Video enthusiasts have amassed large collections of DVDs since the format's inception in the late 1990s. In order to further maximize the potential of the format after the advent of high definition television sets, upconverting DVD players were introduced, subjectively improving the signal to mimic a true HD source. Blu-ray is a true high definition source, with the players supporting this format also upconverting conventional DVD. Deciding whether to invest in Blu-ray and presumably replace large chunks of an existing DVD collection requires a thorough understanding of the differences between the newer format versus upconverting the old.
Return on Investment
Since all machinery and electronics eventually fail, replacing your existing DVD player with a Blu-ray unit after its demise probably makes sense. However, solid upconverting players are routinely found for less than one hundred dollars, while entry-level Blu-ray units are one hundred or more. Move to the next tier of performance while adding Wi-Fi connectivity for software and hardware updates, and this cost may triple. Added to this is the risk of dissatisfaction with your existing DVD collection once you're exposed to Blu-ray picture and sound improvements. You may find yourself re-purchasing titles you already own, adding up to a potentially expensive upgrade.
Blu-ray discs offer marked improvements in video as well as audio quality. A DVD's maximum resolution is 720 by 480 lines, whereas Blu-ray comes in at 1920 by 1080. The difference, especially on larger sets or front projectors is noticeable, since televisions or upconverting DVD players must "create" this extra resolution to properly fill out all of the available pixels on the display. Through a process called interpolation, upconverting players produce HD-like images through proper handling of the DVD format, while adding video information in key places. Blu-ray, in contrast, offers many times the data on a single disc than DVD, including lossless audio that is virtually identical to the studio master. Although the latter is less important, unless you have a quality home theater system. The video improvements are typically not so subtle; These include better depth of field, increased detail, less video noise and more accurate color.
Audio and Hardware Considerations
Upconverted DVD video requires HDMI to work, so there's no need to replace cabling if you swap your upconverting player with a Blu-ray device. Conventional upconverting DVD units play back Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, reproduced by nearly any surround receiver made since the turn of the century. Even upconverting DVD players, no matter how good the video, are limited to these formats. Dolby TrueHD or DTS offer more detail and richness in sound; and although these improvements may be perceived as more subtle than the changes in video, they are still present. However, unless your receiver decodes lossless audio from the Blu-ray disc, you're only getting half of the improvement. Alternatively, some Blu-ray players decode these formats internally, allowing you to use older receivers featuring multi-channel analog inputs. Additionally, newer receivers pass the true 1080p video from a Blu-ray player without interference or degradation in image quality.
From the outset, studios and manufacturers intended to eventually replace DVD with Blu-ray. Initially, Blu-ray titles were few and far between, with some not presenting a giant leap forward in image quality with legacy DVD titles. As the format matures, newer titles are released with the frequency and predictability consumers are accustomed to, and in many cases these releases offer a DVD copy in the box. This is useful to play back in a car, secondary space, like a bedroom or on a laptop.
All information in the article is accurate as of the date of publication, November 2012.
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