Is it finally time to own a Blu-ray player?

lenwfl -- Sun, 08/10/2008 - 09:08
robert_harley6 wrote:
I've had the BDP-S350 less than 24 hours, but my initial impression is that its much better ergonomically than the BDP-S2000ES. The new player is much faster to load and respond to commands.

Now that you've owned the BDP-S350 for awhile what is your overall assessment? I noticed in another post you imply your having 'no disc' issues on this player.

I own a Pioneer/PRO-1410HD which is only 1080i compliant but I'm considering getting a Blu-ray player. I've been a NetFlix customer for a long time and they now seem to have quite a few Blu-ray titles.

So the big question: Is it time to spend $400 for a Blu-ray player or will future models likely be significantly better?

RichTeer -- Sun, 08/10/2008 - 11:09

I've had a Blu-ray player since last September (a PS3 actually). Even on my piddly little 32" LCD TV (saving for a bigger, better--read plasma--TV!), the difference between DVD and Blu-ray is astonishing.

So yes, the time is right to get into Blu-ray and to stop wasting $$ on SD DVDs!

mecolwell -- Sat, 08/23/2008 - 19:59

I have been watching the unfolding of BluRay patiently, and the new Sony BDP-S350 looks like maybe a winner?
I currently have a Denon DV-2900, and it is a great DVD player, costing $999 at new.
Does the Sony do DVD as well, in your opinion, as a good DVD like the Denon? This seems to be one of the ongoing issues, unless the Realta Chipset is used, usually in $2k players.
I am waiting for some reviews on the Sony.
The denon plays SACD's and DVD-A (dead issue), and I could forgo the SACD.


Robert Harley -- Sat, 08/23/2008 - 22:43

I'm very happy with the BDP-S350 as a DVD player and a BD player. The only feature on the next-generation models is the BD Live feature already enabled (the BDP-S350 can accept a software download later this year to make it BD Live compatible) and decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio within the player with eight analog outputs. The BDP-S350 has only stereo analog outputs. It will transmit TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio on the HDMI output.

The loading speed and operation are much faster than that of first-generation machines (the BDP-S2000ES).

It was well worth the money, in my view. Once you see BD, DVD looks soft. I've been watching Planet Earth in BD on a 1920x1080 front projector on a 92" wide screen, and it's stunning.

prepress -- Fri, 11/28/2008 - 15:22

How is the S350 as a CD player? Or would I be best served maintaining a stand-alone CD player and getting a Blu-ray for video-only purposes?

lenwfl -- Sun, 08/24/2008 - 08:52

robert_harley6 wrote:I'm very happy with the BDP-S350 as a DVD player and a BD player. The only feature on the next-generation models is the BD Live feature already enabled (the BDP-S350 can accept a software download later this year to make it BD Live compatible) and decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio within the player with eight analog outputs. The BDP-S350 has only stereo analog outputs. It will transmit TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio on the HDMI output.

This could be a good reason for people like me to wait for the S550. I'm interested in comparing HD stereo vs. SACD. I'm interested in outputing the new Blu-Ray audio formats directly to my KCT preamp.

I found this offering of a combo set of SACD and Blu-Ray available at: stating "Music label 2L celebrates its fiftieth release with DIVERTIMENTI and is the first record company in the world to combine a hybrid SACD with a Blu-ray "music only" disc in the same package. Since all the various formats in this production are derived from the same high resolution source (5.1 channel DXD, 24 BIT 352.8kHz) the product, as well as the musical pleasure derived from it, sets a unique standard for equipment manufacturers and HiFi magazines the world over."


mecolwell -- Sun, 08/24/2008 - 21:54

Good Evening.
I have always respected Robert Harley's opinions, reviews, comments, as the best out there, IMO, so I am about ready to jump to the 350..if he says it's that good, that is good enough for me!
H is viewing it on a system most likely far superior to my Mitsubishi 2007 55" Diamond DLP, which will accept 1080P/24.
I want to wait and look at the step-up 550, as it will output DTS Master Audio and decode tham all to the 7.1 analog outputs.
My older Classe' SSP-25 has no inputs for 7.1 analog, but I see a value in the future for possibly a high-res audio platform, and I'd like the player to be able to do it on it's own.
A possible two channel stereo DTS Master Audio would be very interesting to me, but who knows if this will ever materialize.
The 550 is targeted at $100 more.
It is slated for this fall.


