I just received the Panasonic DMP-BD55 Blu-ray player ($359 street). As you may have seen in my post about unboxing the BD55:
I plan to use this player as one source for a multichannel controller article that I’m doing for The Absolute Sound. I selected the BD55 for this duty because it has multichannel analog out and because Panasonic seems to have paid some attention to the D/A conversion rather than just viewing it as a necessity for those who refuse to upgrade their receivers.
Since my TAS article isn’t about the BD55 per se, I thought I’d pass along some of my listening notes specifically about the BD55 for those of you who are considering this player.
These are early days in the listening process, so consider these notes with some skepticism. As you may know from some of the discussions in the AVGuide forums, one of the limitations of any listening methodology is that to understand the behaviors of a piece of equipment, we have to feed in material that triggers the behaviors we want to study. In short, the music or movies we play must allow edgy treble or ill-defined bass or great soundstaging to be heard. You can’t easily evaluate treble balance with a solo recording of string bass.
For my first sessions, I set up the BD55 in two-channel mode, and played regular (red book) CDs. I did this for two reasons: two-channel makes setup relatively easy, and one of my reference players (the EMM Labs Meitner CDSA) is two-channel only. Thus, this blog entry will only be interesting to those who are thinking of the BD55 for audio use as well as for movies, and for those who would consider using the analog outputs of the BD55.
Those caveats aside, I have to say I’ve been very impressed so far with the BD55. It has a sound that I can describe overall as beautiful. What I mean by that is to say that the BD55 is slightly reticent in the treble region, but in a way that doesn’t make the music sound dead (for example, the PS/3 rarely sounds bad, but it robs music of much of its sparkle and verve). In addition, the upper treble of the BD55 is very clean, and not at all splashy. Many mid-priced CD players sound fine until they confront cymbals or triangles and then they get a bit squirrelly. In contrast, with the BD55, the treble is clear and well-defined, just slightly reduced in level. The reduced treble output of the BD55 doesn’t hurt on many recordings and if anything lends a sense of depth that is missing from some CD players. So far, bass on the BD55 seems both ample and taut, though I usually don’t hear as much difference in CD playback at the low end as I do at the high end.
If I have any criticism (besides the possible point that the treble balance may not suit your system), it is that the very lowest level decay of notes on the BD55 seems to get lost. It may be that a lot of this information is at high frequencies and is slightly attenuated along with the rest of the treble.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been stunned at how good the BD55 sounds. It isn’t really dark and certainly not bright and it lacks the typical CD distortions. For those of you with a lot of high-end audio experience, it reminds me for all the world of a conrad-johnson preamp, the overall sonic descriptor being “golden”. That is high praise indeed. It may not hold up over the next few weeks, but so far, so good.
Note 1: just to avoid tragic misunderstanding, most users will hook up the BD55 (or any Blu-ray player) via HDMI to a receiver or a multichannel controller. In that situation, the descriptions above are irrelevant because the digital to analog conversion circuitry of the BD55 will be bypassed and CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs will have their audio decoded in the receiver or controller.
Note 2: equipment used with the BD55 included EMM Labs Meitner Design CDSA CD/SACD player, Audio Research LS26 preamp, Nordost Blue Heaven and Wireworld Gold Eclipse interconnects, mbl 8008 x 4 amplifiers, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, mbl 101e loudspeakers, RPG acoustic treatment.
Note 3: If you've read Robert Harley's blog on True HD decoding (player vs. conroller or receiver), you'll want to know if the BD55 decodes TrueHD to PCM in the player. The answer is yes (the BD55 has BDLive capability).