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Best Home Theater Sound and Features: Upgrade to Blu Ray or Improve DVD Setup?

written by: Profacgillies•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/23/2009

Most home theater enthusiasts have well established DVD collections. Now the latest technology is Blu-ray. As well as better pictures, Blu-ray offers better sound quality and more features, but will you be able to realize the benefits?

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    What benefits does Blu-ray offer?

    Blu-ray disks have a higher capacity than DVDs. This provides a number of potential benefits. In a previous article, we considered whether most users would achieve better video quality. This article considers the issues of achieving better audio quality and accessing interactive features

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    Better sound quality

    The audio potential of Blu-ray was covered in the article on how to select a Blu-ray receiver. Again it offers greater resolution than DVD. It offers seven channels plus the subwoofer, but do you want another two speakers in your living room, even if your receiver will process and amplify the extra audio channels? Alternative improvements may be achieved through upgrading your speakers, or through buying newer versions of your older DVDs which often had poor soundtracks, such as early James Bond movies on DVD.

    Lifestyle speaker packages which are often chosen for aesthetic reasons and may perform quite satisfactorily with DVD, may not be able to pass on the higher audio quality available from Blu-ray. If you don't wish to replace a whole system, then replacing your subwoofer may improve not just the bass frequencies but midrange as well if the crossover frequency is higher. This change may produce an improvement even if you stay with 5.1 DVD Dolby Digital sound.

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    Interactive features

    Blu-ray also offers interactive features. The development and usage of these features are still in their infancy. Profile 1.1 players allow picture in picture information and Profile 2.0 allows connection to the Internet. The advantages here are essentially about future proofing your player. And, if you are the sort of person who just wants to watch movies (the same people often suffer from the delusion that a cell phone is a device for making phone calls!) then this may be a feature that you do not need.

    For those who like their additional features, use of the technology has been disappointing to date. For example, the re-issued James Bond movies seem to offer the same features on the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases, although BD-Live features may be added later to help sell an "even more ultimate" edition! Some manufacturers of high end players such as Pioneer, have not included the latest functionality preferring to emphasize the quality of the picture and the sound.

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    This article accepts that Blu-ray potentially offers the highest quality movie sound as part of home theater. However, it suggests that many of us may either not be able to realize the benefits in sound quality because of other components in the audio chain. Similarly, there is much potential in the new interactive features of Blu-ray, but so far, take up of the technology has been patchy by both disk producers and player manufacturers.

Do I need to replace my DVDs with Blu ray to improve my home cinema experience

The process of upgrading from DVD to Blu ray is an expensive step. Not just the cost of the player, but replacing disks can be even be more expensive. This series considers whether you will achieve a benefit from your upgrade.
  1. Best Home Theater Picture Quality: Upgrade to Blu Ray or Improve a DVD Setup?
  2. Best Home Theater Sound and Features: Upgrade to Blu Ray or Improve DVD Setup?