Yamaha | BD-S671 | Yamaha BD-S671 Blu-ray player Review

Blu-ray player
TEST
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We have never published a full review of the 2012 Sound+Image
award-winning Blu-ray player from Yamaha. Let’s put that right…
Yamaha
BD-S671
Blu-ray player
Price: $349
Y
amaha has had an interesting range
of Blu-ray players over the years. It
is one of those companies (and it is
by no means the only one) that has
used Blu-ray tech from other companies at its
players’ cores, tweaking them to best work in
a Yamaha system. The first Yamaha player I
looked at was clearly based on Panasonic, for
example, with similar menus and functions.
The next two, a couple of years later, were
based on the Sharp platform.
But what about the Yamaha BD-S671? The
menu system had hints from here and there,
but there was nothing readily identifiable.
In the end it was the usability features — the
top-of-class usability features we should add
— which provided the hint, and made this the
best Yamaha Blu-ray player yet.
Equipment
As Yamaha’s entry-level unit, those features
don’t make for exciting headlines, so it looks
pretty much to be a basic Blu-ray player.
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Of course it does everything you’d expect,
supporting BD-Live and BonusView, outputting at 1080p/24, upscaling DVDs to 1080p,
delivering high definition audio as a bitstream
or decoded to multichannel PCM. Most
importantly, it also supports Blu-ray 3D.
And of course, a Yamaha entry-level player
is rather more substantial than a typical entrylevel player. It weighs a full three kilograms
and is elegantly finished, except perhaps for
the front USB socket which sits exposed.
At the back the twin-pin power cord is
removable, and there is component and
composite video and stereo audio. Both forms
of digital audio output are provided. Most of
these will be eschewed in favour of the HDMI
output. Wi-Fi is not supported, so you will need
an Ethernet connection to use the advanced
network features. There is another USB socket
at the rear. It is up to the user to supply the
persistent storage required for BonusView
and BD-Live operation — just plug a 1GB or
more USB memory stick into this back USB
(the front USB is also supported, but this
would be a perilous location for permanently
attached memory in most cases). The stick can
be formatted suitably by the player.
The remote control is cleanly laid out, if a
little plain in styling. The player also supports
Yamaha’s iPhone/iPod touch control app.
This also works on the iPad.
Component video output is limited to
480i/60 and 576i/50 from Blu-ray, thanks to
silly Blu-ray rules. Note: it will deliver 480p/60
and 576p/50 when playing back DVDs —
another silly consequence of these rules!
Performance
In one regard, it seemed at first as if this
player was like a throwback to the early days
of Blu-ray players: it was very slow to get its
disc tray open when it was in standby mode.
Pressing the ‘Open/Close’ key on the unit
to fire it up left me standing there with disc
in hand for 24 seconds waiting for the tray
to open. Unlike last year’s Yamaha Blu-ray
players, there is no ‘Quick Start’ mode, not
that such a thing is actually necessary with
sensible design.
But after writing most of this review, I
swapped this player out in favour of Yamaha’s
higher-cost BD-A1010 player, which in so
many ways is similar to this one. One difference was that the BD-A1010 opened its tray in
eight seconds, not 24. A week later I switched
out the BD-A1010 and returned this player,
and lo and behold it was also opening its tray
in eight seconds. There had been no firmware
update. So that’s a puzzle; the good news is
that it performed consistently in this way for
the remainder of the review period.
Otherwise, the player is a fairly speedy
performer anyway. It loaded my standard test
discs in times only a few seconds longer than
“when it came to playing discs — Blu-ray and
DVD — this player is about as good as it gets,
and is far better than last year’s Yamahas...”
the record holders — 18 seconds for the duallayer disc without BD-Java, 21 seconds for the
single-layer disc with BD-Java.
We’ll return to disc spinning shortly, but
first let’s look at new media support.
One of the cool things about consumer
technology is that at the same time that it is
getting cheaper, it is getting more powerful.
So with this unit, which is available for not
that much more than a budget player, you get
full service DNLA support. By full service I
mean that you get photos and video along with
music. Likewise you get all three media types
from USB devices. The formats supported
include MP3 and standard WMA for audio.
Yamaha says WAV in the manual, but
standard CD-quality WAV files wouldn’t play
for me. For photos you get JPG and (although
not stated in the manual) PNG. Video includes
DivX (although my standard clip wouldn’t
play) and WMV. It also played my SD and HD
MPEG2 clips, and AVI.
