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Blu-ray players buying guide

Today's players do much more than just play discs

Our headphone guy Jeff Miller has helped Crutchfield customers for over a decade. We often see him testing out new headphones — you'll find his firsthand take on many product pages. He also stays connected to the brave new world of voice control.

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Blu-ray discs provide popcorn-ready entertainment with crystal-clear picture and thrilling sound. But many Blu-ray players do much more than just play discs. They give you on-demand access to movies and TV shows through streaming services like Netflix®. They can also serve as music players for CDs and digital music files.

Need help choosing one? This guide will get you started.

Why a disc player?

While streaming is convenient, Blu-ray discs aren’t dependent on a high-speed Internet connection for 1080p video and surround sound. And it's still pretty easy to rent Blu-rays and DVDs from Redbox® and other supermarket kiosks (all Blu-ray players can play DVDs, too).

Discs are great for repeat viewings (if you have young children, you’ll know where I’m coming from). You also get special features like deleted scenes, “making of” documentaries, and director’s commentary.

Also check out our Blu-ray and DVD Player FAQ

You can still stream movies, shows, and music

It's not as if you have to choose between discs and streaming — most Blu-ray players connect to your home network. Some players require a wired Ethernet connection, while others work wirelessly over Wi-Fi®.

Once you're connected you'll have access to online apps and services, with different players offering different content. You might see Netflix, Hulu Plus™, YouTube® , and Amazon Instant Video. Many have Pandora® for music. Some players include specialty services like HBO GO, WWE Network, or MLB.TV.

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Top-notch picture

All standard Blu-ray players deliver Blu-ray discs in 1080p resolution for a high-definition picture with deep colors and sharp detail. Since they don't require compression, discs are capable of a picture better than high-definition streaming. Blu-ray players also upconvert standard DVDs to 1080p.

Ultra HD Blu-ray is here

4K Blu-ray players and discs are now available and can maximize the performance of Ultra HD TVs. We have a growing selection of 4K Blu-ray players, and there are many Ultra HD Blu-ray movie titles available.

Ultra HD Blu-ray picture

4K TVs have four times as many pixels as a 1080p HDTV, for an extremely accurate picture.

The UHD Blu-ray format offers greater opportunities for picture quality improvement than the shift from DVD to Blu-ray nearly a decade ago. Here's how 4K Blu-ray discs improve your watching experience over standard Blu-ray:

  • Full 3,840 x2,160 pixel resolution — In fact you probably won’t notice any pixels at all. Your movies will have a sharper picture that looks lifelike, even if you’re sitting close to a very large screen. You'll get the visual impact of a larger picture, but you won't have to move your seating position any further back.

  • Wider color range —  Deeper, truer colors mean even more accurate and brilliant-looking landscapes and scenery on an Ultra HD TV.

  • High frame rate — Provides effortless motion and movement for seamless fast-paced scenes.

  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) — 4K Blu-ray discs with HDR offer the absolute best picture quality currently available. HDR offers a whole new level of contrast. You'll see both really bright and really dark images within the same scene.

Want more details? Read our article "What is HDR TV?"

Oppo UDP-203

A look at the sturdy disc drive and powerful video circuitry inside the Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Accurate, exciting movie sound

Blu-ray players can also help you get the most from your home theater speakers. They offer the top surround sound formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, which offer discrete 7.1-channel playback and lossless audio for a more genuine and thrilling movie experience.

They'll also play Dolby Atmos content through a compatible home theater receivers. Using in-ceiling or special Dolby enabled speakers, this new sound format projects sounds and atmospheric effects from all around your seating position, including above.

Play all your tunes through your best speakers

Crutchfield Listening lab

In the Crutchfield Lab, an Oppo universal Blu-ray player is our primary music source. It delivers high-res tunes with exceptional detail.

Blu-ray players aren't just about picture, they're great for listening to music, too. If you have stereo or surround speakers in your TV room, or even a sound bar, this really comes in handy.

CDs are a simple choice — every Blu-ray player can play them. Plus, most offer Pandora or other streaming music services. Here are some other music features to look for:

  • USB drive — To play digital music files from a thumb drive or external hard drive.
  • DLNA capability — Lets you stream music (and sometimes photos and videos) from a compatible computer or portable device.
  • High-resolution Audio — High-res music files sound more natural and dynamic than MP3s or other "lossy" digital files. Look for these ways to play High-res music:
    • SACDs, DVD-Audio, and other high-resolution discs.
    • Lossless files like FLAC, DSD, AIFF, WAV, or ALAC — from a thumb drive or external hard drive through the USB ports

Higher-end players are often designed with music listening in mind. They are more solidly constructed to maximize picture and sound performance by reducing resonance and keeping discs stable as they spin. Many of them include a high-grade digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that are capable of outstanding sound quality over both stereo and multichannel sources.

Some players have the ability to shut off video circuitry when you're listening to music, so there’s no interference with the audio signal. Others house audio and video circuitry completely separate from one another for pristine sound. Some higher-end players separate the power supply, video driver, and audio circuitry, reducing interference and delivering superb picture and sound.

Larger players work well in serious home theater setups, but there are also extremely compact Blu-ray players. They can fit neatly into tight places, like a bedroom or smaller TV setup.

compact Sony Blu-ray

Some compact players are so low profile, they don't even have a front panel display.

