Best Blu-ray players: Top picks and reviews

So you plopped down a pile of cash to buy a 4K TV, maybe even one that delivers high dynamic range. Awesome. Once you’ve wowed your friends and family with those lush demo files the manufacturer provided, you’re going to want to splash some 4K movies across that screen. A 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player is just the ticket.

Most players also stream 4K HDR video from a handful of video-streaming services—including Netflix, Amazon Video, and Vudu—if you have the bandwidth, that is. If your ISP can’t deliver super-fast download speeds, you won’t be able to stream 4K.

And then there’s the audio side of the equation. Nearly every Blu-ray disc contains a high-definition soundtrack encoded in Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio. Some will also contain Dolby Atmos and DTS:X data that expand surround sound to include height information. (We have an in-depth story about Dolby Atmos and DTS:X here).

The bottom line: If you want to see exactly what your 4K Ultra HD TV is capable of, you need to plug a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player into it.

Best high-end Ultra HD Blu-ray player: Panasonic DP-UB9000

If you’re looking for a no-compromises Blu-ray player that performs as awesomely with audio as it is with 4K Ultra HD video, you need to consider the Panasonic DP-UB9000. This no-compromises player has a high-performance disc reader, a great remote control, and a back panel bristling with outputs, including balanced XLR audio.

Best Ultra HD Blu-ray player for gamers: Microsoft Xbox One S

The Xbox One S is a stellar value, especially now that it’s able to stream high-resolution bitstreams—including Dolby Atmos—to higher-end A/V receivers. It played every Ultra Blu-ray disc we threw at it without issue, and it delivered great video quality.

Features to look for in a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Did our picks leave you feeling less than satisfied? Well, there just aren’t a lot of Ultra HD Blu-ray players on the market. We expect this to change as Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are the best way to reap the full benefit of 4K UHD TVs. We’ll re-evaluate our choices as new models come to market. In the meantime, here are the specs and features you should look for when you shop for an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

analog audio outputs panasonic

Analog audio out There are two reasons to value analog audio outputs on a Blu-ray player. First, in the event you’re using an older A/V receiver that doesn’t have HDMI. You’ll have to go back pretty far to find an A/V receiver that has neither HDMI nor analog audio inputs for at least stereo and a 5.1-channel speaker system. Second, you might discover that the Ultra HD Blu-ray player’s DAC sounds superior to what your A/V receiver puts out. In that case, you’d connect the Blu-ray player’s analog outputs to the A/V receiver’s analog inputs and only use the receiver’s amplifier. Or you could even connect the player to a separate two-channel amp that’s dedicated solely to music. In short, it’s all about having options.

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