Blu-ray Players

Yamaha BD-S2900 Blu-ray Player - Benchmark

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

It has been some time since Yamaha manufactured a hi-def disc player, either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray.  Instead Yamaha has been offering upscaling DVD players such as the S1700 and the S2700.  Now that the format war is over and Blu-ray is the declared winner, this is no longer true.  Yamaha has created the BD-S2900, their first Blu-ray player.

Specifications

  • Yamaha BD-S2900
  • Design: Blu-ray Player
  • Supported Formats: BD-Rom, BD-R, BD-RE, DVD-ROM, DVD-R DVD+R, DVD-RAM,CD, CD-R/RW, SD CARD, MP3, JPEG.
  • Connections: Component, S-Video, Composite, 5.1 Analog, 2Ch Analog, Toslink, Coaxial, HDMI 1.3, RS-232, Yamaha remote.
  • Dimensions: 17 2/16”W X 12 7/16”D X 3 12/16” H
  • Weight: 12.8 lbs
  • MSRP: $1199.95 USA
  • Yamaha

The BD-S2900 is a profile 1.1 player that plays 1080p24 source material, and outputs in bitstream format, all of the latest sound formats including Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD Master Audio.  The BD-S2900 has a full set of analog connections as well as a host of digital connections, including HDMI 1.3, so it can be used with just about any receiver or display.   As a profile 1.1 player, it is Bonus View (pip) capable, and also features an SD card slot that’s used for JPEGs, MP3s, or Virtual Package content.  The BD-S2900 won’t play VCD, DIVX, WMA, SACD, and DVD-Audio and it doesn’t have an Ethernet connection, so it isn’t able to connect to the internet to download firmware updates, or BD-Live material.


The Design

Weighing in at close to thirteen pounds the BD-S2900, stabilized with feet, is sturdy and has very good build quality.  The metal chassis makes it feel more solid than cheaper players you find filling shelves of retail stores.  It’s a tad larger than an average DVD player, and has minimal buttons on the front, which makes it look very sleek and attractive.  The BD-S2900’s faceplate, when powered on, lights up in the center with a nice ambient blue glow.  It also features a superb piano black, brushed metal finish.   There is an orange LED display, about four inches wide, that reads out basic commands and time information about the disc that is playing. This is a player that definitely would look very nice in any AV rack.   The drive features a tray mechanism, located on the left side of the player, that has relatively smooth operation as it ejects or closes.

With the cover removed, we can see isolated circuit boards, said to reduce cross-circuit interference, for the video, audio, and power supply sections.  On the back of the unit there is a fan near the power section to help keep things cool.  The BD-S2900 employs the same BD drive used in the Panasonic BD-30, and also uses some other Panasonic circuitry.

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The back panel features a host of analog and digital connections.  The analog connections include Component Video, S-Video, Composite Video, 2 Channel Audio, and 5.1 Audio Direct out.  The digital connections are HDMI 1.3, Coaxial, and Toslink.  The player also has an RS-232C port as well as a remote control port designed to be used with other components that support this feature.  The connections are all of about average quality.

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The remote control is standard fare and is weighted nicely.  The color is silver, and the buttons are spaced well apart.  The remote is not overly cluttered, which at least for me, is a plus.  On the upside, the remote has an easy to remember layout, and buttons can be pressed without accidentally hitting adjacent ones.  On the downside, there is no backlighting: the remote is designed to glow in the dark but the glow effect is far too faint to be effective.   There are buttons for secondary audio and pip which I like because it makes it easy to manipulate the Bonus View features.  One of my complaints is that I couldn’t find an eject disc button.

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Features

The BD-S2900 plays BD-Video, DVD Video, CDs, MP3s, and JPEGs.  It allows you to select from 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p.  480i is not available when using the HDMI connection and standard DVD’s are output at 480p from the analog connections.  The BD-S2900 can output 1080p24 material as long as the display supports the mode.  It doesn’t allow override of the automatic detection of the mode from the display’s EDID information, so if there are any glitches in the HDMI handshake, then the player will output to 1080p60 instead.

As a Bonus View player the BD-S2900 supports full picture-in-picture support with secondary audio.  I think this feature has a lot of potential for real movie buffs.  It's a fun feature, enabling the viewer to learn behind-the scens information about the film. The BD-S2900 is also one of the first Blu-ray players to support Virtual Package which, like BD-Live, allows you to add additional content to the Blu-ray movie.  In this case it would be done by downloading it to a SD-card and then using the SD slot to load it into the player.  We are just starting to see some of these extra features show up in movies and hopefully many more will be coming as the Blu-ray format develops.

