JVC XV-BP1 Blu-ray Player Review 
Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players
Written by Thomas Spurlin   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010

JVC’s XV-BP1 has a terribly bright light at the front of its unit, reminding one a bit of the flood lamps at the front of the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The brightness can potentially be off-putting, especially with close proximity to the viewing screen.  It might seem a little unorthodox to mention something aesthetic like that in the first lines of a review, but there’s a reason; aside from that, and a strange “happy accident” anomaly that jumps disc playback straight to the start of the programming upon boot-up, this 1080/24p, Profile 2.0 player delivers an impressive, unproblematic punch with its capabilities.  Though it might be quiet and flex quite a bit of audiovisual muscle, it’s the fact that the player is lightning fast that makes it a strong competitor against the standard onslaught of heavy-hitters surrounding its $300 list price.  

Out of the Box:

The XV-BP1 is, however, a no-frills player in regards to structure and inputs, after taking a look at the unit and its components upon arrival.  It measures a standard width at 16.5 inches wide, while measuring 2 inches tall and roughly 9 inches deep – making it a bit shallower than many Blu-ray players and noticeably more compact from top to bottom.  The front of the unit, when powered down, is a sleek and attractive piece of hardware, sporting nice circular buttons on the right-hand side.  Though stock images give the right-hand size of the chassis a brushed metallic look, it’s little more than the difference between high-gloss plastic on one side and a more matte texture on the other.  Though very light, there’s a layer of contentment with the player’s build quality once it’s found a place on a media rack.

JVC XV-BP1 Left Front Side

When the unit’s powered on, the biggest gripe about the XV-BP1 very quickly comes into play.  In a straight line right down the middle, and directly behind each of the circular buttons, a bright blue light emits.  Emphasis is placed on the word bright here, because the light’s intensity is rather garish and, oftentimes, distracting.  Sadly, the player doesn’t come with an internal dimmer for the light, so the bright, electric glow will have to be endured amid a dark screening room.  If the player’s on a media rack away from the television panel, it shouldn’t glow enough to distract; however, if the unit finds its place directly underneath an LCD / Plasma panel, the light will take some optical conditioning to ignore it.

At the front, the player carries the standard button features – navigating Play/Pause/Fast-Forward as well as Eject and Power, while also carrying a fully-functional USB 2.0 port (more on that a little later) covered by a stable silicone cover that dangles when it’s not coating the input. To the rear, the JVC’s no-frills character continues; it comes with a very standard array of plug-and-play jacks, including a 1.3 HDMI port, component jacks, coaxial and toslink legacy audio outputs, an Ethernet port and 2-channel analog stereo jacks.  No RS232C or IR remote inputs are available to the rear, nor are any multichannel analog jacks.  Alongside the player itself, a remote, a standard manual, a set of composite cables, and a standard A/C power cable – circular on both sides to match the player’s power input -- have been included.

Remote:

JVC’s remote may look (and feel) like standard fare, but it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve.  It measures pretty close to six (6) inches and weighs very little, which makes it somewhat comfortable yet flimsy in the hand.  The Play / Pause / FF-RW buttons are all in blue near the center of the unit, directly above the “circular” bezel navigation buttons at the center – though they’re more diamond-shaped that circular.  Small blip buttons for Home / Disc Menu / Display / and Return adorn the corners of the remote, while the Audio, Subtitle, and Title/-Pop-Up menu button adorn the spaced directly underneath.  Hitting the display button will show the type of audio file in-use, but it will not show the type of video codec for Blu-rays.   For reference, the remote’s buttons are not iridescent (glow in the dark) or backlit, so nighttime / dark room use could be problematic.

At the very bottom portion of the remote, directly underneath the RGBY color buttons, a few notable additions have been included that add a bit of function to the remote’s blasé form.  One of which is a Resolution toggle, where the output can be adjusted on the fly during a program.  The other, one of the nicer selling points to this middle-tier player, is a Zoom feature that allows for zooming of standard-definition material – thus making non-anamorphic DVDs properly zoomed to an appropriate size for the screen.  For those who still own a collection of non-16x9 DVDs, the prospect of an internal zoom device is a pleasant addition.  Also, this remote can control channel changing, volume, and input properties on applicable JVC televisions.

