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BluRay for Dummies...or, what must I know before buying?


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#1 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 01 2009 - 09:17 AM

My wife tells me we should look for a Blu-Ray player during Black Friday and Holiday sales. This small purchase may beget a new receiver which begets new speakers. (We'll see.) So I'm reading about new receivers, just in case, and thinking I've got a handle on Blu-Ray basics. Then I read the following comment from a receiver reviewer:

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/receivers/683-onkyo-tx-sr607.html?start=4
Quote:
1) You can have the blu-ray player pass the audio directly to the receiver. This is known as "bit-streaming." The only negative to this is that you will not be able to hear any secondary audio tracks (like director's commentaries) or the built-in menu sounds of a blu-ray disc. However, if all you care about is hearing the movie soundtrack in the native Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master, this is the best way to go (and what I do).

And I'm completely boggled. If I set up a new receiver with a new Blu Ray player in the obvious way, I can't listen to commentaries or even menu sounds?

Ok, that's a technical matter that I don't understand. But it makes me think maybe there are "gotchas" about Blu Ray I should know before buying.

So what should a Blu Ray dummy know before buying, especially if possibly buying clearance stock? Any lesser know, but key, features to be watched for?

Thanks!

(mods: I thought Hi Def h'ware appropiate, but move to Basics is so deemed)


#2 of 82 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted November 01 2009 - 09:24 AM

Originally Posted by DaveF 

So what should a Blu Ray dummy know before buying, especially if possibly buying clearance stock? Any lesser know, but key, features to be watched for?

 

I'm going to leave your audio questions to someone that knows what they're talking about but one thing that I'd keep an eye on is that you're getting a Profile 2.0 player. I think it's unlikely that you'll even find a 1.0 or 1.1 player on the shelf today and it's not like a 1.0 player won't play a movie but I speak from experience in saying that it takes some time for things to load or to get all the special features to work, etc.

#3 of 82 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 02 2009 - 02:13 AM

No fears about being able to listen to commentaries or hear menu sounds. Find a player that can decode the new lossless audio codecs in the player (all of the newest models of the name brands do this now) and have your player decode the audio and send the audio as a PCM stream to the receiver. That way, you can listen to secndary audio channels, have menu sounds, etc. The manual of the player will instruct you on what the audio setup should be to have the player decode the audio. (Each player has a different name in the audio menu for this, so just read the manual during set-up).

#4 of 82 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted November 02 2009 - 03:33 AM

On DVD, commentary tracks are a whole separate soundtrack, with (if need be) the movie soundtrack mixed in with the commentary, but muffled when the commentator is speaking.  On Blu-ray, a commentary or special feature track is a single stream.  It's not mixed in with the movie sounds, it is meant to be mixed in at play time.  So in order to fold in secondary audio, the player has to decode the movie DTS/DD (or DTS-HD, TrueHD, etc.) soundtrack, fold in the commentary, and then output the mixed streams to the receiver.  It can only do this in the LPCM (multi-channel PCM) realm.  A player doesn't have the power to decode DTS/DD/etc.,  fold in the commentary, and re-encode to DTS/DD/etc.  So, in order to hear secondary audio mixed in with the movie, you have to turn off bitstreaming and let the player decode.  It's usually a toggle in the setup menu.

#5 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 02 2009 - 05:25 AM

Thanks for the tips. Everytime I learn more about Blu Ray, I wish I had remained ignorant :) it's so befuddling to me.

But, OK. Any profile 2.0 BR player and any recent vintage receiver should do everything that BR needs done.

Technical minutiae aside, Blu Ray is ready for prime-time? No reasons to wait any longer for some next, important feature to appear?


P.S.
Is this toggling of audio modes easily done? Can it be done by non-HTF geeks?


Does that also mean you can independently control the volume of the soundtrack and commentary tracks? There are times when I wish I could better hear the actual movie against a commentary.


#6 of 82 ONLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted November 02 2009 - 01:16 PM

The real key here is to stick with a MAJOR brand, such as Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Pioneer, etc. These companies typically stay on top of things and release firmware upgrades fairly quickly when an issue with a new disc arises. Many of the reviewers here at HTF have Panasonic or Sony Blu-ray players. I have one of the original 60gb Playstation 3 consoles that really can play just about everything (except DVD-Audio discs).

I have heard some absurd things from owners of players from Sylvania, Magnavox, Philips, etc. that said the owner's manual showed how to update the firmware, but in doing so you would void the warranty. I have also heard that some of these companies are sometimes slow to release firmware updates, which can be agravating when that new movie you just bought doesn't play quite right, and the only correction is a firmware update.
That is the other point you need to consider - firmware updates. These are becomming less frequent now that Blu-ray has been around for a few years, but there will be times when you will need to update the frimware on your player. The nice thing about profile 2.0 players is that as long as they are connected to the internet,upgrading the firmware is fairly easy, since the player will usually download and install it for you.

