- Written by Kris Deering
- Published on 10 January 2008
The BD-P1400 is a full HDMI v1.3 compliant Blu-ray player. It is one of only a small handful of Blu-ray players that support all of the advanced audio formats available to the format via bitstream out. This means that the player does not decode the advanced audio formats but rather passes them along in raw bitstream form to a receiver or surround sound processor for decoding. This is what most of us are used to from the DVD format. If you plan on taking advantage of this feature, make sure the rest of your equipment supports this feature. There are a lot of receivers and processors out there with HDMI inputs, but that doesn't mean that they will support advanced audio decoding. Most AVRs and SSPs are either HDMI v1.0 or 1.1 compliant, with some of the newest models offering 1.3 support. If the front of your equipment has silkscreens for the new Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats, you're probably in good shape.
For those of you with HDMI v1.1 compliant sources, this player will decode Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS-HD High Resolution soundtracks, along with the legacy DTS and Dolby Digital formats. These formats are converted to PCM for transmission via HDMI and passed along to the rest of your equipment chain. DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks are limited to the core 1.5 Mbps stream and passed along accordingly. Right now, 20th Century Fox is the only Blu-ray studio that is supporting DTS-HD Master Audio predominantly, but we're starting to see some titles from Lionsgate, Sony, and New Line with these soundtracks as well.
For those of you lucky enough to have the newer HDMI v1.3 compliant AVRs and SSPs with internal decoding, this player offers you the full gamut of audio capabilities. I used the new Integra DTC-9.8 surround sound processor with the 1400 and took advantage of its advanced audio decoding capabilities. This was a seamless integration, and the experience was more in line with what I'd become accustomed to with DVD playback. This was also my first chance to hear the collection of DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks from my Fox Blu-ray collection and various demonstration discs I'd acquired from DTS. The big question is, was there really much of a difference? Personally, I'd say maybe. DTS has long delivered some outstanding audio processing, and I was in no way disappointed with the legacy full bitrate DTS soundtracks I'd been enjoying on Blu-ray and the D-Theater format before it. Doing some A/B comparisons with several Blu-ray discs resulted in some slight changes in overall perceived loudness, soundstage, and dynamics, but not enough to say it was night and day. This was more of a refined sound I was hearing with a bit more spatial quality and the soundstage became a bit more transparent from loudspeaker to loudspeaker. This is similar to the listening experience I was getting accustomed to from uncompressed PCM soundtracks and some of the better Dolby TrueHD selections. Overall though, I think the differences that end users will hear will vary greatly depending on the capabilities of their playback chain and room.
As much as I enjoy watching high quality high definition video and superb reference quality soundtracks, the usability and interface of a player contributes greatly to the overall experience. There is nothing worse than a sluggish player when you pop in your newest Blu-ray disc, or having lock-ups during playback. Unfortunately, I've had my fair share of these occurrences, and it bugs me and my wife every time. A lot of this I blame on the HDMI interface we've grown so accustomed to, but which continues to be plagued with communication issues between devices. But player manufacturers are also to blame. We are now seeing third generation Blu-ray players that have not improved much if at all in terms of load speeds and general navigation. People are not looking at moving into the next generation of home video playback only to find out it is slower and more cumbersome than the old one. That wasn't the case when we moved from VHS to DVD or from cassette to CD. People are looking for a faster experience that is easier to use and offers at a bare minimum the user experience they were offered before.
The BD-P1400 has made progress in some areas but definitely has room for improvement in a few others. The 1400 doesn't take nearly as long as some other players I've used for powering up, but it's still slower than most of the DVD players I've used. Users can expect about 20 or so seconds from powering up until they are loading a disc. Once you get past that though, things tend to slow down, such as loading discs, especially if they are advanced profile Blu-ray discs with Java features. Using some of the newer titles from Fox and Disney, I was seeing some pretty ridiculous load times, especially in comparison to my Sony Playstation 3 which continues to set the bar for usability for the Blu-ray format. It is pretty sad when a console gaming device continues to be the leader in Blu-ray playback. This was something we never saw with SD (Standard Definition) DVD playback devices where even the average DVD player trounced most console game systems with DVD playback.
The general setup menus are very simple and easy to use. There is no searching for random settings, and everything is presented in a cut and dry method that makes setup a breeze. Once you have a disc playing, general navigation is also a bit on the slow side. Menu navigation is fine, but simple operations like chapter skipping tend to take longer than we'd like. On another note, this player will not play back some BD-RE discs. We ran into this problem with one of our Blu-ray test discs. This was the only player we had on hand with this problem. While this doesn't affect the general user much, it is something to keep in mind if you are thinking about archiving to blank BD discs in the future. Again, we are hoping Samsung will address this with a future update.
Once we got past the usability and actually started watching movies, most of our gripes went away. The 1400 provides an exceptionally clean picture with the majority of the content out there. I had this player in my system for a couple weeks, and during that time, I watched quite a few titles from various studios and never had any playback issues during a movie as long as I had the player outputting 1080p60. It was a real treat to hear some of the new Fox titles in full DTS-HD Master Audio ,including the recent release of Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer. While I didn't care for this movie in terms of plot points or subject matter, I couldn't deny how great the picture and audio presentation were. This is an outstanding example of sound design and dynamic range. The 1400 was the first player I've used that could deliver the full audio experience this soundtrack could offer.
Another highlight was the recent MGM release of Mr. Brooks. This is a very stylized thriller with great atmosphere and one of the best performances I've seen from Kevin Costner in recent years. The image quality delivered by the 1400 was nothing short of outstanding, with excellent shadow detail, depth of image, and clarity. We really have been spoiled with Blu-ray so far, as it truly delivers a picture and audio presentation that are leaps and bounds above what we've been experiencing from the SD DVD format before it.
Samsung has included some nice features with this third generation player, but I can't help but feel that consumers should expect more from players at this stage. General usability isn't nearly as good as most DVD products on the market, and we're still missing some audio decoding. I was happy to see full audio bitstream support finally, but I don't think its enough to justify an upgrade from existing players. Had they added this feature to the BD-P1200 with its better video processing I might have sung another tune, but for now I think there are some better options out there for consumers than the BD-P1400.