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Standard Definition DVD:
Along with being a strong Blu-ray player, the BDP 1 also sports a rather striking capacity to handle standard-definition DVDs upscaled to 1080p. To gather impressions, Universal’s DTS edition of Saving Private Ryan was put into action. It sports a robust audio track and a unique visual presentation, both of which Harman Kardon’s unit upscaled to rather striking levels. The audio track wasn’t quite as robust upon this viewing as it has been with previous players during the thunderous “beach storm” sequence at the start, but it still packed quite a punch in multidirectional spread and vocal clarity. For reference, the player cannot handle DTS 96/24 discs. Interestingly, it was with the Clarks II DVD that the player’s capacity to handle legacy tracks really came out of the woodwork. Working with a soundtrack geared towards kitschy rock and Kevin Smith’s flippant dialogue, the audio quality was on an exceptional level. Pounding of drums and percussion instruments echoed through the sound space, while the front-heavy vocal clarity poured through with nary a line missed.
To test some rather problematic discs, it was time to pull out Lionsgate’s copy of Takashi Miike’s Audition and Tartan’s DTS presentation of Kim Ki-duk’s The Bow – both of which either showcase combing or, generally, poor DVD transfers. Surprisingly, The Bow looked better than it has on some other players it’s been spun on, allowing the ripples of waves and intricate details against the focal boat to pour through nicely. Audition, however, could only be handled the best that it could. In general, the BDP 1’s ability to handle that source wasn’t too shabby, as the movement was a bit more fluid and color levels more nicely rendered. Finally, to test the player’s capacity to handle 1.33:1 material, the third disc from Family Guy, Vol. 1 was put into motion. If the player is set to 16:9 Full, you’ll have to flip over to 16:9 Pillarbox to get the true aspect ratio. Overall, combing and aliasing issues – though still there -- weren’t as prevalent as has been seen on that series of discs, adding another strong plus to the unit’s upscaling capacity. Like its Region A locked status, the BDP 1 is also limited Region 1/0 discs – that, sadly, does not include Region 0 PAL discs, which only send out sound without the image.
BD-Live / USB / CD Playback:
After testing the cinematic waters with the BDP 1, it was high time to give the other features a gander – starting with internet connectivity. Utilizing an RJ-45 port in the back, internet connectivity isn’t too much of a hassle. The player can internally set diagnostics for the internet connection, but bear this in mind – a 1GB or higher storage unit is required in order to use the BD-Live features, due to the limited internal space. Hopping online with Disney’s Pinocchio via their BD-Live site was a cinch once the update was installed. Operating with The Da Vinci Code, however, seemed problematic, as the update could not download in order to utilize Sony’s service.
Speaking of the USB port, it gives the user two separate options when the device is plugged in – a) usage for Playback, and b) usage for BD-Live Storage. When the Playback function is selected, all video, music, and image files available on the disc are able to be browsed via a simple yet streamlined media browser. It loads album artwork for Mp3s and enables a slideshow for JPEG files, making the navigation process attractive and functional. Audio files sound fine on the BDP 1, all depending on the quality of t eMP3 being used. This was tested here with Coldplay’s Violet Hill. The JPEG image viewer is slightly more limited than others, as there’s no zoom function available. However, it does carry a rather nice function – accompanying a user-created slideshow with an audio file.
Along with audio file playback, the BDP 1 also supports CD and Blu-ray Audio playback. Spinning Mum’s Finally We Are No One CD offers a broad range of minute effects, fluctuating bass notes, and an odd array of vocals. The BDP 1 handled the complex highs and mid-range notes well, if a little on the booming side with the lower-frequency bass channel. Alongside this, the Harman Kardon unit also played Incubus’ Morning View CD excellently. It handled the disc’s robust midrange tones and various drum throbs to a highly pleasing degree. To top of the musical tests, 2L Nordic’s Blu-ray disc was pulled out for a sampling of high-definition audio tracks. Between the density in Mozart: Violin Concerto in D Major to the rise-and-falls in Crux Fidelis, it handles both the DTS HD Master Audio and PCM mixes with outstanding breadth – sitting more robust with the DTS Master Audio.