It should come as little surprise that manufacturers rarely include an HDMI cable inside the box, so you’ll need one of those. In fact, you’ll probably need at least two. If you want to take advantage of a film’s surround sound, you’ll need to run one HDMI cable from your Blu-ray player to a receiver and a second HDMI cable from the receiver to your display.
HDMI is the simplest way to enjoy Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD soundtracks, but it’s not your only option. Alternatively, you can use the multi-channel analog outputs on Blu-ray players that feature internal decoding for those (and other) surround formats. In this configuration, you’ll probably want to use component video for your picture and a set of six (5.1) or eight (7.1) RCA-style audio cables between your player and receiver.
Although Blu-ray “Profiles” deserve an article all to themselves, they should be mentioned here since we’re talking about maximizing your Blu-ray experience. Put simply, not all Blu-ray players were created equal. There have been three major generations or “Profiles” of Blu-ray hardware: 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0. Although all Blu-ray players are capable of playing Blu-ray movies and TV content, advanced features such as PiP-style, dual-tuner video (aka “BonusView”) and downloadable web content (aka “BD Live”) are a different story altogether.
BonusView only works on Profile 1.1 (or newer) machines and BD Live can only be used on a Profile 2.0 machine. What’s the big deal, you ask? Just run a firmware update and problem solved, right? Wrong. With the exception of Sony’s Playstation 3, Profile 1.0 and Profile 1.1 players cannot be upgraded to Profile 2.0. Thankfully, we’re finally starting to see a few Profile 2.0 machines hit the market and there will undoubtedly be plenty more available before the holidays. If BonusView and BD Live are important to you, make sure your player features Profile 2.0.
Ready, Set, Wow
As confusing as all of this sounds, rest assured that the benefits of Blu-ray far outweigh the headache you may now be feeling. Once you’ve set up your system to be “Blu-ray ready” and the lights go down, profiles and bitstreams will be the furthest thing from your mind. In fact, the first time you watch “Spiderman” in 1080p with uncompressed sound, your only thought will be something akin to “WOW.”
Check out these other Blu-ray related articles:
BD Java: The Software Behind Blu-ray
3 Reasons to Avoid Blu-ray (For Now)
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Greg Robinson is a freelance technology writer whose work has appeared in several national publications. When he's not evaluating Blu-ray Discs or calibrating televisions, you can usually find him thumping volleyballs at his local gym in rural northeast Connecticut.