The prices of Blu-ray players can range from under $100 to well over $1,000. I think there is a lot of miss-information out there. How much should you spend?
When you play a high definition Blu-ray disc on an inexpensive player, the video quality will probably be very close to that of an expensive player. Honestly, there isn’t that much difference. Regular DVDs aren’t high definition and will be upscaled to better quality by the Blu-ray player. Upscaling circuitry is found in all Blu-ray players and will vary in quality depending on the cost of the player. Upscaling circuitry can also be found in most audio/video receivers and flat panel televisions. If you have a better upscaler in your AVR or TV, you can usually bypass the upscaler that came with your Blu-ray player through it’s settings menu. This isn’t a critical issue with inexpensive players. If you have a 3D capable TV, you’ll need a 3D capable Blu-ray player, but these are also inexpensive.
Audio quality is a different story. All Blu-ray players have the ability to decode the surround sound tracks such as Dolby True HD, DTS Master HD, Dolby Digital, and DTS on Blu-ray and DVD discs with pretty good sound quality. In addition, most audio/video receivers of the past few years can also decode these formats. So, you have a choice of whether to use your Blu-ray player or your receiver to decode the audio. With most high quality audio/video receivers, you’d want to use the AVR to handle the audio and not the inexpensive Blu-ray player. You can do this through the settings menu by choosing the digital bitstream output. If you choose the digital PCM output, the blu-ray player will decode these formats and send the decoded audio to your receiver. This feature is handy if you have an older receiver that doesn’t handle the latest surround formats of Dolby True HD and DTS Master HD. The bottom line: for many of you, a reasonably-priced Blu-ray player may be all you need.
Many people who purchase top rated Blu-ray players such as the Oppo feel that they will automatically get better sound. They hook it up to their audio/video receiver just like any other Blu-ray player, with an HDMI cable. This bypasses the expensive audio decoding circuitry of this high end Blu-ray player and sends it to the audio/video receiver for decoding with its built-in circuitry. If you want to take full advantage of the superior sound of these high end players, you’ll need an analog connection (RCA cable) for each of your 5 or 7 channels and subwoofer. A high end Blu-ray player is also capable of delivering better sound when playing CDs as long as you use analog connections mentioned above.
Another advantage of a higher end player is the ability to play high definition music files that are downloaded to a flash drive or burned to a DVD disc.
Many homes do not have a wired network connection available for their Blu-ray player. If you don’t, then look for a player with wi-fi built in. This is important for firmware updates to keep you player current as well as being able to work with Internet movie players such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.