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Arcam BDP100 and AVR400 - Performance and Verdict
Onto performance and we started by checking out the BDP100's disc-loading speed, which Arcam claims has been optimised to make it 'as fast as possible'. Sadly that wasn't the case in our benchmark Terminator Salvation test, with the Arcam taking one minute and five seconds to get from hitting close on the disc tray to playing the first moving image - the fastest players are currently clocking in at around 40 seconds. To be fair, other discs will load much more quickly than that.
For picture quality we move to The Dark Knight, and the only word to describe the BDP100's picture quality is 'wow'. The subtlety, depth and searing sharpness with which it conveys the disc's 1080p pictures is mesmerising. Gotham City's dark, dingy streets look clear and intricately detailed; there's beautiful differentiation between the various shades of black in Batman's costume; bright colours are not only natural and richly saturated but also enjoy smooth, nuanced shading; and fine textures, like The Joker's smudged, pockmarked skin, look crisp and poised with no digital noise buzzing around inside.
We also gave it a whirl with Silicon Optix's HQV disc and its performance is flawless. It instantly locks on to the cadences of the Film and Video Resolution Loss tests, renders moving diagonals without a single jaggie, and reproduces the camera pan across Raymond James stadium with a smoothness and confidence that borders on arrogance.
It should be said, however, that while its pictures are clearly superior to most budget decks, with others the differences are marginal. For example, Panasonic's DMP-BDT310 delivers pictures that look just as good for a fraction of the price.
The AVR400's sound quality is similarly dazzling. With the vehicle chase scene in The Dark Knight, it brings cinema-scale sound into your living room, reproducing the bangs, crashes and gunshots with relentless drive and punch. Its reach is expansive, showering the room in gloriously crisp and brilliantly timed effects.
There's elegance to high-frequencies that you rarely hear on budget receivers, most clearly heard in the tinkling of shattering car windows, while at the other end of the spectrum bass tones sound potent and tightly fused to the other speakers - check out the bit where the Joker fires a bazooka for the proof. Voices are realistic and eminently audible too. This is a majestic performance that continues in the musical realm when you play CDs like Adele's 21 - the combination of crisp, sprightly treble, pure, wholesome vocal tones and taut bass is spine-tingling.
For buyers with big budgets who want the very best pictures and - more crucially - the best sound quality possible from a Blu-ray player and receiver, then this pairing is a wise investment. Blu-ray images are sensational, but the biggest advantage over the hordes of budget decks on the market is its audio quality, which is every bit as good as an audiophile CD player, made possible by the sensational build quality and careful, interference-free arrangement of high-grade electronics.
But on the downside, the BDP100 is seriously light on features for £1k. There's no 3D compatibility (yet) and none of the web-enabled features so common in the budget sector. This may not necessarily be a concern for some movie enthusiasts, but others may expect more when splashing out this sort of money.
However, if you're buying it together with the AVR400, it's not so much of a problem - this powerful receiver boasts an excellent feature list, including network media streaming, DAB and Internet radio access and loads of connections. What's more the two components together look stunning and deliver exciting, sophisticated sound quality.
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