Published On: 1 Apr 2023Categories: Reviews


Model GMI Audio
DAC Engines
Mediatek MTK8581 Soc, Quad-core ARM Cortex A53 CPU Cluster, ARM Mali-T860 MP2 GPU
Audio DAC
DSD64/128, Multi channel DSD64, 192 kHz/24-bit PCM and down
Inputs Ethernet, USB 2.0 (front), USB 3.0 (rear)
Outputs HDMI (A/V), HDMI Audio only, Digital Coax, Digital Optical
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) < 0.003% (1 kHz @ 40W / 8 ohm)
Power Handling
50 – 300 watts per channel
Dimensions 430 x 85 x 300 mm (WxHxD)
Weight 6.3 kg

PRICE +/-R16,990.00

SUPPLIED BY Balanced Audio 011-529-7600



It’s not often that a new product generates intrigue to the extent that the new kid on the block GMI has done in my circle of reference.

It is primarily because the first thing I normally do is to verify stats and fill in the blanks in the stats bar above – you would be amazed sometimes at how easy it is to forget to a) do it and b) put the right things in the right places. Nonetheless it’s part and parcel of the job, and of course online is where the quickest and easiest references are to be found, and generally these are the most up to date.

It’s also where we do our research – case in point if you’re reading this!

And so, when it came to the GMI Bluray player it was a little, ahem, challenging. I simply couldn’t find it. Which, in today’s world, is a little weird.

However, some light was shed on the matter in that GMI turns out to be an in-house brand of Balanced Audio. In other words it is a brand built to specification. This is a course that has pros and cons – the pros being that you can spec the unit to your exact requirements and the cons being that you need to support it. In the case of Balanced Audio the con is hardly an issue given their reach across the country and it remains to be seen if the pros work out the way that they should.

As it happens, they do.

It may appear to be the case that video is going to go the same way that CDs went, with the bandwidth and delivery mechanisms being the largest constraint to high quality movie delivery online via the equivalent of a Tidal/Spotify subscription – ahem – Netflix anyone? There is no doubt in my mind that this is the way that this is going to go – but there is a ‘but’ there. The but is simply this – we’re not there yet. Quality of streaming, even downloaded ‘full’ 4.0 k versions of available titles simply do not compare with the quality of delivery from something like what the BD-A1500 is capable of doing.

Under advisement, watching something like Top Gun Maverick in 4k on a decent set capable of handling 4k, your life will change. This will probably be for the worse since the biggest problem of the GMI is that it shows what is possible and where we can actually get to with high end videophile production in our own homes. It makes me remember the first time I saw DSTV broadcasting cricket in “HD” and feeling that life was never going to be able to go back to less than HD ever again. I got that sense all over again with one depressing thought – that 4k is not yet mainstream. The happiness is that it will become so and honestly, if you just think that it’s a marginal ‘upgrade’ you genuinely need to get your eyes onto a system and literally see for yourself how it actually delivers.

At a price point north of R16k the GMI is not competing as an entry level player. It’s delivering 4k res with upscaling built in. In actual sessions the upscaling does appear to work pretty well – but some sources do seem to be better than others. Bear in mind as one quip I had when chatting about the unit with some friends, was that Brendan Fraser in the Mummy being up-scaled may not necessarily be the best thing for the movie. It is tongue in cheek of course, but much like audio when gaps are filled in that are there to begin with you can expect a degree of interpretation to take place.

But native 4k Bluray is where it is at. Watching from a sensible distance, and discounting the resolution for just a second, 4k makes an impression of a smoother, somewhat brighter experience and it is clear that the value in the BDA-1500 lies in the clever tech deployed internally. But, you cannot get past the fact that a 4k res (3 840 x 2 160) true 24p cinema frame rate – the same as the original theatre films – that  is maintained ‘straight through to your screen with progressive scanning’ is devastatingly good.

Will it blow you away? The short answer is that yes, it should. Once you get used to it and start to look, and I will admit it takes a little while, it becomes very hard to ‘unsee’ the experience. I can’t really call 4k users as early adopters any longer – maybe late early adopters is the correct expression because if you are going to be buying a new TV why would you not buy a 4k model given the relative pricing differential and the relative longevity of TVs in general terms?

It thus stands to reason as to where this player fits in. The BD-A1500 is very simply the only box of tricks that you need that then plugs you right into high end 4k, turning you instantly into a videophile. It also helps that in the time I spent with it as an audio transport come DAC with some – yes, CDs – I dug out, the stereo sound I got out of it was nothing short of top drawer to round off an extremely satisfying product.

William Kelly



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