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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Home Cinema Review!
Samsung BD-C6500
Wi-Fi Network Blu-ray Player



Brevis...
Price: $249 retail
Likes: Great video, Wi-Fi, 7.1 analog
Dislikes: No audio level or delay adjustments
More info: Samsung BD-C6500


by John Gatski

Korean-based Samsung has been a major consumer electronics player for more than 20 years. In terms of build and subjective audio and video quality, its TVs, DVD players, and Blu-ray players match, or often exceed, similar products from the major Japanese manufacturers. And compared to the high-priced products I normally review, the Samsung components are very wallet friendly.
Case in point is the Samsung BD-C6500 Blu-ray player. This $249 retail player is a well-featured BD player with Wi-Fi networking, and, rare for a budget player these days, it sports analog outputs.

Features
The BD-C6500 is what I call a medium priced, mass-production BD player — with features that will appeal to a wide swath of end-users. Its 1080P 24-frame video engine, analog 7.1 output with onboard Dolby TruHD and DTS Master HD decoding, and an array of Wi-Fi applications makes this a good buy — if you do not need 3-D.
The BD-C6500 has that plasticy feel of today’s made-in-Asia budget players, but it is robust enough for a product that just sits in a rack or on a shelf. The front panel features touch-sensitive function controls; they include Open/Close, Play/Pause, Stop and Power. On the front portion of the top, an illuminated Blu-ray logo reminds you of its pedigree.
A front-panel USB port allows for playing audio files, such as WMA, MP2 and straight PCM audio — and various video format files — from USB thumb drives. The back panel includes 7.1 audio RCA outputs, optical digital audio output, a single HDMI output, composite and component video outputs, as well as a LAN Ethernet input. The BD-C6500 also includes a set of stereo analog audio RCA output jacks.


It is nice to see that Samsung packed quite bit of quality, as well as quantity, in this player — with its superb video playback, 7.1 analog outputs, Wi-Fi access and included Samsung Apps for many popular Internet sites.


The Wi-Fi feature and a host of Samsung Apps enable the player to do wireless internet software updates, access BD Live extras and, of course, hook up to various Internet sites, such as Blockbuster-on-Demand video service, YouTube, Pandora, USA Today, NetFlix, Twitter, Facebook and many others. Samsung even provides Internet product support access from the player; very slick.

The setup
The Samsung BD-C6500 is easy to set up. It took me all of 15 minutes to set up the video and audio options. The player offers menu-driven adjustments, such as video resolution output from 480P to 1080P, network setup, analog audio adjustment, and preset/custom picture settings. Most setup functions require the remote.
I like the fact that the player can output both the digital and analog audio from the multichannel jacks — without having to select the audio output option in the menu. Both are always active.
Although the player contains analog output decoding for all the key formats (including Dolby TruHD, DTS Master HD Audio), it does not have some adjustment parameters that I come to expect from BD players with analog output. For instance, it contains speaker size, which enables the crossover setting, but no distance setting which sets the delay in most players. And although the player contains test tones to check your level, it also has no internal level adjustment; the analog channels levels (and the delay) have to be set in your preamp/processor or receiver.
I connected the BD-C6500 to my reference AudioControl Maestro M3 preamp/processor. Amps included a Carver A500X and A750X. Audio was monitored through Westlake LC8.1s (L-R), Westlake LC2.675 (center) and NHT Ones (surrounds). Subwoofer duties were handled by the Paradigm Sub 15. The BD-C6500 was connected to the preamp with a solid-silver, WireWorld HDMI cable; a WireWorld HDMI cable also connected the preamp to the Sony XBR4 LCD 52-inch video monitor. All components with detachable power cords were attached to an Essential Sound Products (ESP) power strip via ESP power cords.
I also tested the Samsung BD-C6500 as an audio-only player with 16-bit CDs and 24-bit/96 kHz high-resolution audio via DVD, Blu-ray and USB drive.

In use
I first used the BD-C6500 via the analog outputs. It was easy to setup. Since the Samsung contains no delay or level adjustment, I adjusted those parameters through the AudioControl preamp.
Initially, the standard “normal” video setting was used for 1080P BDs, but I was able to calibrate an even better picture using the custom settings and a BD video setup disc. In fact, the video quality was really, really good. Pretty darn close to my $3,000 reference Pioneer BDP-09FD Elite player.

The BD-C6500 Wi-Fi capability is first rate. Its set-up menus and network control are easy to maneuver and intuitive.

I played several BDs, including the animated feature Bolt, which contains a dynamic and diverse palate of sounds in its opening 10 minute sequence. Through the analog audio jacks, I found the 5.1 audio satisfactory. It contained good depth and width in the surround sound stage.
In my opinion, the BD-C6500 is a good, low-cost choice for those who still use legacy analog input components. More expensive analog output players do a better job in projecting surround audio depth and width. But for those who really need an analog output player, it is hard to ignore the $160 street-priced BD-C6500.
Provided you have a quality HDMI input receiver or preamp. the best way to enjoy the BD-C6500’s audio performance is to use the HDMI bitstream audio output. Then you get a better match of the audio to the video because the video quality is so freakin’ wonderful! Very accurate skin tones, clean backgrounds and ultra sharp detail at 1080P. Its scaling of 480P to 1080P was excellent as well. It upscales good-looking DVDs to near HD quality.



To test its stereo audio converter performance I played back a number of commercial CDs, high-resolution music BDs and DVDs and my own 24/96 high-resolution guitar recordings from a USB thumb drive. The Samsung is a quite competent in music playback and will be pleasing to most casual audio listeners. Its not quite audiophile quality like an Oppo BDP-83 (or its replacement the BDP-93), but the BD-C6500 is much less money.
One audio caveat: if you burn Music DVDs in Roxio Toast in 24-bit/96 kHz, the BD-C6500 will not play them. I tried several Toast Music DVD discs of high-res music from various sources, as well as my own guitar tracks. The player would load and freeze at 1 second of the first track. Most DVD or combo BD/DVD players play the Toast Music DVDs; but a few don’t.
The BD-C6500 Wi-Fi capability is first rate. Its set-up menus and network control are easy to maneuver and intuitive. I watched numerous You Tube videos, checked out the news on USA Today, listened to music with Pandora and communicated via my Facebook account. Of course, you have to use the remote keypad to type in search words and such, but I was able to complete most of the Internet tasks via the remote.
Function-wise, the player loads BDs very fast usually under 20 seconds, and gets to the Play menu very quickly. The big-buttoned, remote control contains all the controls you need for the player’s various functions, and it seems quite robust.
The BD-C6500’s only negatives are the lack of audio level control and delay settings in the internal audio section that keep it from becoming a fully adjustable, self-contained, analog audio player. For those with HDMI input preamps and receivers, just go for the direct digital connection.

The verdict
If you don’t desire 3-D, the Samsung BD-C6500 is perfect for those who a like bit of everything in their BD player. And in the A/V world of sub-$300 components, it is nice to see that Samsung packed quite bit of quality, as well as quantity, in this player — with its superb video playback, 7.1 analog outputs, Wi-Fi access and included Samsung Apps for many popular Internet sites.

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