Blu-ray Players

Onkyo DV-BD507 Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

It wasn’t but about 18 months ago that Blu-ray players were still considered high end devices, selling mostly to enthusiasts, videophiles, and the like. Recently, the market for these players has really taken off, mostly due to the big box retailers dropping prices to DVD player levels. The fact that one can walk into a Wal-Mart and purchase a Blu-ray player for under $150 makes it somewhat of a commodity item at this point. Why not own one? Blu-ray discs are indeed more expensive (sometimes prohibitively so), but on the rental front, you can get them from Blockbuster or Netflix on the cheap, and enjoy your films in much higher quality.

With the DV-BD507, Onkyo has introduced their “most advanced” Blu-ray player to date. The player doesn’t seem to have many more features than the basic units from Samsung, Sony, LG, etc. right now, so there must be something in there that justifies the $499 MSRP. Let’s take a look and find out.

Specifications

  • Supported Disc Formats: BD-Video, BD-Java, BD-RE (v2.1), BD-R, DVD-Video, MP3, CD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW
  • Supported Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Video Connections: HDMI (480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 1080p/24), Component, Composite
  • Audio Connections: HDMI, Toslink, Coaxial, Analog (2-channel)
  • Blu-Ray Player Profile 2.0 compliant (with BD-Live support)
  • Dimensions: 6.4" H x 21.5" W x 16.6" D
  • Weight: 10.6 Pounds
  • MSRP: $499 USA
  • Onkyo USA

Setup and Configuration

The DV-BD507 was an absolute cinch to get set up. It is extremely light, as most players are these days, so I simply put it in my rack where my old HD-DVD player was taking up space, and plugged in the non-detachable power cable. The player includes a couple of options for audio and video connectivity. On the video side, you can use component, composite (no S-Video) or HDMI. On the audio side, you can choose from 2 channel analog, optical or coaxial digital, or HDMI. At this point the best way to hook up a Blu-ray player to your system is with HDMI to get all the benefits of the high resolution video and audio with a single cable. Finally, I connected the Ethernet port via category 5e cable to my home network. This would allow for both BD-Live functionality (the player is Profile 2.0 compliant), as well as over-the-Internet firmware upgradability.

Being someone who is slightly obsessive about being up to date with all the latest and greatest (I keep my computers and other gadgets on the latest firmwares and softwares once I verify that there aren’t any drastic problems with them), I checked whether there was already a firmware update for the player. The setting to update the firmware is found in the setup menus, under the “Custom” heading, and the “Others” field. My 1.00 firmware was up to date according to that process.

Next, as I always do when I get a new piece of gear, I traversed all available menus to see what features, options, and functions I had available to me. The first is a quick setup menu that allows for the most important settings to get you started right away. There you can set the type of HDMI audio output (more on this later), HDMI video resolution, component video resolution, and the language of the menu system. If you have both an SD card as well as a Blu-ray disc loaded, there is an option that will pop up to allow you to select which source you will be viewing.

For those wishing for more detailed configuration (which I would guess includes most of this readership), the next set of menus is the custom section. First, you can set the language for the audio, subtitles, disc menus, and player menus. Next, you have the video settings. Under this menu, there are options like TV aspect ratio, HDMI video resolution (which is where you can specify 1080p24 for those HDTVs that support that output), Deep color (the player supports x.v.Color), component output resolution, progressive mode and still mode. I set mine to 16:9 wide for the aspect ratio, 1080p24 as my HDTV supports that resolution.

The audio section is interesting, as there are several things to consider when making your menu selections. First and foremost, one must understand that this Blu-ray player will output the high resolution audio formats, such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD as bitstream over the HDMI connection. Of course, like all Blu-ray players (and the players formerly known as HD-DVD), these high resolution signals can also be sent as multichannel LPCM signals over HDMI. So, once you understand these options, there are a couple of ways to set it up. First of all, under the audio section you can select the BD Audio mode. This setting’s options are “HD Audio Output” and “Mix Audio Output”. Here lies the solution to the old issue of not being able to mix the secondary audio, such as the director’s commentary, with the high resolution audio, such as Dolby TrueHD, and still send bitstream output to the receiver via HDMI. When this is set to “HD Audio Ouput”, it simply allows the high resolution audio bitstream to be sent via HDMI – no secondary audio here. When set to “Mix Audio Ouput”, if there is secondary audio, the DV-BD507 will output LPCM and mix the secondary and primary audio channels, but will output bitstream if there is no secondary audio.

Furthermore, because the mixing is done in the player, when this option is selected, a new menu appears that allows you to set speaker sizes, levels, and delays, just as you would in a receiver. This allows for proper bass management. Also found here is a down-sampling setting and a dynamic range control setting. The latter is useful for night time viewing where you don’t have the luxury of very drastic changes in volume levels, but still want to be able to hear the full range and depth of the audio track. A notable feature here is that if the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is encoded with DRC settings, the player will recognize them when it outputs the signal to your receiver.