Alex (not verified) -- Tue, 12/30/2008 - 19:49

Mike, are you selling your Classe SSP-25?

lenwfl -- Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:18

Robert Harley's opinion carries a great deal of weight with me also. I finally got to operate the Sony BDP-S350 and decided to buy one. From the posts I've seen here and elsewhere it looks like a player that will service by home video needs for a good while.

As far as the Blu-Ray audio high definition formats go, I'll just wait and see what if any high end players and software are brought to market.


RichTeer -- Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:52

lwhitefl wrote:
As far as the Blu-Ray audio high definition formats go, I'll just wait and see what if any high end players and software are brought to market.

There are already several high end Blu-ray (note that "ray" isn't capitalised) players out or coming to market soon. Denon and Marantz have players, and Pioneer recently announced what could be a real doozy of a player, with separate DACs for each of the eight 7.1 analogue outputs. A couple of months ago, Goldmund announced their $18K player.

Robert Harley -- Mon, 08/25/2008 - 12:19

It has been reported that Sony will reduce the price of the BDP-S350 in late September to $299. The BDP-S550, originally slated for a $499 list price, will go on sales in late October (a slight delay from the announced ship date) for $399.

jl123 -- Wed, 08/27/2008 - 16:14

"5.1 channel DXD, 24 BIT 352.8kHz"

Could someone please explain what "DXD" is? Is it related to DSD or PSM? Is this the first Format that puts it to SACD?

thanks, JL

lenwfl -- Thu, 08/28/2008 - 14:13

jl123 wrote:"5.1 channel DXD, 24 BIT 352.8kHz"

Could someone please explain what "DXD" is? Is it related to DSD or PSM? Is this the first Format that puts it to SACD?

thanks, JL

You can read this article like I did, but it's pretty technical. It sounds like another high defiinition recording process that can be more easily edited while still producing high quality audio masters to produce SACD.


mecolwell -- Sat, 09/06/2008 - 12:15

Good morning.
Anyone (espcially you, RH, as I value yours the most) had any experience with the new Pioner Elite BDP-05FD (or it's similar cousin, the Pioneer "standard" model)?
With onboard decoding of all audio formats with Woolfson DACs, also used in my excellent sounding Cambridge Audio Azur 640Cv2 would be of interest to me, if it plays DVD well, loads fast, free of bugs. I am not sure if it's lack of an ethernet port is anything missing, for me...I am not sure if I want that even hooked up to my analog/HT system. Pioneer Elite offers a step-up player for a whopping $1k, but I would not pay any more for that one feature, and Pioneer's site does not list Woofson DACs as a feature, but it is most likely an omission.
I have owned Pioneer and Pioneer Elite models of players (LD and DVD) over the years, and I felt like I was cheating on my wife buying a Denon DVD-2900 (superb DVD performance).
I still own an Elite DVD-05, in the upstairs sysyem, still soldiering on.
Comments, anyone??
Mike Colwell


mecolwell -- Sat, 09/06/2008 - 14:56

Cambridge Audio has announced the addition, Spring 2009, (Price TBD) of the Azur BD-640 Blu-ray player.
Now, I m excited about this, as I own a Azur 640Cv2 CD player, and it is the best sounding CD player I have owned.
Their 840 has been widely recommended as amongst the very best out there! Robert H. was pretty blown away by it, and I am sure it is a cut above my 640, for sure.
I will wait and see what this looks like in the spring.


Robert Harley -- Tue, 09/09/2008 - 17:05

We'll be very interested in the Cambridge Blu-ray player.

Neil Gader just reviewed the new Cambridge 840 preamp and 840 power amplifier, two products that are quite upscale for Cambridge. The review will appear in the November issue (mails to subscribers October 1).

discman -- Thu, 09/18/2008 - 20:27

BTW the Sony 550 comes out on Oct 13 at $499.

Robert Harley -- Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:19

It's been reported that the Sony BDP-S550 will be released at $399 rather than at the announced price of $499. There's some controversy within the Blu-ray association whether more aggressive price cutting is warranted yet. Some argue that the format is too new for big price cuts, and that raising consumer awareness through an advertising campaign is more productive. Others within the group suggest that price cuts are necessary to make Blu-ray the "must have" product in the upcoming selling season.

mecolwell -- Sat, 10/11/2008 - 18:35

Anyone out there played with/lived with the Pioneer Elite BDP-05 yet?
I am considering this along with the new Sony BDP-S550 ($400 less!).
I compared both today, (the Sony was the 350) on similar but different displays, and the Pioneer had less jaggies than the Sony.