Setup:

If you’re looking for a player with wide adjustment capabilities and a deep user interface, then steer away from the XV-BP1; though, its limited tailoring is backed up by fine out-of-the-box performance.  By pressing the Home Menu, or allowing the features to load for themselves if a disc isn’t present in the player, a simple menu with four options – Movie, Photo, Music, and Setup – loads on the screen against JVC’s attractive wallpaper options.  Accessing the Setup Menu opens the option to adjust six different functions: Display, Language, Audio, Lock, Network, and Others.  Each one merely offers the bare-bones in molding the player to the user’s home theater environment, such as setting resolution, screen shape, and electing whether to use 24hz output in the Display menu, and HDMI Pass-Through / Encoding, Sampling Frequency (up to 192kHz), and Dynamic Range Control under Audio. 

For the purposes of this review, JVC’s XV-BP1 operated via HDMI to a bitstream-capable receiver, Onkyo’s SR605, and then routed to LG’s 55LH40.  The player has also been updated to the most recent firmware, version 7.159, which is extremely easy to do; after downloading the zip file from JVC’s website and unzipping it onto a USB 2.0 device, simply putting said device into the player causes it to search for an update on the drive.  A few issues that I had with playback regarding advanced BD-Java were rectified after running the update, including some odd menu movement on newer Blu-ray discs.  

Performance:


JVC’s XV-BP1 operates on a software-based 12-bit/148MHz digital-to-analog converter, boasting full 1080/24p video output and 24-bit audio processing of bitstreamed HD audio – and the quality is extremely strong.  For a unit that’s a step up into the midrange circuit of players, such as Pioneer’s stellar BDP-320 and Sony’s BDP-S560, those are expected performance standards.  However, the extremely fast way that it loads any disc thrown on its tray, from Blu-rays to DVDs and CDs, make it a winner.  It’s wholly possible to have a Blu-ray popped into the player, loaded up and at the movie’s opening title card within about a minute’s time, while doing something as simple as hitting the Eject button will have the player’s tray opened in around 3-4 seconds.  

JVC Right Front Side

Loading up Spears and Munsil’s Hand Forged A/V test disc proved to be a satisfactory experience with the XV-BP1, though a bit problematic with some of the procedures and, quite honestly, a bit confusing.  It glides right through Color, Source Adaptive (wedge pattern specifically, at 2:3:2:3, 5:5. and 24p)  and Edge Adaptive (Jaggies) tests with grace and accuracy, but it has noticeable issues with contrast.  The High / Low PLUGE tests rendered decent gray levels but no deep blacks, while the Contrast testing handled black levels fine enough but – most disconcertingly – clipped off a large portion of the white-level contrast (“white crush”).  However, when playing back a Blu-ray disc, these issues really didn’t factor into the quality of the Blu-ray imagery itself; though it’s maybe a step behind other power hitters in the price quadrant, the aural and visual rendering is extremely satisfying – colorful, amply contrasted, and pleasingly sharp.  

There are a few things to note about the JVC’s performance that might raise a few red flags.  For one, the unit itself doesn’t come equipped with an internal fan, which sometimes allows temperatures to spike a bit – something that should, naturally, be monitored due to its nature as a software-based player.  While operating, the temperature does rise a bit, resulting in a few fairly warm discs once ejected, so storing in a cooler, ventilated area is suggested.  Also, the player had a strange, highly intermittent oddity with playback, where it sometimes (rarely) bypassed start-up menus with discs that should default to them (to answer a question possibly raised here – no, these weren’t the WB Blu-rays that instantly default to the film).  At times, they’d skip instantly to the first seconds of the film, but other times they might skip ahead 15 seconds or so.  Again, this was very irregular, but it did occur a few times.  

