If money is a secondary concern to performance, and excellent audio is just as much a concern as superb video, experts say two premium Blu-ray players should sit at the top of your list: the Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD (*Est. $1,150) and the Oppo BDP-95 (*Est. $1,000). Both cost as much as a cheap used car but deliver a feature set that normal Blu-ray players just can't match.
Both feature multiple HDMI ports, with Marvell's Qdeo video-processor technology powering the primary port and delivering an unsurpassed visual experience, especially during DVD upscaling. Both also play 3D movies and include wireless and wired Internet support along with modest suites of Internet apps, but not much else.
The reason the two Blu-ray players cost so much is their heavy emphasis on top-notch audio; the Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD and the Oppo BDP-95 each provide a stunning sonic showing, with experts reporting an experience on par with high-level audio equipment. Each Blu-ray player includes SACD and DVD-Audio support as well as codecs for the latest and greatest DTS and Dolby Digital surround sound technologies. Enthusiast-level digital-to-analog converters and dedicated stereo and 7.1-channel analog speaker connections are also on board.
If you've noticed a lot of similarities this far, that's not exactly an accident. Both players are actually made in the same facility, so they share the same DNA, however there are some differences that could make one or the other a better choice for you.
Either Blu-ray player would be a fine addition to any living room, but of the two, experts give the slight edge to the Oppo BDP-95 thanks to its larger onboard storage, more robust DLNA and Internet streaming support, and balanced XLR analog audio connections. For what it's worth, however, HomeTheaterReview.com says the Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD has "a slightly richer tonal quality throughout" while the Oppo player has leaner, more natural-sounding audio.
If you're interested in excellent video performance but can skip the top-end audio performance and analog connections, the Oppo BDP-93 (Discontinued) is -- or was -- an excellent choice; it is officially discontinued. Oppo tells us that a new model is expected by the end of 2012. If you look hard, the BDP-93 can still be found from some Internet retailers, or you might be able to score a refurbished one directly from Oppo.