Panasonic DMP-BD80 vs Samsung BD-P3600

default -- Sun, 08/23/2009 - 17:00

 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. 

stereodaves -- Sun, 08/23/2009 - 17:05

hmmmm looks like we forgot to log in to our username :D (it has been a long day.. ) , but make no mistake this is our post and our review of the Samsung BD-P3600 vs the Panasonic DMP-BD80. Look forward to hearing your comments.

Sean and Rick
Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative

Thomas (not verified) -- Wed, 09/02/2009 - 00:51

You said you modified the BD players, but didn't tell what the modifications were.

stereodaves -- Mon, 09/14/2009 - 21:06

We do a proprietary modification that involves a process by which we improve the functioning and efficiency of  capacitors and other electronic components of the  unit, affecting not only specific signal paths, but also improving the electron flow, functioning and performance of the entire machine. Thanks for your question, Thomas and our apologies if we had forgotten to include that in your evaluations of the Blu-ray players.

Sean and Rick
Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative

Robert McAdam (not verified) -- Wed, 09/16/2009 - 23:46

I've bought the Panasonic 80 and very pleased with picture and HD sound using analogue outputs. I have yet to compare HDMI audio to analogue outputs. I do have to say setting up speaker sound parameters in player was not easy and I've left unset.
My Nad preamp outputs sound direct through volume pot via 5.1 inputs so no speaker settings are used in the preamp.
I guess I'm up for a new preamp long term to get all the benefits of HDMI as others are saying that HDMI outputs are sonically superior to analogue.

stereodaves -- Tue, 09/29/2009 - 14:49

Well, I am sure you read our comments, but as far as we have tested, the sound of the Blu-ray high resolution  audio formats (DTS MA / True Dolby) are vastly superior through HDMI vs the analog outs. But this also seems to be the case with high resolution music formats in general (SACD / DVD-A). Regular 2 channel 16bit CDs, though, seem to sound better via good quality coaxial cables. In terms of what pre-amp to use that has HDMI capability, we have had very good success using a modified HK AVR 354 or equivalent and then running the signal to a higher current receiver via the pre-outs. Well, good luck to you, but this combination has worked quite well for us.

Sean and Rick
Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative

tasreader -- Wed, 11/11/2009 - 20:21

Hi Sean/Rick,
I also have a Panasonic BD80 and agree; better audio through HDMI than the analogue outputs.
Have you guys experimented with different HDMI cables ?
The fanboys at forums like AVS say there's no difference but I can clearly hear the sonic differences in HDMI cables, moreso than seeing the differences in picture quality.

stereodaves -- Wed, 11/18/2009 - 23:06

Actually, we have experimented with many HDMI cables. It seems many cables do the video quite well through HDMI, but the difference seems to be the audio. We tried many cables from Ultralink to Monster, but in the end found that the more inexpensive cables that did not have any silver in them sounded the best. We ended up by surprisingly finding the Radioshack / Avio brand to do a very good on both audio and video. Yes, we were surprised as well.

Sean and Rick
Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative

Brandon (not verified) -- Mon, 01/11/2010 - 17:55

quick question for you guys who say the hdmi sounds better than the anolgue outs. why do u have the  bd80 instead of the bd60? you wasted your money if your able to experience the sound through the hdmi and dont have to use the anologue outs.

tasreader -- Tue, 01/12/2010 - 00:01

For the versatility !
I occassionally use mine in other systems that don't have an HDMI-equipped processor.

Brandon (not verified) -- Wed, 01/20/2010 - 15:51

i have the panasonic bd80 and a older denon avr 5700 reciever that does not have hdmi so im using the 5.1 analog outs on the bluray to get the HD audio. on the settings for the bluray player theres a digital audio outs section and you can adjust between pcm and bitstream for dts and dolby digital. my question is will these setting have any effects on me getting HD audio through my analog outputs? for instance, do i need the digital audio out to be set at either pcm or bitstream to recieve HD audio from the analog outs, or will i recieve HD audio regardless? i was adjusting between pcm and bitstream while listening to HD audio through my analog outs and it seemed to sound better when set to PCM, is i all in my head?

Brandon (not verified) -- Wed, 01/20/2010 - 16:01

also will i get HD audio on my bd80 even though i have 2ch+5.1ch selected for analog outs? because on my manual it has a table of all the audio formats, and the shaded area is HD audio and for the 5.1ch audio out there isnt any shaded areas but for 7.1ch there is.

tasreader -- Thu, 01/21/2010 - 18:27

Hi Brandon,
As I understand it, the digital audio settings (bitstream, PCM) shouldn't affect the analog output.
Yes, you will get HD audio through the analog outputs in the 2ch+5.1 setting.
Question for Sean and & Rick;
Have you guys tried the Akira BD ?
I'm having trouble getting the BD80 to bitstream the Dolby True HD 192/24 5.1 audiotrack.
According to the BD80's disc info display it reads the 192/24 5.1 track but outputs it as regular Dolby Digital.
However when set to PCM the output is clearly identifed as being in 192/24.
I'm having trouble getting a straight answer as to whether the BD80 really can output a 192/24 5.1 bitstream.