The last two custom menus are for parental controls, and for everything else. The parental settings allow for both Blu-ray rating level and DVD rating level to be set independently. In the catch-all menu for all the remaining settings, you will find things like whether to display the angle icon, whether the player should automatically power itself off, the dimmer for the panel display, the HDMI CEC setting (which allows you to control various HDMI devices over the wire), and configuration of your network connection. In addition, this is where you can check for and run firmware updates. The nice thing is that you can update via the internet directly through the player’s Ethernet connection, or you can update via an already downloaded firmware update that is on an SD card.

The final main menu is where you can re-initialize the setup of the player or network connection, as well as erase saved BD-ROM content.


Features

The DV-BD507 definitely included many firsts for me in terms of Blu-ray disc playback. My normal (and only) Blu-ray player up until this review had been my trusty, first-gen PS3. While it has been an awesome player that has gotten even better with upgrades, there are still a few things about it that could make a good standalone Blu-ray player worth taking up extra inputs on my A/V Receiver. First and perhaps, foremost, the Onkyo was very quiet while in use; something that has plagued the PS3 and really kept it from being a serious home theater piece (unless all of the equipment is sealed away in a gear closet or something). For the first time I was able to watch an entire Blu-ray disc without once having to hear the whine of a fan. I am quite sensitive to such things, and it was a very welcome change. During the presentation, there was virtually no mechanical noise from the unit, although I could hear a small amount when first loading the disc.

Speaking of loading, one area that could use improvement was the time it took to load a Blu-ray disc. In firing up The Dark Knight, I timed it to take 35 seconds just to get from closing the tray to the FBI warning, and another 18 seconds more to see the first actual video (and that was the Warner Brothers splash screen, not the actual film). It’s amazing that it still takes this much time to load a disc. Making it even worse, The Dark Knight is one of those titles that does not allow for resuming the film at the same point after actually stopping the movie, so accidentally stopping the film can be a time consuming mistake.

One of the most exciting moments of all was actually being able to see the DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD lights lit up on my receiver for the first time. Early on in the high resolution audio format game, there were no players that would output these formats via bitstream, even though there were several audio video receivers that would accept such input. While I can’t complain, or even really say with certainty that having the formats decoded in the receiver sounds any better than having them decoded in the player and sent to the receiver via LPCM, it was a notable moment for me as a home theater enthusiast. It allowed me to revisit the feeling I had when I fired up my Sony DVP-S7000 with my Yamaha RX-V992 receiver to hear Dolby Digital for the first time in all of its glory while seeing that wonderful logo appear on the amber display.

The DV-BD507 is a profile 2.0 player complete with all of the specs required thereof. I thought I would test this with the BD-Live menu in The Dark Knight. When it would not launch properly, I at first worried that my network connection was not working. After verifying that it was indeed connected with an IP address, it was time to consult the manual. I found there that this player requires an SD card to access BD-Live content, with a recommendation that the card be at least 1GB in capacity. Once I inserted an SD card, the BD-Live content became accessible. Again, the time it takes to actually get to the BD-Live menu once you select it from the pop-up menu is considerable. My general problem with BD-Live, and not just on this player, is that the interface and content that you find there equates to what one might have seen on the Internet several years ago. In fact, you can find better content that is more dynamic, easier and faster to access, and offers an overall better experience than what you can in most BD-Live menus. The exception here is the live viewing events in which a director, actor, or some other person (or persons) contribute interesting anecdotal material while the movie is playing in a Q&A format.

The last feature included that is somewhat non-standard is the ability to play AVCHD and AVCHD-lite video files from the SD card slot. Now this may not be a hugely popular feature for everyone, but as I own a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3K digital camera that is capable of shooting 720p video in AVCHD-Lite format, it did pique my interest. I loaded up the card from my camera and checked it out. The experience is about as bare-bones as it gets, offering only the ability to skip forward and back through the available files. There is no menu that allows you to select a clip directly. However, the video played extremely smoothly and the audio sounded excellent. My PS3 also has the capability of playing these files, so this feature wasn’t a huge eye-opener for me. Still, I definitely appreciate the ability to quickly and easily view my home videos without the hassle of cable connections, video conversion on my computer, or other such steps that take time and make me less inclined to view this content. At the end of the day, the ease is the best thing this feature has going for itself.

Remote Control

The included remote control unit is fairly basic. The remote cannot control any other equipment. It offers no backlighting or glow-in-the-dark keys, however, I appreciated that the key layout and differing sizes of the keys themselves made for rather easy usage in the dark. For example, the play and stop buttons are centered in the lower third of the remote, wider, and set apart from any buttons above or below making them easily recognizable by touch. For me, the remote for a source component is less important than for a central control unit, such as an A/V receiver because most people would use that component’s remote or a dedicated universal remote control anyway. In my case, after testing out the included remote, I quickly programmed my Logitech Harmony One to control the DV-BD507 as my Blu-ray player, and that was that.