richard shapiro (not verified) -- Thu, 01/08/2009 - 12:36

 Several months ago I bought the Pioneer Elite BDP-05 along with a Sony HD Bravia TV and I'm very happy with it. It lists for $800 but I bought it for much less from an online mail order house in NY. I first saw it at a TV store and was quite impressed with it. It was the first Blu-ray I'd ever seen and I didn't consider looking at Sony or any of the others. I wasn't concerned with audio at that time but since then I've become interested in Blu-ray audio and am anticipating the Cambridge Blu-ray player in the Spring. For me the BDP-05 has a great picture. When you watch Planet Earth with it you feel that you're right there. I think that model does better upsampling than the cheaper models. Because I don't have a lot of DVDs at this point, I opted to buy a mid range model and I think I made a wise choice.  

Robert Harley -- Tue, 10/14/2008 - 09:45

I haven't tried the Pioneer, but their previous Elite-series products have been excellent.

mrvordo -- Sun, 11/09/2008 - 09:59

FYI, oppo will be releasing a Blu-ray this winter. Based on their other DVD machines, I'm holding out for their Blu-ray.

Robert Harley -- Mon, 11/10/2008 - 14:23

The Oppo does look very promising. I'm going to upgrade my Sony S350 at some point, and the Oppo is a candidate.

Fitzcaraldo215 -- Thu, 11/13/2008 - 19:16

robert_harley6 wrote:The Oppo does look very promising. I'm going to upgrade my Sony S350 at some point, and the Oppo is a candidate.

I am not doing anything in Blu-ray until the Oppo appears. I believe it will be well worth the wait. This is a great company that offers industry benchmark performance at reasonable prices. I wish there were more like them. Their sound via analog is probably not going to be the equal of the top Pioneer, Denon or Sony, but my hunch is via HDMI, it will be a real killer, on audio and video.

mecolwell -- Thu, 12/04/2008 - 10:01

I have a question.
I have a Panasonic BD-55, which will be a Christmas gift.
My Classe' SSP-25 does not have 7.1 analog ins. Does Blu-ray output multi-channel DTS or DD from the digital outs, selectable from menus, in addition to the high res formats??
I wish to just use the DD or DTS at this point, but want to know if I need to upgrade my controller to enjoy 5.1 right now.
Help! Christmas is coming, and I need to know how to proceed.
Do I need to upgrade right now??


Robert Harley -- Fri, 12/05/2008 - 11:22

All Blu-ray players will output Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams that are compatible with exisiting AV controllers and receivers. You won't be able to hear Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD, and DTS HD Master Audio, but you'll realize an improvement over Dolby Digital from DVD. That's because the DVD format limits the Dolby Digital bitstream to 448kbps (it's typically 384kbps), but the Dolby Digital format can accommodate bitstreams up to 640kbps. The Dolby Digital bitstream from a Blu-ray player is 640kbps; the higher bitrate confers slightly better sound.

It was essential that the new audio formats be backward compatible with the massive installed base of Dolby Digital and DTS decoders.

The new audio formats are "extensions" of a core bitstream that is compatible with existing decoders. That is, within the Dolby Digital Plus bitstream is a conventional Dolby Digital stream.

mecolwell -- Fri, 12/05/2008 - 15:28

Thank you so much for the, as always, great info, from a true gentleman!
I will upgrade the controller sometime next year, most likely with an Integra 9.9. have a Merry Christmas!


mecolwell -- Fri, 12/05/2008 - 15:30

Thank you so much for, as always, timely information, accurate, and from a true gentleman.
I will most likely upgrade the controller this coming year to an Integra 9.9.
Merry Christmas!


Robert Harley -- Fri, 12/05/2008 - 18:07

I'm also interested in the Integra 9.9. I need to upgrade my controller to one that will decode the new audio formats. I'd also like Audyssey MultiEQ.

mecolwell -- Thu, 12/11/2008 - 09:09

Hi, Robert.
Cool, that you are looking at the Integra 9.9. Do you think the older 9.8, which there are some at Audiogon for around a kilobuck, would be significantly different, or inferior in any way to the 9.9?
The 9.9's major difference seems to be the inclusion of the "ISF Mode", otherwise almost identical.
Do you think it would be wise to invest in the new piece, or, as the times being what they are, save about $800-1k and get the used piece?
My buddy in California (I live in Oregon) just got a new 9.9, today, and is, most likely as I type, setting it up, now.
He has always been one to have to have the "best of the best". 
I will report how he likes his, after his "full review". (I may e-mail his review to your magazine e-mail for you to read, if that's ok).
Looks like about a perfect controller.
Mike Colwell
A postscript on 12/11/08: My friend has set up the 9.9, and thinks it is a wonderfully built, easy to set up, and wonderful sounding controller. What a steal, at $2000. He had a Proceed prior to this.
A 9.9 (or used 9.8) is most certainally in my future plans.