stereodaves -- Thu, 01/21/2010 - 21:01

Hi Brandon and Tasreader,
Some interesting observations you two have had. In terms of Brandon's questions, the reason we often get the Blu-ray unit that has the analog out capability, and not the one that is straight HDMI out, is that, in our experience, the one that has the analog outputs often has better video chips and also seems to sound better than the more compact unit that only has HDMI out. We have tried the cheaper versions of players before and often they do not quite sound or look the same. In terms of your observation of how the analog sounded better when you switched the digital out to PCM instead of bitstream on the blu-ray player, you may very well be right. We have found that different settings in machines that should not have any bearing on other features seem to have an influence on the sound. But in terms of what sounds better, ultimately, blu-ray  multichannel audio sounds better through the HDMI out (as does high resolution multichannel SACD / DVD-A) and 2 channel CD audio always seem to sound better via a pair of good quality coaxial cables out of the audio out.
An interesting sidenote to this, that I beleive we already mentioned, is that if you are playing a 2 channel CD the best sounding audio outputs on a blu-ray player seem to the Front left and Front right outputs on the multichannel blu-ray out outputs; not the regular audio out left and right outputs. We have the player set to Bitstream and, I believe, 2 channel downsample in the menu. But we have tried several brands of players in this set up and there seems to be a less compressed sound, along with a better overall frequency and bandwidth going out of the front channel blu-ray out puts for playing regular two channel CDs.
As for Tasreaders questions, we have not tried out the Akira BD player, but we will be listening to the newly updated Oppodigital blu-ray player shortly, in which they have upgraded it by installing two 32 bit dacs and another 32 bit dac for blu-ray playback. As to your problems bitstreaming the True HD 192 / 24 bit 5.1 track, I was not aware that 192/ 24 bit could be in aything other than a 2 channel format? I have not seen a blu-ray that output 192/24 except in 2 channel format? I know that 96/24bit is able to be output easily at 5.1, but through my experience in making DVD-audio upsampled discs, I do not believe one can play a disc (or format one) that is 192/24 and be 5.1 channels. I believe it has to be 2 channel, but I could be mistaken. Also, I have found that when I play these upsampled dvd a discs, that you do need to have the receiver on "auto select" or PCM so the reciever will do multichannel pcm at the correct setting. But if you are playing a blu-ray you will need to have it on autoselect I would think as well, but I have only done this on 96/24 bit 5.1 or 192/24 bit 2 channel.

Sean and Rick
Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative

Brandon (not verified) -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 00:29

stereodave, its very strange but when i want to listen to 2 channel music and during stereo outputs on blurays and dvd's my panasonic bd80 doesnt produce any information to my subwoofer, but once its a multichannel format the sub kicks in. for this very reason i hooked up a good quality fiber optic cable along with the analog cables that i use when listening to music and during normal dvd watching so my sub works. is this normal for this player?

tasreader -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 01:24

Hi Stereodave,
I believe the Akira Bd is the first feature film to feature a Dolby True HD 192/24 5.1 soundtrack.
Previously the format appeared only on music BDs.
Some are saying the latest Sony BDPs (eg. S360, S760) can bitstream D THD 192/24 5.1 so why can't the Panasonic BD80.

stereodaves -- Tue, 01/26/2010 - 02:33

Thanks for your comments. As for Brandon's issues, it depends on what outputs you are playing movies / stereo CD tracks through and what setting you have the downmix. I know when we were playing an audio CD through the direct outputs (FR and FL) into the CD input of our receiver we had no issues and had subwoofer function, but I can see how if you are playing these same direct outputs of the player and playing them through the direct inputs of your receiver (6 to 8 ch direct mode), the receiver will be looking for a separate subwoofer signal and, therefore, not produce any bass out of a two channel track. The way you would have do it in this configuration to get a subwoofer signal would be to have interconnects from the blu-ray player's 2 channel audio out and go to an input that is not direct in the receiver. The other way you would be able to solve this problem would be to run the blu-ray hd audio through an Hdmi cable and then when you wanted to play CDs, you would go through the FR and FL that were no longer in use into the CD input of your receiver, which would give you greater bandwidth in our experience.

As for tasreader, I can't say I have heard of any 192 / 5.1 music blu-rays myself, but that would be interesting to hear. I have only heard 192/24 2.1 ch DVD-A. As for whether the panasonic can bitstream it or not bitstream, I would take a guess that it would not, as I have never heard of 192/24 being able to be in DTS HD or Dolby True HD in 5.1 channel mode. Is it possible through PCM mode? I thought that the maximum that the two high def formats could do in 5.1 was 96/24. If this is possible now, which I will have to take a look into, I would not imagine this player would be able to output that and have doubts whether many receivers will be capable of streaming streaming it in, if this is a new feature. Let me know if you have any other news.


Sean and Rick
Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative

Hagar63 -- Sat, 08/14/2010 - 08:00

I have just bought the Pan 80 and also bought a "Philips HTR5224"  7.1 Digital A/V Receiver System  to go with it.I'm having a nightmare time trying to set it up!
The back of the Pan 80 has the audio outs for 2 ch/surround and 5.1 ch. 7.1 outputs are the co-axial and optical outs.I'm currently using the optical out,which is going to the Philips.Now,the Philips has HDMI in/out sockets,which allow the Pan 80 to be fed into it,then out to my HD TV. I've read here and on other sites that it's best using the HDMI cable into the receiver,but I emailed Philips regarding this and this is the reply I received;
"Due to the different rates in bitstream between the bluray and the HTR there will be a lag in the audio output and there can be a deterioration in the picture output, as the HTR is an upscaling unit it will not maintain true HD quality.
Please connect the bluray to television directly via HDMI and send the sound from the television to the HTR (depending on the audio connections of television) This will maintain the sound quality and video as well rather than risk losing sound and picture quality connecting a bluray to the HTR and then upscaling the picture."
          So I tried their method but couldn't get no sound out at all. I even tried the HDMI cable into the Philips and one from that into the TV....Again,no sound.(Incidentaly,my TV has an optical output)

Also for some unknown reason (down to me being a A/V noob!) I cannot for the life of me bring up the 7.1 speaker settings menu on the Pan 80!
It's got to be down to my settings on the Pan 80,I'm assuming? Any help would be appreciated. Apart from this set back,the Pan 80 is a beautiful machine.

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