The Yamaha BD-S2900 is a Profile 1.1 Bonus View player designed to match the brand's wide range of AV amps and receivers; it sports the company's distinctive orange LED display and a curved, metal fascia.

In many ways, it's probably the best built Blu-ray player seen to date. There's none of the plastic chicanery which characterises the rest of the market, where models are clearly being assembled to hit ever-more aggressive price points.

This is a luscious slice of heavy metal, which bodes well for its audio credentials.

No upgrade possibilities

The disc transport is left of centre, and there's an integrated SD card slot which allows digital still images to be output at 1080p resolution, as well as home movies shot in AVCHD.

The back-panel offers up an HDMI v1.3 output, plus component (restricted to 576p/480p for DVD), S-video and AV phonos; 5.1 analogue audio outputs; digital optical and coaxial jacks; and an RS232 for data and CI applications.

Unlike the newer Panasonic DMP-BD55, the stereo phono outputs can't be cajoled into service with the 5.1 outputs to deliver 7.1 audio. Significantly, there's also no LAN port, ensuring that firmware will never be able to upgrade the player to Profile 2.0 BD Live compliancy.

Hi-res audio

These outputs and their use largely determine the performance of the player. The simplest way to lace up the deck is to use a solitary HDMI lead to a compatible receiver or amp, and set the Audio Menu to the rather confusing 'Digital Audio Output'.

This will give you a bitstream output of the soundtrack, be it standard 5.1 or Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio. Alternatively, you can decode soundtracks in the player, and output them as LPCM, either over HDMI or the analogue phono outputs. Be warned though: choose to decode in the player and you'll only get core Dolby and DTS 5.1, not hi-res.

Consequently, this is a BD player that should only ever be used in bitstream mode. Remember also that hi-res audio cannot be delivered over optical or coaxial connections; but you might want to run these to the CD input of your AVR, simply to improve general usability.

Blu-ray in disguise

The player is actually based on a Panasonic design, using standard Panasonic video processing and
the familiar Panasonic interface.

It's almost certainly a sibling to the DMP-BD30/50 generation. HD performance is generally outstanding, with Image clarity via HDMI sparkling.

As a CD-spinner, this player is also rather good. It offers a tight, purposeful sound with ringing accuracy. In our Tech Labs this was reflected by an excellent audio jitter figure of just 136.8ps. Naim's Mozart Wind Serenades, an artful recording of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, has a complex mix, but the Yamaha imaged it beautifully.

Colour noise may be evident in its video performance, but overall fidelity is high. The player coped well with our resident Blu-ray torture disc, Batman Begins. Loading times are relatively fast and it never tripped up on the Bat's copious Java. The camera pan across the cityscape at the start off the IMAX Dark Knight prologue was reassuringly smooth and free of breakup.

Noisy deck

If the BD-S2900 disappoints somewhat, it's in its abilities as a DVD player. It's certainly not as good as a top-notch dedicated DVD deck, such as the Oppo DV-981HD, and failed both the Silicon Optics HQV de-interlacing jaggie tests, which measure diagonal filtering, as well as collapsing on a vertical text crawl of mixed video and film material.

Disc compatibility is good, spinning all known variants of DVD recordables, as well as esoteric fare such as Dual Discs and MP3/WMA/ JPEG CDs. It's not compatible with DVD-Audio or SACD, though.

Despite the battleship build, the player – specifically the disc drive – struck me as a tad noisy, drawing attention to itself during the quiet passages of the bombastic Master and Commander. More mundanely, there's no disc eject on the remote, which is a curious operational omission.

For Yamaha fans looking to match a high-performance BD player with their other components, the BD-S2900 can't come soon enough. Build quality is best-in-class and it shines both as a Profile 1.1 machine and a CD player. Some reservations remain, but it's good to finally see Yamaha with a BD solution