What Other Types Of Discs Can You Play On A Blu-ray Player?

Blu-ray Players and Playback of Other Disc Formats

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Discs You Can Play in a Blu-ray Disc Player. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

To start, all Blu-ray Disc players play standard 2D Blu-ray Discs and many can also play 3D Blu-ray discs, but those aren't the only types of discs that they are compatible with.

Other Types of Discs You Can Play on a Blu-ray Player

Blu-ray player manufacturers have also included the ability for their units to playback standard DVDs, and this is expected to continue.

This means that your current DVD library is playable on a Blu-ray Disc player. When you play a standard DVD in a Blu-ray Disc player, you can view it at standard DVD resolution or have the player upscale the DVD signal to 720p/1080i/1080p or even 4K mode (some Blu-ray Disc players provide 4K upscaling) that will be a better match for viewing on an HDTV or 4K Ultra HD TV.

Also, almost all Blu-ray Disc players will play standard CDs/CD-R/RW discs, and some higher-end players are also compatible with HDCD, SACD, and DVD-Audio discs.

Other Disc formats that may be playable on selected Blu-ray Disc players include MP3 CDs, DTS-CDs, JPEG Photo or Kodak Photo CDs, and AVCHD Discs.

To find out if a specific Blu-ray player can play one, or more, of the above disc types, check the player's official online product page, or look in the user guide - there should be a page that lists (with format logos) all of the disc formats that the player is, and is not compatible with.

A bonus feature available on selected Blu-ray Disc players is the ability to rip audio CDs to a USB flash drive (check user guide for details).

As an additional note, when Blu-ray Players were first introduced in 2006-2007 there were two first generation players from Sony (BDP-S1) and Pioneer (BDP-HD1) that were not able to play CDs.

How A Blu-ray Disc Player Can Play DVDs and CDs

In order to play DVDs and CDs, a Blu-ray disc player houses two laser assemblies: One is a shorter wavelength "blue laser", which is required to read the smaller pits (where audio video information is stored) on Blu-ray Discs, and for DVDs and CDs, an adjustable focus longer wavelength "red laser assembly" is provided that can read the information stored on the larger pits used in DVDs and even larger pits used for audio CDs.

When you insert a DVD or CD in a Blu-ray Disc player, it automatically detects the type of disc and makes the adjustments needed to play it back. If the disc is not compatible, the Blu-ray Disc player will either eject the disc or display a message on its front panel or the TV screen.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray Factor

Another disc format, Ultra HD Blu-ray, is also now in use. The Ultra HD Blu-ray format provides consumers with native 4K resolution content available on a disc-based format. However, this is not the same as a standard Blu-ray Disc player that may be able to provide 4K upscaling for DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

Although sharing a similar name, Ultra HD Blu-ray is a different format than standard Blu-ray. This means that Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs cannot be played on standard Blu-ray Disc players. If you want to play Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs, you need to a purchase an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player - and, of course, a compatible 4K Ultra HD TV is also required to see the benefits.

However, on the upside, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players can play standard 2D Blu-ray Discs (most also play 3D Blu-rays), DVDs, Music CDs, and some of the other disc formats discussed above. Also, even if you don't have an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player, so far, all Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc movie releases come packaged with a standard Blu-ray Disc copy - Play the standard Blu-ray now, as when you upgrade to an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player - just pop in the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc.

If you are ready to make the jump from a DVD player to a Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player, check out our periodically updated list of Best Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Players

Special Considerations For HD-DVD Player Owners

One inquiry we receive from readers that own, or have run across a used HD-DVD player (HD-DVD was officially discontinued in 2008), is whether these players can also play standard DVDs and CDs.

Just like Blu-ray Disc, players, with the exception of a few select first generation models, all HD-DVD players can also play DVDs, CDs, and some of the additional disc formats discussed above. HD-DVD players incorporate an adjustable focus longer wavelength "red laser assembly" that can read the information stored on the larger pits used on DVDs and audio CDs.

For those of you that may still own a working HD-DVD player, even though you can no longer purchase new HD-DVD movies - their ability to provide upscaled playback for DVDs, and, of course, CD playback as mentioned above, make them worth keeping around. Just keep in mind that you cannot play a Blu-ray Disc on an HD-DVD player and you can't play an HD-DVD on a Blu-ray Disc player. Also, HD-DVD players cannot play Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs.

The Bottom Line

Blu-ray Disc players are one of most versatile home entertainment devices available. In addition to Blu-ray Discs, they can play DVDs, CDs, and other disc formats, and, although not discussed in this article, most provide access to abundant internet streaming options.

The only downside of a Blu-ray Disc player is that it cannot play Ultra HD format discs. On the other hand, no matter if you if you have a 720p, 1080p, or 4K Ultra HD, a Blu-ray Disc player will make both your Blu-ray Discs and DVDs looks as good as they can. Also, with the audio capabilities of Blu-ray Disc players, your CDs will sound great too.