The BD-SP809 is in no hurry to load Blu-ray discs. After hitting ‘close’ on the disc tray, it takes one minute twelve seconds for Terminator Salvation’s Sony Pictures logo to appear, which harks back to first-generation player loading times. Other discs fire up faster though.
With the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray, the BD-SP809 copes with most of the video cadences thrown its way but it’s by no means flawless. It locks into the Video Resolution Loss test instantly without any strobing or flicker. The Diagonal Filter test is faultless, with crisp clean lines and smooth movement all round.
The Film Resolution Loss test is often the one that catches players out though, and that’s the case again here. When the test pattern first appears it has a fit, strobing and flickering all over the shop, but then settles down and only the vertically striped boxes flicker. There’s also a little bit of flickering among the seats during the football stadium clip. This should have no real bearing on real-world 1080/24p Blu-ray movie playback, but does indicate a couple of chinks in the deck’s overall processing armour.
Moving onto movies, we find that the Onkyo delivers stunningly crisp pictures. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull looks so sharp and textured you’ll almost – almost – forget about the shoddy plot and laughable set-pieces. Check out the detail on dusty terrains, the walls of underground chambers and the beautifully rendered leaves and branches in chapter 10’s jungle scenes.
Ridiculous though they are, shots of Shia LaBoeuf swinging with the monkeys demonstrate the deck’s fluid and focused motion handling. There’s also a beautifully expansive contrast range and a radiant colour palette that dazzle when displaying the movie’s exotic locales. Its out-the-box picture is pretty good, but spend a little time tweaking the settings and you can get some stunning results.
We can’t fault its 3D performance either. The BD-SP809 passes our 3D Avatar disc to the screen without any problems. The stereoscopic images are steady and composed, plus there’s an entrancing depth and motion is fluid.
This masterful movie performance is complemented by luxurious sound quality. Frank McComb’s A New Beginning sounds smooth and mellifluous, with greater clarity and warmth than you’d get from most budget players. Vocals enjoy a pleasing purity of tone too. So if you love music this is a decent choice, but it’s a shame that there’s no support for DVD-Audio or SACD as found on similarly priced decks from Cambridge Audio and Denon.
Onkyo’s BD-SP809 is an excellent Blu-ray player in many respects. Its robust build quality, eye-popping 2D and 3D picture quality and classy music performance all deserve our utmost praise. It’s also great to find DLNA and THX certification, 3D support, detailed picture adjustments, two HDMIs and Marvell upscaling on the spec sheet.
But on the flipside, the lack of Wi-Fi and web content, temperamental media streaming, slow disc loading and limited format support might deter some buyers. If these things bother you, check out the Panasonic DMR-BDT310 or Sony BDP-S580, but if your only concerns are solid AV performance and build quality then the BD-SP809 is certainly worth a look.