Blu-ray hardware quality, PC comparisons, please educate me!

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by mzry, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. mzry

    mzry
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    Hi everyone!

    This is my first post here. I looked around the internet to try and find the best internet forum for home hifi solutions and I think I've found it. I have a passion for any video/audio hardware, displays, headphones, amps etc - but I have some catching up to do and I'm hoping I can get some education from of the knowledgable people here on AVforums.

    Question: I've noticed that there are a large selection of entry level consumer Blu-Ray players available, and also many very high-end players to choose from. I am very much from the Digital to Analogue world, and I've yet to clarify a few of the Digital to Digital products in my mind.
    How can a top end Blu-Ray player be better than a low end one? surely all it is doing is outputting a pure digital format through a digital cable to a digital TV, is there anything the hardware can make a difference with? I mean, theres no DAC when it comes to digital - is it about the hardware decoding?

    Question 2: I assume that top range Blu-Ray players use high level hardware decoding, then pass un-encoded data through HDMI to the TV. Now, what is the difference between a media player computer with Blu-Ray, and a top end Blu-Ray player. I assume the PC decoding quality is based solely on the codecs installed, does a top-notch codec beat a hardware solution? if so, why not?

    Sorry if my questions a difficult to answer, but I appreciate the time anyone takes to educate me in this area. :lesson:

    Thanks!
     
  2. andy1249

    andy1249
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    When it comes to playing back content from Blu rays , they are all pretty much the same , all the player has to do is not mess with the data stream.

    There are some players that do mess with the data , and these would usually be called out as bad players , but most players do have at least one mode where the data is output as is.

    So in terms of playing back Blu ray content , there is very little if any difference between players.

    Have a look at the BD player reviews on this site for some verification of this and also take a look here ,
    Blu-ray Players - Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
    This site has a benchmark where they check exactly how much any player is messing with the BD data on the disc.

    With high end players , its what else they can do that your spending the extra money on , usually high end players are universal disc players , handling various high resolution audio disc formats , and having high end analog audio outputs on board.
    They usually handle a comprehensive set of both audio and video file based content as well.

    Upscaling DVD content is another area where they differentiate themselves , with most of the big players either having their own custom chipsets , or using high end scalers like Marvell Qdeo or Anchor bay and the like.

    Blu ray on PC , thats a different story.

    For a long long time there it was a serious case of playing catch up.
    Only recently have PC graphics cards had comprehensive HDMI chipsets on board that could handle all of the Blu ray content out there , and they are still playing catch up in terms of 3D output from blu ray content.

    HD audio codecs are playable on most PC's these days , but you need a card that can do it , for a long time only expensive specialist audio cards and software combinations could do it , these days most graphics cards can handle these codecs but you still need the correct software to bitsteam HD audio.

    There is a lot of requirements for a PC to be able to play back HDCP protected content , and a PAP ( protected audio path ) that has to be observed to play back HD audio codecs without forced downsampling.

    These days most PC's have these requirements , but if you machine is 5 years or older , or any part of a self built machine is 5 years or older , you will need to check.

    Also , upscaling of SD content is not nearly as easy to set up on a PC. It can be done , but the software routines commonly supplied in the packages that come with BD enabled PC's is nowhere near as good as it should be , with some time to spend and a lot of tweaking it can be done , but for simplicities sake a standalone player is best for most people.

    Apple OSX of course , doesnt do Blu ray , or HD audio , the hardware is the same as any other PC of course , but the OS wont allow it , and it seems that is not going to change any time soon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  3. mzry

    mzry
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    Thank you for your response, it has really helped clarify things for me. In fact, it's actually made me kinda sad about the future of hifi. I love my High definition, but it's hard to explain the sadness I feel when I think how what I'm watching is cold-hard digital. I used to love all the talk about signal to noise ratio, DACS, 24 bit, composite, component etc etc. To be a proper hifi fanatic you needed to know all of this, and if you understood it all you could get yourself the best viewing experience, something your next door neighbour couldn't do without lots of research.
    But why do I miss all that? am I just nostalgic towards these methods, surely the end picture and movie is the most important aspect? I'm not sure. But yes, these days I am using quite a decent laptop as a media centre, with an i5 cpu and 1gb radeon graphics. My old knowledge of DACS, SNR, composite and component etc has all converted to knowledge of media player software, codecs, directx and bitstream. I'd say that I've successfully converted over, but I still feel like this new world of hifi is lacking somewhere.. I can't just put my finger on it.
     

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