Pete Wilson -- Fri, 01/02/2009 - 18:42

I'm very pleased with my Integra 9.8. As someone else notes, it's not clear what the 9.9 adds (I'm not saying it doesn't add anything, just that it's not clear).
My 9.8 eats HDMI inputs from AppleTV and Oppo 980, and analog audio from a Lecson AC1 (which currently eats the phono) and sounds excellent.
I bought the AppleTV originally so I could see my photographs large and in comfort, and then listening to music from it (held in Apple Compressed) sorta grew out of that. But I had no outboard DAC (Linn Wakonda front end) and so eventually I was drawn to buying an AV machine for the integrated DAC and chose the 9.8 because of the Audyssey and the discussion in Stereophile (and the built-in phono stage)
I find the Audyssey provides a subtle but worthwhile improvement.
However, there is one annoyance. Since I just knew that the Audyssey works on all inputs, I knew there must be a reasonable A/D so that analog input can get Audyssey'd. But after buying the 9.8, I discovered that it's not possible to get an analog input presented on a digital output - this was a blow, since I'd wanted (cheapskate that I am) to use the presumed quite good A/D as a path to digitising vinyl (TOSlink into a MacBook). And now, I'm not sure if there IS an A/D inside the thing. Time to buy a service manual...
Of course, now that I've lived with the machine for a year, I want to read a review which confirms just how smart I was to buy it...
-- Pete

Chris Martens -- Fri, 12/12/2008 - 16:06

 'Just a quick note to let you know that the Sony BDP-S550 is reviewed in the current issue of Playback: (just click on the BDP-S550 link on the cover of the magazine to be taken straight to the article).

To confirm, yes the BDP-S350 now sells for $300 and the -S550 for $400 (both in rounded-up numbers).

BDP-S350 vs. BDP-S550: If you have an AVR/controller that supports Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, then the -S350 is the way to go. However, if your AVR/controller doesn't support those codecs, then the -S550 makes a lot of sense for just $100 more.

Interestingly, a lot of higher end A/V controllers manufacturers (Anthem and Sunfire, to name two) were among the last folks to adopt (or have not yet adopted) onboard Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio decoders. My thought: in most cases it would be cheaper to spring for the -S550 than to pay for an unscheduled AVR or controller upgrade, provide that your current electronics have multichannel analog inputs.

Chris Martens, Editor, Playback

Chris Martens
Editor, Perfect Vision 

Robert Harley -- Fri, 12/12/2008 - 19:04

There's another wrinkle in choosing a Blu-ray player; whether it can convert the Dolby Digital Plus/TrueHD/DTS-HD bitstream to high-resolution PCM for output on the HDMI 1.3 interface. Many new controllers can accept and convert to analog the high-res multichannel PCM coming in on HDMI. The catch is that the Blu-ray player must be capable of converting the TrueHD bitstream to high-res PCM. The Sony S350 does not have this capability; the S550 does.

I just took delivery of a Classe SSP-800 controller. It will accept the high-res PCM. In March Classe will add an additional DSP board that will perform on-board decoding of the new audio formats. However, that feature should not provide any performance benefits over using it with a player that outputs high-res PCM.

Here's a link to a listing of all currently available Blu-ray players with a chart showing whether the player will convert the DD Plus/TrueHD/DTS-HD bitstreams to PCM.
I'll report further on this issue in a blog after I get the Classe SSP-800 up and running.


prepress -- Thu, 01/01/2009 - 06:06

I would still be interested in which Blu-ray player people would use as a CD player. Since BD players presume to replace a CD player and I'm still mostly an audio guy (despite having splurged on a Pioneer Elite TV), this is an important feature for me. And, which players are best in a 2-channel setup. I have a not-so-short list which needs to be whittled down. I know the Oppo is coming; I didn't know the Cambridge was.
And it must be good with upscaling DVD.  Even if I get a Blu-ray, my DVDs will be the priority; budet won't let me go all out for Blu-ray now, plus I'd like to see more special interest and music titles.

