So you plopped down a pile of money to purchase a 4K TV, possibly even one which delivers excessive dynamic vary. Awesome. Once you’ve wowed your family and friends with these lush demo information the producer offered, you’re going to need to splash some 4K motion pictures throughout that display screen. A 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray participant is simply the ticket.
Most gamers additionally stream 4K HDR video from a handful of video-streaming providers—together with Netflix, Amazon Video, and Vudu—if you might have the bandwidth, that’s. If your ISP can’t ship super-fast obtain speeds, you gained’t be capable to stream 4K.
And then there’s the audio aspect of the equation. Nearly each Blu-ray disc incorporates a high-definition soundtrack encoded in Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio. Some may even include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X knowledge that increase encompass sound to incorporate peak info. (We have an in-depth story about Dolby Atmos and DTS:X here).
The backside line: If you need to see precisely what your 4K Ultra HD TV is able to, you’ll want to plug a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray participant into it.
Updated April 3, 2019 so as to add our evaluation of the brand-new Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray participant. At a time when some producers—together with Samsung and Oppo—have stopped constructing Blu-ray gamers for the U.S. market, Panasonic introduces a really highly effective mannequin for discerning dwelling theater followers. Needless to say, it’s our new prime choose within the high-end class.
Best high-end Ultra HD Blu-ray participant: Panasonic DP-UB9000
If you’re searching for a no-compromises Blu-ray participant that performs as awesomely with audio as it’s with 4K Ultra HD video, you’ll want to contemplate Panasonic DP-UB9000. This no-compromises participant has a high-performance disc reader, an excellent distant management, and a again panel bristling with outputs, together with balanced XLR audio.
Best Ultra HD Blu-ray participant for players: Microsoft Xbox One S
The Xbox One S is a stellar worth, particularly now that it’s capable of stream high-resolution bitstreams—together with Dolby Atmos—to higher-end A/V receivers. It performed each Ultra Blu-ray disc we threw at it with out concern, and it delivered nice video high quality.
Features to search for in a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray participant
Did our picks depart you feeling lower than happy? Well, there simply aren’t plenty of Ultra HD Blu-ray gamers in the marketplace. We count on this to alter as Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are one of the best ways to reap the complete advantage of 4K UHD TVs. We’ll re-evaluate our selections as new fashions come to market. In the meantime, listed here are the specs and options it is best to search for once you store for an Ultra HD Blu-ray participant.
Analog audio out There are two causes to worth analog audio outputs on a Blu-ray participant. First, within the occasion you’re utilizing an older A/V receiver that doesn’t have HDMI. You’ll have to return fairly far to seek out an A/V receiver that has neither HDMI nor analog audio inputs for a minimum of stereo and a 5.1-channel speaker system. Second, you would possibly uncover that the Ultra HD Blu-ray participant’s DAC sounds superior to what your A/V receiver places out. In that case, you’d join the Blu-ray participant’s analog outputs to the A/V receiver’s analog inputs and solely use the receiver’s amplifier. Or you might even join the participant to a separate two-channel amp that’s devoted solely to music. In brief, it’s all about having choices.
Audio encoding Audio may be compressed utilizing lossy or lossless algorithms. Lossy compression, akin to MP3, throws away a few of the info within the authentic recording. Lossless compression makes use of a form of shorthand to eradicate solely redundant info. You may evaluate to a ZIP file because it retains the complete constancy of the unique file. Lossless clearly sounds higher.
Lossy audio file codecs embody MP3, M4A (Apple), OGG, and WMA (there may be additionally a lossless model of WMA). Lossless audio file codecs embody APE and FLAC. There are additionally lossless variations of M4A (ALAC) and WMA.
BD-Live A Blu-ray characteristic that lets you obtain further content material—featurettes or making-of movies, as an illustration—from the web to look at earlier than or after you watch the film.
DLNA compliance The Digital Living Network Alliance’s normal for streaming media makes it doable for a Blu-ray participant to render audio, video, pictures, and different digital content material streamed from different units on your house community; usually, a pc or network-attached storage (NAS) field.
DSD audio decoding Direct Stream Digital was initially developed by Sony and Philips for his or her Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) high-resolution audio platform. DSD makes use of single-bit sampling charges of two.8- to 5.6MHz and better. You’ll additionally see DSD information characterised as DSD64 (as a result of the two.8MHz sampling price is 64 instances that of a CD), DSD128 (44.1kHz instances 128 is 5.6MHz), and so forth.
