The best Blu-ray Disc player
We recently received an email asking what the “best” Blu-ray Disc player is, and how to hook it up. I will attack the first question first, and provide a follow up post for BD player setup later.
To answer this question, one has to determine what criteria to use. Because different people are looking for different features, I’ll provide a few categories of “best.”
Also, if someone asked me what the “best” sedan was, I might point them to a Cadillac CTS, or a Mercedes S Class. But this is pretty unrealistic for most of us. We might have to settle for an Volkswagen Jetta, or even a Hyundai Genesis. What I mean by this is I’m not going to offer the genuine “best” players, because these cost thousands of dollars. I’m going to provide affordable models.
Best picture quality
Right off the bat, I’m going to have to take a step back from my claims at affordability. At $499, the Oppo BDP-83 is just outside the price range for most consumers, but if your sole criteria is the best picture, the Oppo offers this. It also happens to offer a slew of features, like playback of virtually all discs you might stick in it, including SACD, DVD-Audio, CD, DVD, Divx, and more. What it doesn’t offer is some of the internet features we’ve also been enjoying on Blu-ray Disc players, nor does it support 3D content yet.
So what about in the $200 price range? Panasonic has an advantage here as their Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory actually works with the studios to author Blu-ray content. They have also developed a chip set for use in authoring which is also included in the Panasonic players for playback of that content. The DMP-BDT100 is a 3D player with built-in WiFi for Viera Cast (which includes Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video on Demand, and more), and a half-second start up time.
Best audio quality
I’m sorry, but for audio quality, you will have to pay a bit more. If you’re looking for $200, skip ahead.
The ideal solution is to use the HDMI input on a receiver that supports multi-channel LPCM audio. But some people prefer using the analog audio inputs on ridiculously expensive equipment, and in this case you expect to pay more anyway. In this case, just look to the Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD at $2200. Its picture quality rivals that of the above Oppo, but its audio section is beefed up with 8 separate Wolfson audio DACS for each analog output.
Don’t worry about this, though. The vast majority of us could get incredibly high-quality audio through the HDMI inputs on a high-quality AVR. In fact Pioneer has come to this conclusion themselves, with their newest BD players not having multi-channel analog audio outputs at all. They do offer a precision clock in their Elite players and Elite AVRs called PQLS which eliminates judder in the audio. For the same $2200 you could get an incredibly splendid Pioneer Elite SC-35 AVR and a BDP-33FD, and still have money left over.
But for $200, any of the other players I’m offering are comparable to one another.
Best internet features
There is a clear-cut category winner here in the Samsung BD-C5900. Why? It’s way under $200 for a 3D BD player, with the largest selection of internet streaming sources available. In fact some of us would be completely satisfied with a Samsung BD player instead of a comparably-priced internet video streaming box (like the AppleTV, or Roku). This player doesn’t have WiFi, but an adapter is very inexpensive. If you want it built in, try the BD-C6500.
Samsung offers their own app store for these players, and it is constantly growing. Available now is the largest selection of video available, including Hulu Plus, YouTube, Blockbuster, Netflix, DailyMotion, CinemaNow, and Vudu. I wish Amazon Video on Demand was available, as it is on other players, but it isn’t available yet. It could come at any time though, as it is up to Amazon to offer this app, and I doubt Amazon would want to stay out of this market as Samsung is one of the leading BD players in terms of market share.
Beyond video, Samsung Apps are available for popular games such as Monopoly, Sudoku and Texas Holdem. Audio is provided from sources such as Napster and Pandora. There are social media apps for Facebook and Twitter. You can even , Skype.
Yahoo! Widgets are supported as well, so the possibilities are endless.
Since picture and audio quality are pretty good across the board (at least for Blu-ray content), I would have to conclude the Samsung players are generally the best. But those from Sony and LG do offer many of the same features, and some different features you might find enticing. It wouldn’t hurt to look those over before you make your decision.