Blu-ray:


Paramount’s release of Star Trek (2009) remains on of the more entrancingly robust Blu-rays on the market, in regards to color range and excruciating sharpness, which JVC’s player handled with enthusiastic quality.  Lots of blasts and motion take center stage in J.J. Abrams’ 2.35:1 film, and the bold colors and perpetual movement are preserved well when flowing at 24p through this AVC encode.  The superb range of color looks exquisite when played in the XV-BP1, offering moments in the Enterprise’s deck that are sublime.  But, along with that, there are also moments where flesh tones and natural texture find their way into direct interaction with the audience (mostly in close-ups), and these all look proficiently detailed and accurate.  Moreover, the thunderous Dolby TrueHD track thunders forward with plenty of bombast here, stretching activity across the soundstage to great degrees.  JVC’s player bitstreams the track without a hitch, offering robust low-end activity and crisp mid-range fluency.
Rear View

Shifting gears a bit, Universal’s presentation of Coraline gave the player the chance to show its proficiency in rendering animation at 1.78:1.  Henry Selick’s film is one with a wealth of creative energy behind its construction, boasting an astounding level of color and textural artistry that’s entrancing – especially in high-definition.  Every ounce of its prowess as a piece of art is replicated through JVC’s Blu-ray player; minute details, like stitching and burlap texture, leap from the screen to an impressive degree, while the shifts from a colder palette to rich, fantasy-bound coloring flushes along beautifully.  As such, Coraline’s DTS HD Master Audio track handles a wide range of delicate effects, verbal sharpness, and a few thunderous sequences splashed in there for good measure, all of which JVC’s player pushes forward with exceptional clarity and buoyancy.  

Finally, Criterion’s presentation of The Seventh Seal took its turn in the player, showcasing its capacity to render 1.33:1, black and white material in HD – as well as in LPCM Monaural sound.  Some concern was spiked during the Spears and Munsil testing for the XV-BP1’s ability to handle grayscale contrast, but those concerns were quietly eschewed upon screening Ingmar Bergman’s film.  Black levels showcase a finer depth than expected when considering these tests, while white levels topped off with pleasing crispness.  In between the two, none of the middle-of-the-road gray details were washed out or swallowed up.  Moreover, the crispness at play in JVC’s player echoes in the strong lines and preserved film grayat work here, both of which provide class film lovers with a robust experience.  

JVC’s XV-BP1 is also BD-Live and Profile 2.0 compliant, rendering the Java-based elements to proficient degrees.  The Picture-in-Picture elements in Fox’s copy of Sunshine rendered both audio and video appropriately, though you’ve still got to toggle between Pass-Through and PCM Multichannel to activate the sound portion.  Accessing the internet for the BD-Live portions operates like most other Blu-rays of its type, with a plug-and-play identification on-board and the option to toggle IP Mode.  Furthermore, this player is a Region-A player alone, as tested with a copy of Fox’s B-locked The Fountain; it does, however, access PAL-encoded special features, since it has an in-board NTSC-PAL converter, as tested by a copy of Tartan’s I’m a Cyborg Blu-ray.



DVD:

The XV-BP1 also utilizes its processor to upscale DVDs to 1080p, which offers highly agreeable results.  Running Universal’s discs from Season 2.0 of Battlestar Galactica renders sharp, clean lines, considering the source, while adapting to the digital grain of standard-definition well for its upscaling.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks thundered forward with immense satisfaction, powering through the soundstage with clear vocals and a few ship-exhaust-driven lows.  Along those same lines, the Collector’s Edition of Serenity also exercised the player’s capacity for legacy tracks, only focusing on DTS instead of Dolby Digital.  The robustness is admirable, especially when considering the excellent HD sound from its Blu-ray counterpart.  Its visual transfer also stood tooth-and-nail with the Blu-ray rendering, noticeably a few steps behind but still very clear.  Also, it’s worth noting that the layer changes were very discretely handled in this player, seemingly less noticeable than with others.

As a pleasant benefit that usually finds mention in my Blu-ray reviews, this player happily comes with an internal zoom feature for standard-definition material.  This enables non-16x9 DVDs to be zoomed in for full-screen viewing, and the quality of both the upscale image and the zoom can be very pleasant.  As tested with a copy of Grosse Pointe Blank, the fluidity of movement and grain structure both looked astounding.   Naturally, the XV-BP1 is locked to Region-1 DVDs, as tested with a copy of Memories of Murder from Korea, but it can access PAL-encoded region-free discs – as annotated by spinning a copy of A Bittersweet Life from the UK.  The quality of displaying progressive PAL material is actually quite fluid, and appeared less jerky than that of other processors. 