Also, if you do not have your router nearby where you can run an ethernet cable from the router to the player, you may want to look for one that has built-in WiFi. The list of models that include built-in WiFi is expanding everyday, with just about every manufacturer offering a model with this feature.

#7 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 03 2009 - 01:47 AM


Originally Posted by Toddwrtr 

The real key here is to stick with a MAJOR brand, such as Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Pioneer, etc.
[...]Also, if you do not have your router nearby where you can run an ethernet cable from the router to the player

Thanks for the tips. My living room is networked for the Tivo & Xbox. Adding a Blu Ray player to the mix is trivial.


#8 of 82 OFFLINE   Patrick Mason

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Posted November 03 2009 - 04:01 AM

I would recommend focusing on the LG and Sony brand players.  Panasonics are also solid but can be a bit slower.  The newer models from these companies are full-featured, responsive, and reliable.  Of course, the PlayStation 3 is still the best on the market, but if you want a set-top player these are the ones to beat.

Samsung players can be a nightmare in my experience.  They work great when they work, but Samsung is slow to issue firmware updates to fix far too-frequent disc compatibility issues, and if your player breaks their customer service will charge you to send the player back and then not fix it.  Repeatedly.  Until you give up or your warranty expires.  (I've witnessed this scenario on three separate occasions.)

As far as any general format "gotchas", I think setting up the right audio configuration for your player is the only complicated hassle you will have to deal with.  Basically the high definition audio codecs (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio) must be decoded either in the player or the receiver.  This is just a setting in the player's firmware, generally labeled as PCM output (player decodes the sound) or Bitstream output (receiver decodes the sound.)  If the receiver decodes the sound you will not be able to hear picture-in-picture audio, so generally it is easier to get a player to decode the sound.  Just make sure the player you buy has Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio logos on it.

Keep in mind that this all assumes you are using an HDMI connection between the player and the receiver.  The only other way to hear the full uncompressed sound is to buy a player with analog audio outputs.  If you are using an optical connection you will hear a compressed audio track.  Phew, fun, huh?


#9 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 03 2009 - 05:16 AM

If I go Blu Ray I'll either do 5.1 component audio to my older receiver, or buy a new receiver and go all HDMI.

PS3, though highly regarded, is too expensive compared to the mid-range Panny and Sony players for my tastes. (But that's just me.)

I do worry a bit about "speed". After a couple years with a Tivo, DVDs feel so clumsy and pokey. If Blu Ray is even clumsier and pokier, it will be a real turn off.


#10 of 82 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 03 2009 - 09:11 AM

Dave,

Right now Amazon is selling what I believe to be
Panasonic's best Blu-ray player, the BD80, for $158.

Click Here

It's special pricing from Amazon.

Speed is going to be an issue, my friend.  These
BD players, faster than the original ones of 2-3
years ago, are still somewhat slow loaders.  It
takes 30-50 seconds for the picture to come up
once loaded and then sometimes there is an
additional lag for content to load as the player
has to go through all these checks.

If you want speed either a PS3 or an Oppo
player is your option.  However, you will pay
a lot more for that option.

The loading speed no longer bothers me. 
The real payoff is the beautiful picture and
sound that my Panasonic BD55 provides me.
I like the Panasonic players.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

 Click Here for the latest/hottest Blu-ray Preorders  Click Here for our complete Blu-ray review archive

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#11 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 03 2009 - 12:58 PM

I like that player: its 5.1 coax output will work with my older, non-HDMI receiver.

I hope the sales last. I have some monster expenses this month, but getting into December...



#12 of 82 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 03 2009 - 01:05 PM

Dave,

If I helped talk you into it, use the link I provided so
we at least get credit for the sale.


 

Ronald J Epstein
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#13 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 03 2009 - 01:34 PM

Moving off topic...I shop Amazon like the next guy and have wondered if HTF has a Amazon affiliate link for general shopping?
(And how about NewEgg, if they do affiliates?)


#14 of 82 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 03 2009 - 01:41 PM

Dave, we are trying to get a link up so our members
can shop.

For the moment, as you have seen, we are putting
Amazon buttons in every review and press release.
If you read about a product and it is properly tagged
there should be an Amazon link in the sidebar.

Thanks for the continued support, Dave.  I know how
loyal you have been to HTF. 

