$35 Bargain

Dec 21, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Simple, 1080/24p video output and provides full audio codec decoding!

Cons:Not analog outputs, no DVD-Audio or SACD decoding.

The Bottom Line: A great, low-cost Blu-Ray player.

I bought the first gen Blu-Ray Panasonic BD-10 when it first came out for $925 and I'm very glad I did.  I've had it for two years and it has worked flawlessly.  But that first gen player lacked one important feature - DTS-Master Audio (DTS-MA) decoding.

So when the BD-35 came out, not only do you get DTS-MA, but you also get BD-Live & Picture-in-picture for extra's.  Believe me, I will never use the latter two, but to have a killer home theater and not have DTS-MA was killing me.

Low and behold, I sold my BD-10 on EBay for $200, and got the BD-35 on Amazon for $235 - so for $35 out-of-pocket, I couldn't resist picking up this unit.
Whats Missing?
The Panasonic BD10 had a complete set of 7.1 analog outputs, which the BD35 is missing.  This would have been a non-starter with my analog only NAD-T773, but having upgraded to an HDMI receiver, it is no longer an issue.

The other loss is the BD35 does NOT play DVD-Audio discs, which the BD10 did.  Since I only have three of those discs, I find it to be of no great loss, but others, with larger DVD-Audio disc collections, may want to take notice.

If you're using HDMI only, it couldn't be easier to setup the BD35. All the setting defaults are set for HDMI output, so simply plug the BD10 into your A/V receiver with an HDMI cable and you're ready to go. Sadly they do not supply a HDMI cable, so make sure you have one.

The menu system is a little complicated in that you have to understand what is meant by "small" vs "large" speakers, bitstream vs PCM, etc.  The manual is pretty good at explaining such things, and the menu has some basic descriptions to help you along.  Reality is, few people except tweakers will ever bother with the menu.  Unfortunately I'm a tweaker, so I spent about an hour fiddling with everything, only to find out I liked all the default settings best.

What Else Can It Do?
The Panasonic BD35 plays regular DVD's and CD's (standard and MP3).

The best trick (of which you WILL need to use the setup menu) is 1080/24p output.  After setting this up I watched Eight Below, which I also used during my review of the BD10.  With the BD10 I wrote "The picture quality was nothing short of fantastic - with just a bit of jitter."  Well, with the BD35 set for 1080/24p - no more JITTER! :)  The picture is absolutely smooth and I couldn't be happier.

Audio Quality
Uncompressed audio via the HDMI is fantastic and while the Panasonic will internally decode pretty much anything, I let my receiver do all the decoding.  In switching back and forth between my receivers decoding and the Panasonics, I heard ZERO difference.  So I let my receiver do the decoding because it will show me what audio signal is present (e.g.: DTS-Master Audio), where you have to accept on faith that the Panasonic is doing it because the main LCD screen doesn't display anything (though you can use the Info button on the remote).

Like the BD10, the BD35 has no bass management for CD audio. So if you play a CD and have a subwoofer, the subwoofer won't be used. To fix this, connect an optical/coaxial cable to your A/V receiver from the BD10's optical/coaxial output, and then switch to that output when listening to CD's.

DTS-Master Audio Flaw
I can't determine if this is a flaw from FOX, my particular disc or DTS itself, but I can assure you it is not Panasonic or Yamaha.  At one hour, 6 minutes and 24 seconds into the movie "Night at the Museum", using the DTS-MA soundtrack, a very loud crackle comes through the speakers - enough to damage speakers, though mine were luckily not damaged.  This also happened to me with the BD10, but only when I hooked up the HDMI, not analog cables.  Now the BD10 can NOT decode DTS-MA, so this problem can not be in the DTS Core.  I thought my receiver was the problem, but with the volume set very low the same crackle came through regardless if the Panasonic BD35 was doing the DTS-MA decoding OR my A/V Receiver.

It could very well be a problem with my particular disc, but after emails to Fox, Yamaha and Panasonic that have gone unanswered, I don't have an answer for readers here.  I will say be VERY careful if using this disc until after you check this scene (which is just after Ben Stiller walks into the museum after seeing a sweeper truck on the street).

This is an absolute bargain for anyone who doesn't already have a Blu-Ray player or to anyone wanting full decoding of all the audio codecs available, as long as you don't need 7.1 analog output.  For that you need to get the new Sony S550 - which costs around $450.

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