From an audio standpoint, the BD-UP5000 is something of a mixed bag. It is labeled as a Dolby TrueHD player, but can not yet output TrueHD LPCM bitstreams via HDMI (a firmware upgrade scheduled for May will supposedly provide that functionality). The unit’s internal multi-channel audio decoder does not support full 5.1 or 7.1 TrueHD decoding either. The manual states that, with TrueHD soundtracks, sound will only come through the main left and right front speakers. However in my tests using Dolby’s TrueHD demo pixel s disc, I was getting sound through all three front channels, with the surround channels folded into the appropriate left and right front speakers.
The player does include bass management functions, but does not provide features for setting channel levels or making time-delay adjustments. While the Samsung does not claim to decode DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, I found the player would, in fact, play a DTS-HD Master Audio demo disc and with correctly outputted channels. However, I’m guessing that what I heard was actually the conventional DTS core equivalent—not full-on HD Master Audio. According to Samsung, the planned May firmware update will enable Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio, and DTS-HD High Resolution LPCM bitstreams to be output via HDMI. To evaluate the Samsung’s analog audio capabilities I listened to CDs, comparing the Samsung analog stereo outputs vs. its digital audio outputs as handled by my reference Denon AVR (the Denon has a unique Direct stereo analog mode that provides analog bass management and bypasses the A/D conversion stage, so that—even with my main/sub speaker setup—I can confidently compare analog stereo sound versus the digital equivalent. Here, the Samsung did not disap- point, with the analog output’s sound quality matching what I heard with the digital connection, both in clarity as well as frequency extension. I listened to Dianne Reeves’ vocals on the soundtrack for Good Night And Good Luck [Concord Records], and her gentle and soulful stylings stayed lush and smooth through the Samsung’s analog outputs, with nary a hint of hardness or dulling of the top end.
At $799, the BD-UP5000 isn’t that much more expensive than a pair of dedicated BD and HD DVD standalone players, and with the onboard HQV Reon processor, the player will breathe new life into your DVD collection as well. Samsung does have another Duo combo player coming in May (BD-UP5500) at a $599 price, which will reportedly feature better onboard audio decoding, but will not come equipped with the Silicon Optix video engine. PB