All Blu-ray players have an HDMI output to connect the player to your TV or receiver. But if you’re going to connect it to an audio system without HDMI connections, look for a player with dedicated audio outputs. Many players offer optical or coaxial digital audio outputs for sending audio to an older home theater receiver or a sound bar.

Premium players have analog outputs for another reason — music. High-performance players offer stereo or multichannel analog outputs, so you can take advantage of the player’s superior digital audio processing.

Back of the Cambridge CXU

We picked out two cool features you might want to look for:

  • Screen mirroring — Send pictures, high-definition videos, and music from an Android™ phone or tablet to your big screen using a technology called Miracast (Samsung's version is called AllShare).
  • YouTube on the big screen — When your player is on the same home network as your phone, the latest version of the YouTube app lets you “throw” clips to your TV. No more squinting to watch the latest movie trailers or music videos.

We can help you choose

Have questions about how to choose the right Blu-ray player? Call, email, or chat with us today.

Our expert Advisors know the gear inside and out. Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need for your new home theater.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

  • David Willis from Fort McCoy, FL, USA

    Posted on 6/6/2015


  • albert schulz from california

    Posted on 6/24/2015

    Can Blu-ray dvd players play both region 1 and 2 disc's

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/26/2015

    Albert, all of our Blu-ray and DVD players play region 1 discs, made for the U.S. market.

  • Deepak Deodhar from Pune,India

    Posted on 7/7/2015

    Can I get a better viewing of ordinary cd or dvd .if played on blue ray player?

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/8/2015

    Deepak, Most Blu-ray player have video upconversion to give standard DVDs a boost in picture quality

  • Ken from Vero Beach

    Posted on 10/31/2015

    Where can I find a list of Blu-ray dvd players that support Dolby Atmos? Thank you.

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/2/2015

    Ken, every Blu-ray player that supports Dolby TrueHD should support Dolby Atmos. That includes every player we currently carry (I just double-checked). You'll want to make sure that the HDMI audio output is set to "bitstream," and that you have an Atmos-enabled home theater receiver.

  • John Torbert from Birmingham

    Posted on 7/3/2016

    Are there any inexpensive players with front panel displays? I need an inexpensive unit for the interim before I change to 4K resolution in a few years. My old Samsung quit playing audio through it's HDMI port. I'm used to seeing the display. Is this being replaced by an on-screen interface that is more functional?

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/4/2016

    John, Unfortunately front-panel displays have largely been dropped. I also like quickly glancing down to see how far I am through a show or movie (rather than pushing a button so it shows up on-screen). I think it is trade-off for the more compact player designs. I've forwarded your question to an Advisor to see if we can find anything that might work for you.

  • BigFED from DFW

    Posted on 7/15/2016

    Whatever! This is "ENTERTAIMENT"!!! It is NOT a life altering event! The ABILITY of the equipment to replay anything exceeds to quality of most programs!!!

  • Larry from Raleigh, NC

    Posted on 7/28/2016

    I have read that the standards for 4k UHD are still in flux. Should I wait to by a 4k DVD player until this all shakes out? Or will say the Samsung K8500 be able to accommodate future standards with a software upgrade?

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/9/2016

    Larry, the standards to Ultra HD Blu-ray are set, but you might be referring to the two HDR formats. Our TV guy Steve Kindig recently broke down HDR-10 and Dolby Vision.

  • John Micieli from Palm Coast Fl

    Posted on 11/6/2016

    Hey Jeff, What is Dolby Atmos. I have a Sony 7.1, ( purchased from Cruthcfield ). receiver that plays DolbyTrueHD and DTS-Master Audio, that sounds great. Is the Dolby Atmos new?

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/9/2016

    John, Dolby Atmos is a three-dimenional audio format that completely envelops you with movie effects, including sounds from above. DTS has a similar "object-based" sound format called DTS:X. This article explains both.

  • Scott P. from Pittsburgh

    Posted on 1/6/2017

    How does an Xbox one-s 4k compare to a stand alone Blu Ray, 4k player?

  • Eric from Bloomington

    Posted on 1/11/2017

    The Oppo 203 is a fantastic BD and UBD player and its audio qtly is at the top of the class.

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/12/2017

    Scott, I haven't had a chance to try out the XBOX ONE S, but will send my thoughts when I have. Would love to hear from someone who has used it.

  • Clarke from Kelly Willis

    Posted on 5/3/2017

    I'm using a Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 8350 fed by HDMI from a standard priced Sony and Panasonic Blu-ray player(s). Have a 92" screen. Will I see an improvement in picture quality with the UDP-203?

  • Robert from Waynesboro

    Posted on 6/25/2017

    Already outdated, buy a PS4 or XB1 and be happy (ier)! Prices need to come way down to stay relevant these days.

  • Dennis from Dearborn

    Posted on 12/27/2017

    Having a hometheater system for over 17 years I experience the changes in all the technology that continues today. I saw the loss of Pioneer Elite HDTV's, Blu Ray players ( I own a 23 FD) never to see another one in 4K, and a few inexpensive new 4K players on the market. But the only one judged to be the best is OPPO, a brand I never heard of before. Since Sony, Pioneer, Denon, Yamaha, onkyo, Samsung, and others fail to make the grade as finer BlU Ray players, and cheap tv is on the market, where are the better competing brand 4K Blu-ray players? I own a HD plasma that works great, but I see the difference in the higher end 4K TVS and need to know which 4K will deliver the best picture for them.

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