The video playback was nicely implemented
in the sense of being treated the same as
disc video. The unit’s deinterlacing circuitry
treated this content with respect, attempting
to process it according to its film or video
status. This is how multimedia video ought to
be treated, but so often isn’t.
The other network-media based offering
it provides is YouTube video. This was a
strange implementation. On first start-up
it dropped me full screen directly into clip
called ‘SHOPPING CENTERS!’ which was
some kind of comedic X-rated rant of which
every third word was of four letters and
starting with ‘F’ or ‘C’. This seemed to be on
the Most Viewed list when I checked with
my computer. Thus are the perils of random
access to YouTube — I’m not sure autoplay
is a particularly good idea. Be ready to hit the
‘STOP’ key when you first go on, then you
can press the up arrow to search or the down
arrow to browse by category.
Now when it came to playing discs —
Blu-ray and DVD — this player is about as
good as it gets, and is far better than last year’s
Yamahas. About the only criticism on this
front is that it would be nice if it read ahead
and buffered dual-layer DVDs so that it could
perform seamless layer changes with them.
But at about half a second, the pause is barely
noticeable anyway.
Regular 1080p/24 Blu-ray content was
delivered beautifully over HDMI, which
is pretty much what you expect with any
Blu-ray player. The bigger challenge is with
Australian 1080i/50 Blu-rays and Australian
576i/50 DVDs. Encouragingly, within the
player’s set-up menu it had a choice to set
deinterlacing mode to Auto, Film or Video.
On DVD the Auto mode performed some
cadence detection that worked reasonably
well, although it was tricked by some of my
torture test clips. On 1080i/50 Blu-ray, the
cadence detection seemed quite out of action
on two of my three test clips, but then worked
perfectly on the third.
All imperfections there, though, were easily
forgiven because the Video and Film modes
lived up to their names. They weren’t mere
suggestions but acted forcefully. Film mode
in particular wove fields together to make
frames, come what may. If you’re watching
95% of PAL DVDs or 1080i/50 Blu-ray discs
(e.g. Pulp Fiction), just select this and you will
get perfect performance.
Other nice capabilities were the effective
audio decoding of HD channels to PCM, even
when secondary audio was in operation. Oddly,
though, this did downconvert 6.1-channel
DTS-HD Master Audio to 5.1-channel PCM.
There are also nice information displays,
including an audio bit-rate display on ‘On
Screen’ menu!
So what kind of player is this unit based
on? As mentioned, there was nothing obvious
in the menus to tie it in with any other player,
but there were clues. The transport controls
were one such: the player’s controls were
excellent. There were five fast-forward and
five fast-reverse speeds, and four slow-forward
and four-slow reverse speeds. Note, those slow
reverse speeds worked on Blu-ray as well as
DVD, which is a rare feature in Blu-ray players
(only Sony, high-end Pioneer and one other
range offer this). Likewise for frame stepping:
both forwards and reverse are available. That
makes it much easier to find that exact frame
you wish to examine closely.
There are also a full range of ‘Repeat’
functions which work on DVD and Blu-ray,
including A/B repeat.
But what really narrowed things down was
a last extremely rare capability: the ‘Setup’
menu can be popped up over the top of the
video as it is playing. You can change video
resolution and quite a few other settings —
including the deinterlacing mode — on the fly
without interrupting playback. (Unfortunately
the audio settings are blocked in this mode.)
Conclusion
Still, that capability nailed it: while not based
on any particular brand, it does seem to be
based on the same generic platform upon
which the Cambridge Audio and Oppo Digital
players are based. Since these are both highly
reputable brands that sell for prices nudging a
thousand dollars, the Yamaha BD-S671 is not
only a fine player, but exceptional value for
money. Stephen Dawson
Verdict
Yamaha BD-S671
Blu-ray player
Price: $349
• Perfect progressive scan
conversion available
• Excellent transport controls
• Can change some ‘Setup’
options while play continues
• DVD layer change not seamless
• No Wi-Fi
• Component output limited to SD
Test firmware: 1.2505
Outputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x component video,
1 x composite video, 0 x S-Video, 1 x
optical digital audio, 1 x coaxial digital
audio, 1 x stereo analogue audio
Other: 1 x Ethernet port, 2 x USB,
1 x Remote In, 1 x Remote Out
Dimensions (whd): 435 x 86 x 257mm
Weight: 3.0kg
Warranty: Two years
Contact: Yamaha Music Australia
Tel: 1300 739 411
Web: www.yamahamusic.com.au
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