Media:

JVC’s XV-BP1 sports a USB 2.0 port at the front of its unit, and it’s not simply for the purpose of firmware updates.  This port can access a decent array of files from the contents of a jump drive / external HDD, which included MP3/AAC, WMA and JPEG playback.  Putting an external storage device in the port brightens the “Music” and “Photos” icons on the Home Page and makes the available for selection, which allows for an easy-to-navigate interface to be accessed for each.  It doesn’t require the user to put them in any specific file, as it comes with a Folder Hierarchy navigation to access any of the specific files on the drive.  

Music Navigation offers a simply hierarchy access system, allowing for the time lapsed, file type, and other elements to be displayed while the file is being played.  Sound quality is pretty solid, though the player takes a second to handshake with the receiver; once it does connect, it can run down the entire folder without having to phase in/out again.  Photo Navigation is similarly easy to weave through, making each file available to be selected and display on-screen.  As with the player’s other capabilities in the speed department, it also loads media files extremely quick – a lot quicker than most others we’ve tested, even coming close to matching the speed of Sony’s Playstation 3 for media access.  As an aside, you can also sync music to Photo Slideshows very easily, simply by accessing the file and playing it during playback.

JVC’s player cannot, however, access SACD or DVD-Audio discs, and as a standard CD playback device, the XV-BP1 is little beyond serviceable.  Sound quality powering through it sounds just fine, as tested with a copy of Explosions in the Sky’s “The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place”, with controlled bass and pleasing high-level punch.  Accessing the CD pops us the same track listing GUI as the MP3s, which is simple but very fluid.

Front Top View

Impressions:


Pros: Fast, Great Audio/Video Quality, PAL-enabled, Streamlined GUI, USB 2.0

JVC’s XV-BP1 does a great job of delivering hearty, very classy Blu-ray quality, but its biggest draw easily comes in its speed.  Being able to power on a player and have access to the disc almost instantaneously is a very welcome addition, matching the likes of Oppo’s BDP-83 and Sony’s Playstation 3 in expedited quality.  In terms of audiovisual quality, though, it’s pretty safe to drop this player firmly above the PS3 and barely below Pioneer’s BDP-320.  Its level of sharpness and sound clarity wavers just slightly lower than some of the middle-upper ranged players, but only by a pace or two that make it tolerable for some of its other attributes.  These earmarks include an NTSC to PAL converter inside, which allows access to PAL DVDs and PAL-encoded special features, as well as an easy-to-use yet pleasing media interface when accessing files on a USB storage device.  

Cons: Blue Light, No Multichannel Analog, Lacks Internal Fan, Next to No A/V Adjustment No Wi-fi

With a player that’s as easily recommendable as JVC’s player, you’ve got to dig a bit deeper when attempting to find something negative about it.  However, the player’s biggest fault is an aesthetic one that’s instantly seeable, being the somewhat attractive yet highly distracting blue lights at the front of the player.  These have been brought up a few times already in this review, which should be an indicator of their intensity.  It’s something that’ll eventually fall into an ignorable misstep, after the eyes have adjusted and the player has found a decent spot for eyesight avoidance, but it’s something to consider.  And, naturally, the player doesn’t come with some of the advanced features available on other models, including analog jacks or IR/RS232c remote capability, or the ability to fine-tune video and audio.  Furthermore, other players within its price range – notable LG’s 370, Sony’s PS3, and Panasonic’s DMP-BD85 – are equipped with on-board wireless connectivity, though their audiovisual performance isn’t quite as good and they lack a few features that the XV-BP1 carries.

Final Thoughts:

JVC’s XV-BP1 receives enthusiastic approval for its aural and visual quality and relative versatility, sure, but more for its capacity to sprint beyond its competitors in regards to loading / boot-up times.  Though there are players that perform ever-so-slightly better in terms of cinematic prowess, its speed, ease of accessing multimedia files, and overall capacity to handle standard-definition material as well – including zoom for non-16x9 DVDs, an NTSC-PAL decoder, and quality 1080p upscaling – are what set it apart from others within its price-point hemisphere.  If you’re prepared for a very bright blue light upon powering the unit up, one that can’t be dimmed, then you’ll be ready to operate with one of the better values on the market to this point. 
Manufacturer JVC





Like this article? Bookmark and share with any of the sites below.
Digg!Reddit!Del.icio.us!Google!StumbleUpon!Yahoo!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!
 
Joomla SEF URLs by Artio