Flagship Blu-ray kit used to cost a fortune: five years ago, Panasonic’s top-spec DMP-BD10 cost a formidable £1300. 2012’s premium Panny is a teensy bit more affordable, yet its £275 tag is still steep when a perfectly acceptable Blu-ray player can now be yours for £100 or less. So is the DMP-BDT500 really worth the cash, or is it a luxury you can afford to do without?
The DMP-BDT500 is a large, heavy player by 2012 standards, though in fairness its deep chassis means there's plenty of space for an extensive socket fit. For example, the BDT550 is one of the few Blu-ray players that's still suitable for use with older generations of AV amplifier, by virtue of its fitted 7.1channel analogue outputs. Its brushed metal trim and substantial fold-down front-panel flap do seem a little old-fashioned, though.
Panasonic has worked hard to optimise the DMP-BDT500’s sonic abilities. The player includes four 32-bit/192kHz DACs for its 7.1-channel outputs plus, unusually, the ability to fine-tune its tonal balance by selecting from one of six ‘Digital Tube Sound’ audio presets. In theory, these allow the player to mimic valve amplifiers, by introducing a warm, full-bodied balance to the sound.
The DMP-BDT500’s video outputs are almost as well catered for. It provides twin 3D-capable HDMI sockets, one of which can be selected as a dedicated audio output for use with older AV receivers (and, in theory, for better performance). And Panny has also thrown in the option of selecting sharpness-boosting Detail Clarity and Super Resolution technologies from the menu.
Control needs some thought
The DMP-BDT500’s remote handset is a bit weird. For one thing, it’s huge: we’ve got big hands (well, some of us have) and even so, this thing looks oversized. But more that, it’s unusual because it’s neither a conventional button- based handset or a touchpad, but a hybrid of the two.
Given that the touchpad is approximate to the point of frustration, it’s a good thing that traditional hard keys are fitted too – but all the same, we’d use Panasonic’s free control app instead. It’s miles better.
Picture and sound quality
So does the DMP-BDT500 live up to the hype? Hells yes: its picture is terrific in both 3D and 2D, and with both Blu-ray and DVD. Motion looks slick, colours and contrasts pop off the screen and even with web-fed content (it supports iPlayer and Netflix, among others) the lack of video noise on show is impressive. As to sound… well, we’re not especially taken with the Digital Tube Sound options, but in raw, unadulterated form, the DMP-BDT500’s presentation is excellent – full of power and authority.
The DMP-BDT500 is a niche Blu-ray player in some senses. If you don’t own home cinema kit and simply want to connect to a TV set, its extensive audio adjustment options aren’t necessary: save your money and buy a cheaper Panasonic. The same’s true if you’re not into music, or prefer to use a separate component for music replay. But if you want one deck to do the lot, it’s a must-try.