Robert Harley -- Thu, 01/01/2009 - 17:26

We'll be looking at a number of Blu-ray players from the standpoint of what the format and various machines offer the audiophile.

mecolwell -- Fri, 01/02/2009 - 12:12

"Is it time to own a Blu-ray??"
Yes, yes, and yes!
I got a Panasonic BD-55 under the Christmas tree, hooked it up for a few (4) films, component, fed to my DLP Mitsubishi Diamond 57, into a Classe' SSP-25, DD and DTS, THX only.
The image quality is spectacular, and the DD and DTS seem to be improved, most likely to a higher bit rate (a speculation).
I hooked it up, yesterday, HDMI with a Monster 850 Series HDMI cable, so I can now view in the native 1080P/24.
Looks spectacular, as well!
 I will stick with the Classe' for some time till I upgrade it, but am happy with the results now.
I hooked up the two channel analog outs of the 55 to the 2 channel "Analog Bypass" of the Classe', and compared it to my Cambridge 640cV2, and they sounded similar.
It is time to go "Blu" if you haven't already!!


Robert Harley -- Fri, 01/02/2009 - 12:47

Congratulations! I love the Blu-ray format as well.
You are correct that Blu-ray delivers better sound quality than DVD, even with conventional Dolby Digital. That's because Dolby Digital as a format can run at bit rates as high as 640kbps, but is limited by the DVD format to 448kbps (most DVDs contain Dolby Digital at 384kbps). The higher bit rate helps, as does Dolby's new encoding algorithm for Dolby Digital Plus. When you listen to Dolby Digital from Blu-ray, you're hearing the "core" Dolby Digital bitstream from within the Dolby Digital Plus bitstream, giving you the dual advantages of  the higher 640kbps bit rate as well as the superior encoding algorithm.

mecolwell -- Fri, 01/02/2009 - 20:58

As I suspected, a higher bit rate on Blu-ray for DD (and I suppose DTS, as well), but the better encoding algorithms would surely help, too.
I wonder if the new High-res formats "blow away" the lossy ones, or are just "better"??
I would suspect they are "better".


mecolwell -- Sat, 01/10/2009 - 13:51

A new piece!
I have purchased an Integra DTC 9.8, purchased new from a local Integra dealer, and will install it in about a week.
I'll report on DD-Tru-HD and DTS Master Audio when I get it all up and runnung.
I will sell my well-loved Classe' SSP-25 on Audiogon starting at $700, as it is, and always has been, a high-end audiophile preamp first, and it is a "10" cosmetically and operationally.


stereoguy (not verified) -- Sun, 08/09/2009 - 15:09

If I'm strictly interested in high quality 2 channel audio Is there any advantage to a blu ray player  or other format or is a high quality cd player (without sacd) still state of the art?  What format gives the best audio quality?  Of the formats with widely available recordings which has the best quality?

JLeeMD (not verified) -- Sun, 08/09/2009 - 17:20

IMO, SACD is the best overall 2-channel format for audio quality. The Oppo Blu-ray player is garnering rave reviews for SCAD and CD playback. At $499, it's great value. Oh, and it's a reference quality Blu-ray & DVD player as well.

stereoguy (not verified) -- Mon, 08/10/2009 - 09:50

I'm just concderned about the limited sacd music choices and wonder if a dedicated high uality cd player at present is the best way to go.

JLeeMD (not verified) -- Mon, 08/10/2009 - 12:03

For large music choices, your options for high quality audio are CDs or downloads.  The latter is a developing medium for audiophiles and I am not familiar enough to make any recs.  If you state your budget for CD players, the members of this forum can give you good recs. 

stereoguy (not verified) -- Mon, 08/10/2009 - 12:42

budget $1500-2500.  Am I better off with a straight cd player or something like the oppo blu ray player that can also do cd and sacd?

JLeeMD (not verified) -- Mon, 08/10/2009 - 15:21

     For ~$2500, you can get a reference caliber CD player (Bryston BCD-1) or for ~$1500 a near-reference CD player (Cambridge Audio 840c).  I'm not so sure you can get a SACD/CD machine for ~$2500 that is near-reference caliber.  For that, I think you have to step up to an Esoteric or Ayre, both of which retail for ~$6000.  For your budget, I'd look at the above two players. 
     Others to consider are the Rega Saturn, Primare's CD player, and the Creek Destiny.  If SACD is something you really want, Sony's recently released SACD/CD player at ~$1500 is one to consider. 

JLeeMD (not verified) -- Mon, 08/10/2009 - 15:23

FYI, Oppo has been compared favorably with ~$1000 CD players by AV Guide.

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