We decided to do another testing between the new Panasonic DMP-BD80 and the Samsung BD-P3600. We modified both players, as we wanted to see just how good they could get and sometimes you cannot tell how well a player will ultimately perform until they are modified.
tested out analog DTS-Master / True Dolby with both players and surprisingly the Panasonic seems to do a better job at internally
processing the high resolution formats through the analog outputs. It
definitely has more / lower bass and is overall more balanced and pleasant to
listen to. The Samsung in comparison sounded rather bright and thin on its Analog outputs playing high resolution formats of Blu-ray. This is surprising, as on previous models this was not the
case when comparing the Samsung and other players. This
is also surprising, as with almost all the players we have tested, the
sound characteristic of the particular player is the same throughout
all the outputs... analog, digital, two channel CD analog playback,
etc, but there is a definite difference between how the Samsung sounds
on HDMI vs how it sounds coming out if its Analog outputs on high
resolution audio. My theory is that Panasonic has better decoders to decode the True Dolby / DTS Master internally and process them out of the analog outputs. The Panasonic also has excellent build quality and I
found was a bit smoother in overall operation.
But as good as the Panasonic sounded on analog, we are coming to the conclusion that the high resolution formats of Blu-ray ultimately sound quite a bit better via HDMI, which is a tough pill to swallow for people who have spent thousands of dollars on very expensive non-HDMI receivers / amplifiers and pre-amps. The sound of the Panasonic on the high resolution formats via its analog outputs, as good as it was, did not hold a candle to how those same formats sound coming through HDMI bitstream. It just sounds soft and lacks detail and bass depth as compared to outputing those same formats through HDMI. We have also found this to be true with the high resolution formats of DVD-Audio and SACD, where the HDMI outputs sound quite a bit better than their analog counterparts. One solution I can see is similar to our own set up in our demo room, where we have our modified AVR receiver (HK AVR 354) which handles the high resolution audio via its HDMI inputs, and a second higher wattage modified receiver (HK 3490), which is run out of the pre-outs of the AVR unit, so essentially we are using the AVR receiver only as a pre-amp. We started using the Modified HK 3490 after we heard the difference that the extra power gave to our albeit highly efficient custom single driver speakers. The clean extra watts apparently effects the damping factor, which causes the cones in our single drivers speakers / subwoofers to move more precisely and , thus, produce an even more cleaner transparent sound, with better location, clarity and depth / defined bass. Although, we are running modified equipment, I would imagine that this solution would be quite viable for many people who wanted to keep using their highly venerable (and often very expensive) pieces, while enjoying the new innovative formats that Blu-ray has to offer, as well as multi-channel high resolution formats such as SACD and DVD-audio. All of which, have much greater sampling rates than that of regular redbook CDs (DTS Master being 96khz / 24bit compared to a 44.1khz / 16bit CD). As a fan of both high resolution audio formats (SACD, DVD-A), we almost always prefer the multi-channel track to the stereo track of most SACDs / DVD-A's, as you get a more realistic sense of the venue and the spacial aspects often are quite superior in the multichannel tracks. The only caveat is that the person must have a very clean, transparent AV receiver, which is why we use a modified one ourself.
But getting back to our comparison.... Except for analog
high resolution playback, the Modified Samsung on our TV (Sony SXRD)
and system, does everything else better than the Modified Panasonic.
We next tested just regular two channel CD playback through the analog
outs and the modified Samsung had quite a bit more dynamics,
extension, lower frequency range and clarity as compared to the
modified Panasonic. It also had more richness, warmth and body as compared to the Panasonic, which had a thinner, smaller presentation. Next we tested high resolution formats through the
HDMI connection via bitstream and again the modified Samsung was
quite a bit better than the modified Panasonic. The Samsung through HDMI has much
lower bass extension, more detail, less veiled, and seems to be less
bright. The Panasonic seemed to range from too warm (soft sounding) in the mid range and muddy to too
bright, with not enough bass through the HDMI audio out, which is
quite interesting knowing how well it did on analog.
Video comparison was also rather fascinating. The
Samsung is more three dimensional (quite a bit so on our TV), and on
our TV is clearer, has a wider color range it seems, and just appears
overall less flat and muddy. The black levels are clearly deeper on
the Samsung and things just stick out. Also, the modified Panasonic upsampled DVDs quite well, as
did the modified Samsung. I have to wonder if the the type of chip is
being bought by many different companies as the Oppo, Samsung, and now
the new Panasonic player all had this different level of upsampling,
as compared to previous units, or it could just be a new generation of
upsampling chips. On upsampling, though, we did prefer the Modified Samsung over the Modified Panasonic, as the Panasonic seems to have more jaggies and a more granulated look and the blacks did no appear as black, as compared to the Modified Samsung.
Both players were definitely helped out considerably by the
modification, as I did test out the Panasonic before I modified it. The Samsung, as we have stated earlier on earlier posts, improves significantly on the top end, gets better bass extension, more defined midrange and has significant improvement to the video.
The Panasonic improved in terms of bass depth and extension on the
top, especially in the analog audio outputs for high resolution. Video
was also improved with the clarity being improved and it definitely
had better, darker black levels, but it still did not reach the level of the Samsung when it was modified. So overall a very interesting test.