Can Blu-Ray and HD-DVD Players Play DVDs and CDs?

An Example Of A DVD and CD
An Example Of A DVD and CD. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

NOTICE: HD-DVD was officially discontinued in 2008. However, information on HD-DVD, and its comparison to Blu-ray, is still contained in this article for historical purposes, as well as the fact that there are still HD-DVD player owners, and HD-DVD players and discs continue to be sold and traded on the secondary market.

Original Publish Date: 07/02/2006

The Question

One question I get from readers considering the purchase of a Bl-ray Disc payer, or that have run across a used HD-DVD player, is whether these players, can also play standard DVDs and CDs?

The Answer

With the exception of a few select first generation models, all Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD players can also play DVDs and CDs.

How DVD and CD Playback Works On Blu-ray or HD-DVD Player

The way DVD and CD playback is accomplished on a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player is that in addition to the shorter wavelength "blue laser" assembly required reading the smaller pits (where audio video information is stored) on Blu-ray Discs or HD-DVDs, these players also incorporate an adjustable focus longer wavelength "red laser assembly" that can read the information stored on the larger pits used DVDs and even larger pits used on audio CDs.

When a consumer inserts a DVD or CD in a Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD player, the player will automatically detect the disc and make the appropriate adjustments to play that disc back.

Why Playing DVDs On A Blu-ray or HD-DVD Player Is A Good Thing

In addition, with respect to playing DVDs, Blu-ray Disc players and HD-DVD players both have ability to perform video upscaling which enables DVDs to look better than they would on a standard DVD player.

In other words, if your Blu-ray or HD-DVD player is connected (preferably via HDMI) to a 720p TV, the player will provide an 720p upscaled output for DVD playback. By the same token, if your TV has a 1080p native display resolution, your Blu-ray or HD-DVD player will set its output to that resolution.

In addition, some Blu-ray Disc players also have the ability to provide up to 4K upscaling for both Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. Unfortunately, since HD-DVD players were discontinued before the introduction of 4K Ultra HD TVs, there are no HD-DVD players that provide 4K upscaling.

Those CDs Should Play Just Fine

With respect to standard CDs, as mentioned above, most Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD players will play standard CDs, but most will also play CD-R and RW discs. Also, some high-end Blu-ray Disc players also have the ablity to player SACD and DVD-Audio Discs.

However, getting back to standard CD playback, there are some exceptions to this, most notably on first generation models from Sony and Pioneer, as well as the long since discontinued BH100 Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo player from LG.

Additional Tip For HD-DVD Player Owners

For those of you that may still own a working HD-DVD player, even though you can no longer purchase HD-DVD movies to play on it - there ability for provide upscaled playback for DVDs (the Toshiba models are especially good), and, of course, CD playback as mentioned above. They are definitely worth keeping around. Just keep in mind that you cannot play a Blu-ray Disc on an HD-DVD player

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