What Disc Formats Can Be Played on a Blu-ray Player?

Blu-ray players are backwards-compatible, but what does that mean?

Rest assured: All Blu-ray Disc players can play DVDs. Blu-ray has long been favored for its backward compatibility, allowing users to play CDs, storage discs, and, in some cases, 3D Blu-ray discs. All Blu-ray players can also upscale DVD resolution to HD quality, and some are network-enabled, meaning you can use them to access streaming media services.

Upscaling Content on a Blu-ray Player

Standard DVD resolution is 480p, far less than the 1080p resolution supported by HD and UHD (4K) Blu-ray players. Most Blu-ray players can upscale the standard DVD signal to one that fits the standards of the TV and its connections. That means, with the right equipment, a DVD can be upscaled from 480p to 720p, 1080i,1080p and, on some players, 4K. Of course, you will need an HD or 4K Ultra HD TV to view those standards. And even then, the conversion is not always smooth, especially when upscaling to UHD.

A Blu-ray, DVD, and CD on a table.
The kinds of discs you can play in a Blu-ray player.

All Blu-ray Disc players can also play CDs. Some players may also play HDCD, SACD, and DVD-Audio, as well as writable discs like CD-R/RW. Some players allow you to rip CDs to a USB flash drive.

Select Blu-ray players may also be able to play MP3 CDs, DTS-CDs, JPEG Photo or Kodak Photo CDs, and AVCHD Discs, but those formats are increasingly rare.

Check the Blu-ray player's manual or product page for a complete list of supported formats and disc types.

How Does a Blu-ray Player Play DVDs and CDs?

A Blu-ray player has two laser assemblies:

  • A "blue laser" for reading the microscopic "pits" that store data from Blu-ray discs.
  • A "red laser" for reading the slightly larger pits that store data from DVDs and CDs.

Blu-ray players automatically detect the type of disc inserted into it, and will select the appropriate laser needed to play it. If the disc is not compatible, the Blu-ray player will either eject the disc or display a message stating its incompatibility.

Standard vs. Ultra Blu-ray Players

Ultra HD Blu-ray players support real 4K resolution. Some Blu-ray Disc players are able to upscale content to 4K but Blu-ray Disc players can't play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. You will need to purchase an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player, as well as a 4K Ultra HD TV, to enjoy the full UHD resolution.

That said, Ultra HD Blu-ray players are backwards-compatible. They can play standard Blu-ray discs, DVDs, CDs, and other disc formats designated by the manufacturer.

Most Ultra HD Blu-ray movies come packaged with a second disc featuring a standard Blu-ray copy of the film. This allows you to watch the standard version until you upgrade your hardware to support UHD content.

If you are ready to make the jump to Blu-ray, read this list of the best Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray players.

Can HD-DVD Players Play DVDs and CDs?

With the exception of a few first-generation models, all HD-DVD players can upscale and play DVDs, CDs, and some other disc formats. However, the format was discontinued in 2008, so you can no longer purchase new HD-DVD movies.