A Blu-ray participant’s capacity to play DSD information doesn’t essentially imply that it may learn SACDs. But you should buy music encoded in DSD format from varied on-line retailers and retailer these information on a NAS field.
HDMI audio out Having a separate HDMI output for audio gives flexibility. If you’re connecting the participant to a video projector as a substitute of a TV, as an illustration, you possibly can join the projector to the HDMI video out and use the HDMI audio out in your A/V receiver or sound bar.
Image file help Some Blu-ray gamers can stream digital images from USB or community storage, and a few (akin to Panasonic’s DMP-UB900) will even play music to accompany the present. JPEG is the most typical picture file format, however in the event you use others—GIF, TIFF, or PNG, for instance—you’ll need to know that the Blu-ray participant you purchase can render them.
Optical and/or coaxial digital audio out Flexibility is the important thing profit right here. If you’re utilizing an older A/V receiver that doesn’t have HDMI (or one which has HDMI, however not HDCP 2.2), you possibly can join the participant to your TV utilizing HDMI and use whichever of those digital audio outputs works along with your receiver. Be conscious, nevertheless, that these connections don’t present adequate bandwidth to deal with Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos, or DTS:X. Audiophiles, in the meantime, will respect having these connections in order that they will put a higher-end digital-to-analog converter (DAC) between the participant and their receiver or amplifier for listening to music.
Remote management The high quality of the distant management can have an amazing affect on how a lot you get pleasure from utilizing your Blu-ray participant. It must have simply the suitable variety of buttons, so that you’re not fumbling round making an attempt to perform easy duties, and the buttons must be clearly labeled so you possibly can see them at a look. Buttons that may management different units, akin to your TV or A/V receiver, are additionally helpful. And you’ll actually respect backlit buttons, so you possibly can function the distant in the dead of night. If you’ve invested in a common distant management, akin to Logitech’s Harmony Elite, then none of that issues.
SACD and DVD-Audio discs These high-resolution audio disc codecs got here to market in 1999 and engaged in a comparatively temporary format conflict. SACD ultimately gained, however neither format achieved widespread acceptance within the market other than audiophiles.
SD Card slot SD (Secure Digital) and SDHC (High Capacity) playing cards are generally used with digital cameras to retailer picture and video information, although they can be utilized to retailer any kind of digital info. If your Blu-ray participant is provided with an SD Card reader, you should use it to point out these picture and video information in your TV. Some Blu-ray gamers depend on SD playing cards to retailer BD-Live. Most SD Card slots may learn a MicroSD Card with an adapter. But there are additionally USB SD Card adapters, so the absence of an SD card slot is generally a matter of inconvenience.
USB ports These are mostly used for studying from or writing to a USB drive, however most usually for enjoying media information or storing BD-Live info. Some Ultra Blu-ray gamers, such Panasonic’s DMP-UB900, even help a USB keyboard and mouse. Note that whereas most Ultra Blu-ray gamers help drives formatted FAT, FAT32, and NTFS, they may not help the more and more in style cross-platform (Windows/OS X) exFAT, which Microsoft costs royalties for. You may additionally test the utmost drive capability that’s supported. Front-mounted USB ports are clearly extra handy than ports on the again of the participant.
Video container and codec help If you might have a library of movies that you simply’ve ripped from DVD or Blu-ray discs, captured in your smartphone, or recorded with a camcorder, you’ll need to have the ability to play them in your TV. Whether you’ve saved them on a USB onerous drive or a NAS field, ensure that the Blu-ray participant you purchase helps no matter containers and codecs you’ve used (until you’re already arrange with another machine for this objective, akin to a Roku participant). The most typical containers are AVI, MKV, MP4, and MPG. The most typical video codecs are h.264 (AVC), h.265 (HEVC), WMV, and the varied MPEGs.
Video-streaming providers If your Blu-ray participant can hook up with in style video-streaming providers akin to Netflix, it eliminates the necessity for a devoted field like a Roku or an Amazon Fire TV in your leisure middle. The extra providers supported the merrier, however contemplate Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to be the minimal. Make certain the participant helps the 4K and HDR variations, if the service presents them.
Wi-Fi Everyone is aware of what Wi-Fi is. What’s extra vital is the kind of Wi-Fi the Blu-ray participant helps. The newest and quickest normal is 802.11ac, which operates on the less-crowded 5GHz frequency band. Blu-ray gamers with 802.11b/g/n adapters will work with an 802.11ac router (as a result of all such routers are backward suitable), however they could depend on the extra crowded 2.4GHz band and due to this fact may not stream 4K UHD video as easily.