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Could you please advise me on the best way too connect my system together? I have the following kit: Matsui 32-inch widescreen TV with surround sound Matsui DVD 110, Sky digibox, Ferguson NICAM VCR, Sherwood AV amp with surround sound speakers. The TV, VCR and Sky box have two SCART sockets apiece and DVD player has one. I want the best sound and picture quality on all systems.  At the moment I have the DVD connected to the VCR, the VCR connected the Sky box and the Sky box connected to the TV.

Craig Green, via email 


Frankly I'm a little surprised that you are getting a watchable picture at all since you are running the DVD through a VCR. More often than not this causes problems with Macrovision anti-piracy signals, inserted by the player. These are added to the video signal and generate an unstable picture and pulsating brightness levels. If the picture looks okay then I suspect that the VCR is an older model, some of which were immune to this kind of anti-copy measure.


The correct way to hook this little lot up is to 'daisy-chain' the Sky satellite box and VCR to the TV using 'fully wired' (Type U) SCART cables. It shouldn't matter which way around they go but I prefer to have the VCR in between the TV and sat box, either way you should be able to record satellite channels on the VCR's Ext 1 channel input. Because of the Macrovision protection it's usually best to connect the DVD player directly to the TV, again by SCART cable. Normally I would recommend using an S-Video or RGB connection between a DVD player and TV, for the very best picture quality, but I'm fairly sure that your Matsui TV doesn't have a separate S-Video input. I believe one of the SCART sockets can be configured for S-Video connection, but this is of no use to you since I know for a fact that the Matsui DVD player only has composite video on its SCART socket. You can bypass the TV's surround system, I reckon it will sound a lot better through your Sherwood AV amp and some chunky speakers, assuming of course that it has a built-in Dolby Pro-Logic decoder, in which case you need to connect the stereo line outputs from the VCR, sat box and DVD player to the appropriate inputs on the AV amp.




Could you tell me if there are any region hack codes for the Medion D7950 DVD player? I am having trouble playing NTSC discs even though the manual states that it is compatible.

Kittykat, via email


The manual is correct and your player almost certainly can play NTSC discs, but you should read the small print. The catch is the discs have to be coded Region 2 and the only plentiful source of R2 NTSC discs is Japan... Incidentally, your TV also has to be able to display an NTSC picture – a trick mostly confined to recent home cinema models or an NTSC 60 signal, and not all TVs can do that. Otherwise all you get is a wobbly mess on screen. However, you are in luck and you can easily jiggle your machine's firmware (the software program that controls it's operation), to play Region 1 NTSC discs, from the US. Try the following procedure: Switch the player to Standby and then back on. On the remote handset press Menu, 9, Open/Close and 5 and this should bring up the service menu with the Region Code setting.




This is a rather brief and slightly irrelevant email, but this is something
that is really bugging me right now. Someone is selling old Wharfedale DVD players on the Internet ebay auction site with a starting price of 200 quid and £15 extra for delivery... And do you know what? People are actually buying them!
Stuart Feltham

Clearly they are not What DVD readers, which is their loss, in more ways than one! It's certainly worth keeping an eye in Internet auctions, there are some amazing bargains to be had, but only if you know what you are doing, have a good idea of the street price of the product you are interested in, and don't mind the wait and stumping up for delivery. E-shopping is all very well but it's often quicker and cheaper to buy from a shop or dealer. You stand a better chance of getting on-the-spot expert advice, and if you buy locally its easier to take it back and get it repaired or exchanged, if it goes wrong.




With reference to the letter from Colin Duncan (January What DVD) concerning Men in Black Limited Edition playing in Pro-Logic rather than Dolby Digital, although the trailer for Dolby Digital plays correctly. I have just taken delivery of a wonderful piece of kit the Yamaha DSP E800 and I experienced exactly the same problem. Until I realised that in order to play the Men in Black in Dolby Digital I had to access the audio set-up on the DVD and change the set-up to English 5.1 (Dolby Digital) and voila Bob became my proverbial Aunty ‘Men in Black’ in glorious Dolby Digital.  For some reason the film seems to revert to a default setting of Dolby Surround.

Geoffrey S Goodman, via email


Thanks to Colin Goodman and several other readers who wrote in with that very useful tip. In a similar spirit of sharing we have this handy piece of advice from What DVD reader Jim Ramsey, for owners of regionally challenged Samsung DVD players.




Samsung 709 and Samsung 511 DVD players can be hacked using the supplied Samsung remote control. No more hunting around for an Aiwa remote or One-For-Five! In fact, it is possible to hardwire the player to any region 1 to 6, or just enable multi-region. This setting can only be changed about 3 times before the player locks you out. However, this is easily rectified
by a cold-start of the player.

Make sure there is no disc in the tray. Cold start the player (hold down Play and Stop on the player for three seconds) Select your language (English?) Now, press the following buttons on the remote in sequence: Repeat, 3, 8, 7, 6, 7. The number 02 will appear on the screen. Press the button on the remote for the region you require (1 = R1 etc.) or better still, press 9 for an auto select mode, which (on the 709 at least) also disables Macrovision. Press open/close on the player to open the disc tray. Press Standby (DVD POWER) on the player's remote to close the tray. The next time you turn the player on you'll have a multi-region player (or a player set to the region you specified).
Jim Ramsay, via email


I haven't actually tried this one out yet but it sounds quite promising. Any feedback from readers with one of these machines is, as usual, very welcome.





