. The exceptional build quality and aesthetics of this piece mean it will look great in a high-end rig, while the sonics speak for themselves. The Lexicon BD-30 is a solid player worthy of a serious home theater, with the build quality and pride of ownership you'd expect for the price. It is the first Blu-ray player I would use as the lone source in a high-end system. Installers will love its RS 232 and IR control options, as well as its speedy load times, while customers will love its silent operation and stunningly good looks. This is a great player, one that anyone sitting on the fence wondering when to dive into a high-end player needs to listen to, or just come over to my place, as I am keeping this one.