In Use

The Onkyo was an excellent performer during my viewing tests. Aside from The Dark Knight, I also watched Knowing, Jumper, and used some of my reference scenes from The Fifth Element, The Last Waltz, and Cars. Generally speaking, I have no complaints at all with regards to the performance of this player. Of the material I viewed, my favorites included the IMAX scenes from The Dark Knight, which were gorgeous in their full-frame output to my Samsung LNT-4671F. The vivid flyover shots of the city (both Gotham and Singapore) were magnificent, so much so that I would often replay them just to take in more detail. The taxicab swooshing through the city in The Fifth Element is another of my preferred demo scenes because of all the rapidly moving colors and layers. Again, the DV-BD507 handled this with aplomb.

Audio performance was also excellent. The opening scene from Cars features the rush of race cars roaring around the track, and brought the living room to life with the TrueHD track. Listening to the ensemble finale “I Shall Be Released” from The Last Waltz, I could feel the emotion of the moment (even though it wasn’t truly the last song performed at the real concert, it did feel like the farewell as it was the last song of the film). I really love listening to the various performances in this film in their uncompressed LPCM grandeur. There was not much to complain about with The Dark Knight either (can you tell that I really loved this film?). The explosion of Gotham General Hospital as the Joker exits merrily rocked me out of my seat but never distorted at all. It was simply clear and visceral. The DV-BD507 certainly has its audio chops.

As I mentioned previously in the review, I didn’t find a whole lot to be gained in terms of audio quality by outputting the high resolution audio via bitstream versus LPCM. Perhaps the one benefit with the latter is that you can set levels in both this player or in the receiver (so if you wanted to keep your Audyssey equalized settings global on the receiver, for example, you could still set independent levels on the player. I didn’t bother to do this; preferring to output the audio via bitstream and allow my preconfigured equalization settings on the receiver do their job. In addition, I prefer to apply the THX post processing effects of my Onkyo TX-SR875 to further improve the sound based on my room.


On the Bench

Measurements were taken with our Tektronix Oscilloscope from the component analog video outputs at 1080i resolution. The player passed our tests for Y/C delay, and it measured perfectly at 100 IRE. The Onkyo DV-BD507 is able to display blacker than black content and passed our tests for pixel cropping, showing that it could deliver the entire image without lopping off any pixels. The DV-BD507's video frequency response curve was very smooth across the entire spectrum, which results in an excellent image present with fine details. On the downside, the DV-BD507 had issues with every one of our Chroma Upsampling Error tests.

In our HD section of the Benchmark, the Onkyo DV-BD507 had only average performance. The player failed our tests for proper 1080i/p conversion, because while it was able to display 2:2 material properly, it could not display 3:2 material without producing artifacts. The DV-BD507 passed our test for banding but didn't do quite as well with our noise reduction tests, as it doesn't employ any kind of advanced noise reduction techniques. On the upside, the DV-BD507 did pass our tests for diagonal filtering.

Standard DVD Performance

When Blu-ray players first started appearing, most of them had pretty bad standard DVD playback. Along the way, a couple of manufacturers such as Pioneer, Denon, and Oppo changed that with players featuring high quality playback for both Blu-ray and standard DVD material. However, the Onkyo DV-BD507 did not perform very well with our standard DVD Benchmark tests, passing only a few of them correctly.

Even basic film deinterlacing and high detail tests showed exceptionally long delays in the time it took the player to lock onto the patterns. Therfore, artifacting is likely to appear during this time that the player is locking onto the cadences.

On video based material, the player had only modest test results. While the DV-BD507 did pass our motion adaptive and diagonal filtering tests, it failed our 2:2 Cadence test, and also couldn't properly recover from alternating between displaying video and film based material.

On the usability portion of the benchmark the DV-BD507 had pretty quick response to commands. However, it had a painfully slow layer change, clocking in at over two seconds.


Conclusions

On the one hand, the DV-BD507 is incredibly easy to set up and use. It has the ability to output a bitstream of the high resolution audio formats over the HDMI connection. It allows you to easily view AVCHD files saved on an SD card. On the other hand, that is where the bonus features really end. The Blu-ray player market has nearly pushed itself down into the realm of impulse purchase pricing. With players selling for less than half of this Onkyo’s MSRP, and offering things such as Pandora and Netflix streaming built in, built in BD-Live memory, and better standard DVD and HD performance, it makes it hard to justify the DV-BD507’s $499 price tag. For those of you who know and love the Onkyo brand (myself included), and are looking for a Blu-ray player with excellent picture quality, this player is a good option. You will NOT be disappointed. However, for those who are looking to consolidate functionality into as few sources as possible, or who simply don’t wish to spend that much on a Blu-Ray player, there are additional choices available for consideration.