 

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#15 of 82 OFFLINE   Tarkin The Ewok

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Posted November 06 2009 - 02:30 PM

I'm also a newbie when it comes to the Blu-ray players, and I seek some advice on which player to get. My must-haves are Netflix streaming capability and Profile 2.0 Current equipment: Sony Wega 24" CRT that can accept red-white-yellow and blue-green-red cable inputs As you can tell by the lack of an HDTV or additional speakers, A/V quality is not my highest concern at the moment. It will be a few years before I can really start on a home theater setup, and I will likely get a new BD player at that time. Right now, I want a player that plays BDs reliably and can take advantage of most online functionality. Ideally, the player could also play DVDs reliably as well, but I have my trusty Sony DVP-NS575P as a backup option. I would be happy to stick to DVDs for a little longer, but the supplements that interest me are frequently appearing only on the BD versions of a movie. Searching on Amazon and Best Buy, the best option I've seen is the LG BD 370 for about $150 on Amazon. Given the situation outlined above, is this the best choice? My budget is at a $200 maximum for the player. Also, what sort of cables would I need to hook up the player to the TV and internet? The computer I'm posting this on is 10 feet away from the TV. I am using high-speed internet through my cable provider, and I do not have a wireless router.

#16 of 82 OFFLINE   gene c

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Posted November 07 2009 - 07:38 AM

Quote:
Searching on Amazon and Best Buy, the best option I've seen is the LG BD 370 for about $150 on Amazon. Given the situation outlined above, is this the best choice? My budget is at a $200 maximum for the player.  
The Samsung BDP-1600 will also fill your needs, and adds Pandora streaming, but it looks like some have had issues with Samsung and firmware updates. My first BR player was a 1400 and I performed one update without any problems. Thought it was a great player but it didn't do DTS-MA out the 7.1 analogs (only DolbyHD) so I replaced it with an OPPO BDP-83. The 1600 is $149.99 on Amazon. The LG also seems to be a fine player. There's no perfect player. You have to compromise.
Quote:
If I go Blu Ray I'll either do 5.1 component audio to my older receiver, or buy a new receiver and go all HDMI.  
Dave, as I've said elsewhere, if you decide to use an older receiver with it's 7.1 analog inputs most receivers bypass all processing. No Bass and Treble controls, no Bass Management, no auto setup like Audyssey, YAPO, EzSet/EQ, MCACC, etc. The receiver will act as a volume controller only. Make sure the BR player has BM and a cross-over setting that works with your speakers. There are some older avr's that will allow processing thru the analogs like the Outlaw 1070 and my Pioneer Elite 59txi but in order to do this the signal goes thru additional analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions. Most feel this degrades the sound quality a little and I agree. Some older Onkyo's also allow Bass and Treble controls thru the 7.1's but again, with conversions. Down-load the manuals first and take a peek  .
"Everyday room": Panasonic 58" Plasma, Dish HD DVR, Pioneer Elite vsx-23, BDP-23 BR, dv58avi universal dvd player, Paradigm Studio 20 V1, CC-450, Dayton HSU-10 subwoofer.

"Movie/Music room": Toshiba 65" DLP, Dish HD receiver, Marantz 7005, CC-4003, BD-7006, Polk LSI25's-LSi7's-LSiC, 2 original Dayton 10" "Mighty-Mites" subwoofers. (subject to change without notice).
 
Also have  MB Quart Vera VS05 +.....too much to list. Help me.
 
 

 


#17 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 07 2009 - 02:07 PM


Originally Posted by gene c 

Dave, as I've said elsewhere, if you decide to use an older receiver with it's 7.1 analog inputs most receivers bypass all processing. No Bass and Treble controls, no Bass Management, no auto setup like Audyssey, YAPO, EzSet/EQ, MCACC, etc. The receiver will act as a volume controller only. Make sure the BR player has BM and a cross-over setting that works with your speakers.
I'll keep that in mind and check my receiver's manual. I'm inclined to buy the BD80 and use my current receiver, over spending $300+ on a new receiver right now with HDMI.


#18 of 82 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 14 2009 - 02:18 AM

Do I need an SD card with a Blu Ray player like the Panasonic BD 60/80? What capacity?


#19 of 82 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted November 14 2009 - 07:08 AM



Originally Posted by DaveF 

Do I need an SD card with a Blu Ray player like the Panasonic BD 60/80? What capacity?
 
THe SD card or a USB thumbdrive is required for BD-Live content.  Also, the Panasonics have a glitch that requires the SD card for the movie Crank 2: High Voltage.  The size depends on how much BD-Live content you wish to use, but it has to be 1GB or larger.


#20 of 82 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 14 2009 - 07:49 AM

I have a 3GB in mine, Dave, but that is probably overkill.

I hate to say this, but I don't generally even watch the
BDLIVE content.  I think many of us are very busy in
our normal lives and the precious free time we have
are just enough to watch these movies.

I do hope that the studios continue to work on BD content and that there will be something compelling
enough for me to want to watch it.

 

Ronald J Epstein
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