Standard DVD Video Processing Performance (When you click on the chart to enlarge it, you may have to then click on the little square with arrows in the bottom right hand corner to further enlarge it to full size.)

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Similar to many Blu-ray players on the market today, the BD-S2900 didn’t perform well when it comes to standard DVD playback.  While it features motion adaptive processing, the main problem is that it isn’t able to lock onto any of our 3-2 or 2-2 cadence patterns, effectively meaning that there will be a loss of detail during playback of this kind of material.  On the upside, effort was put into this player to correct for chroma upsampling errors and it paid off as it passed all of our CUE tests with flying colors.

Core Video Performance

Measurements were taken at 1080i from the analog outputs using our Tektronix Oscilloscope.  The BD-S2900 performed in spades.  As you can see from the chart the frequency response is very smooth, the white level is spot on at 100 IRE, and the player has no problems with pixel cropping.  The player also showed that it can display blacker than black content.  These represent excellent results in the core performance section of the Secrets Benchmark.


In Use

The BD-S2900 takes about 30 seconds to power on and initiate. It has very fast load times that are on par with the Sony Playstation 3.  I loaded up the movies 300 and Pan’s Labyrinth in about 30 seconds and even Pixar’s Ratatouille, a Java based title, loaded up in under a minute.  Commands from the remote operated briskly and the player feels responsive.  Chapter skips, on the other hand, were a tad sluggish. Search had five settings that operated with average performance.  They weren’t too choppy but I wouldn’t call them smooth either.  The BD-S2900 clocked in at a slow 1.5 seconds on our layer change test which gives it a borderline score for the test.  The menu system is very pleasant because of clear organization and easy access to common settings.  I really liked the layout and it was intuitive to find what I needed and jump around through all the settings.  Yamaha has also included a very thorough manual with this player.

Video

The BD-S2900 is a HDMI 1.3 player with 12 bit Deep Color support giving it the possibility to display 68.7 billion possible colors.  The BD-S2900 didn’t clip any pixels at its highest resolution and also showed no banding effects in our test for banding. The player does do proper i/p conversion in both 2:3 and 2:2 cadences however the time it took to lock onto the 2:2 patterns was a tad slow.  I also tested the player for both noise reduction and diagonal filtering and in both cases it showed processing was in effect and the imagery was thus enhanced.  For real world material, I used the BD-S2900 to catch up on the Blu-ray release of Heroes Season 2, a favorite television series of mine that is presented in dts-HD Master Audio.  As soon as I loaded up the first chapter I felt that the picture quality was stunning with rich shadows, highlights, and deep colors.  I did an A/B comparison between my Sony Playstation 3 and the Yamaha player to see if I could tell any difference in picture quality.  I felt that the Yamaha had a deeper, richer presentation and one that was cleaner than the Playstation 3: When I switched to the Playstation, I could easily discern a little more noise in the image.  Obviously the BD-S2900’s noise reduction, video processing, and core video performance were all contributing to an exquisite Blu-ray image.

Audio

The BD-S2900 can output all of the latest HD codecs in bitstream output over HDMI and down converts these formats to 5.1 channel when output as PCM.  The player features 5.1 analog outputs and those are all supported by 24-bit/192 kHz DACs.   While outputting in PCM, the menu system has simple settings for speaker size (Small, or Large) as well as delay settings for each speaker.  While I had the Yamaha BD-S2900 hooked up through my Integra 9.8 DTC processor all of the audio presentation of the lossless HD formats was flawless with no synching issues or any other noticeable glitches.  I really favor the combination of a player that outputs HD sound codecs in bitstream format with a qualified AV processor, because the sound quality becomes second to none.


Conclusions

Yamaha’s BD-S2900 has excellent core video performance giving it superb picture quality during Blu-ray playback. It has speedy load times, the ability to bitstream output the latest sound codecs and implementation of Virtual Package, which is the next best thing to BD-Live.  All of these things make it an attractive unit.  Because the BD-S2900, down converts dts-HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD formats to 5.1 through PCM, this player is best used with a receiver that can decode the HD lossless codecs on its own.  The BD-S2900 is not a player I can recommend as an all in one solution as its standard DVD performance is not up to snuff and it’s also missing attractive features such as playback of SACD, DivX, VCD, or WMA formats.  Strictly for Blu-ray, this is a player with very strong performance, but Yamaha would need to update it to make it more of a complete solution.