This may be a strange one for you, but I hope you can help. I recently bought a Grundig TV and DVD player (Combo 1450) for the dining room. It's a portable 14-inch television with a built-in DVD player, which has an excellent picture and surprisingly good sound quality. I also own a Wharfedale 750 that is capable of playing the small collection of Region 1 discs I have, I was wondering if there was a Region 1 hack for my new Grundig combi?

Carl B, Baddeley Green 


Not that I'm aware of but it's early days yet. This Grundig model has only recently gone on sale in the UK but it seems to be selling well and I have noticed several similar requests on DVD Internet newsgroups. This normally turns up results fairly quickly, so expect an answer one way or the other quite soon. As you may or may not know thus far most stand-alone Grundig DVD players have been made by Philips and a lot of the models I've tested can have their region coding assignment changed, but only for a limited number of times, typically 25. However, until I manage to get my hands on one of these devices I can't say for sure where the Combo 1450 is being sourced. I think that it's unlikely to be based on a current Philips chassis, or at least not one that's made in Europe, if the DVD section uses a Far-Eastern decoder board then there's an outside chance that a useable hack exists. I'll be keeping my ears to the ground; meanwhile if anyone has any more information please let us know.



I've just bought the Lecson DVD player and I was wondering if you know of any codes so I can play American discs? I've tried playing them without codes and with the 0,1,2,3 code that someone suggested but with no luck. Any ideas?

Mark Osborne


This model has the same firmware unlock code as Wharfedale DVD-750s players so there are two possibilities; depending upon which batch it comes from. Try the following first: open disc tray from remote, then press: Zoom > A-B > Up > Left > Down > Right and ‘Region Free’ appears on the TV screen. Alternatively open disc tray, press 1 > 1 > 1> 1 then the Region number (enter 1 for the US). If that doesn't work you probably have a later model and all-region playback is enabled by pressing: Step > Prev > Next and ‘Region Free’ is displayed on the screen. To set it to a specific region open the disc tray and press 0 > 7 > 5 > 0 then the Region number.




Can you tell me does the Alba 103 play Region 1 discs and what is the procedure for the Orion 200?

Robert Fell, via email


I've trawled the usual web sites and newsgroups but I fear that the region coding on this machine is firmly locked to Euro/UK Region 2 (unless anyone knows different...). A hardware hack may be possible, but I hesitate to recommend one as many of them are unable to deal with discs carrying RCE (Region Code enhancement) data, and even those that are may fall foul of future modifications to region coding.




I have recently bought a Bush DVD-2004 player and would like to play Region 1 films, could you please explain to me how I unlock the machine?
Neil Byfleet, via email

Have you tried playing an R1 disc yet? Samples of this machine that I have tested were already factory set for all-region playback, and I haven’t heard of this very useful facility being disabled. The only point to watch out for is that like other players set for all region playback, it may not be able to play some recent R1 discs with RCE. (On players with firmware hackable region codes the trick is to set the player to Region 1).




I have recently purchased a JMB DVD-3000 DVD player (Region 2) I noticed that in a recent edition of What DVD you mentioned that Wharfedale players could have codes inputted to allow them to play Region 1 DVDs.  This made me wonder if there were any codes for my player?

Aaron Murtagh, via email


There are indeed and it's a reasonably straightforward job, and the good news is that like all 'firmware' hacks, it won't invalidate your warranty, nor, as I have seen suggested elsewhere, it is illegal to do so, and whilst I'm on the subject, there's no law against buying R1 discs when you're in the US, or via the Internet for personal use; it gets a bit tricky when you buy them by the crate-load, and try to sell them though…. But I digress. With the player switched on and the disc tray empty, press and hold the following buttons for 3 seconds: Stop, Open/Close, Skip Forward and Skip Back, if you get it right a hidden service menu should appear on the TV screen. Choose the Region number from the selection – in your case it will be number 1 -- or select Free, for all region playback. It's important that you touch nothing else, there are some important service options on this menu and you could get your machine into a tangle, so exit the menu. The machine should now switch itself off, switch it back on again and it's done.




Some newcomers to DVD may be confused by the audio connections on DVD players, and it's not hard to see why when you look at the backside of some machines! Basically there are five possibilities, in no particular order they are: analogue mixed stereo, optical digital bitstream, coaxial digital bitstream, 6.1 channel 'component' analogue audio and headphones. There is a standard of sorts and all players – including ultra cheap budget models -- must have a set of analogue mixed stereo and at least one digital bitstream output, though most players actually have two bitstream outputs (optical and coaxial).


Only players with built-in Dolby Digital (and dts) decoders have 5.1 analogue component outputs, we'll come back to that in a moment. There's no apparent rational or economic reasons as to why manufacturers fit headphone sockets, some do, other don’t, it has nothing to do with price either, some of the cheapest machines have them but either way it's definitely worth having if you want or need to listening to audio CDs without disturbing others.


In case you are wondering what mixed stereo is all about, and in what way it is different to ordinary stereo the answer is that it is for the benefit of users with basic stereo or analogue surround TVs or sound systems. DVD's only carry digitally encoded soundtracks so all DVD players have to have 2-channel Dolby Digital and MPEG audio processors, which extract the 5.1-channel digital soundtrack information from the disc and 'dowmixes' it to 2 channel analogue Dolby Surround stereo channels. Even old movies on DVD with mono soundtracks still have 5.1 soundtracks, though clearly they will all be carrying the same information.


The optical and coaxial bitstream outputs carry raw unprocessed digital soundtrack data, for onward connection to an external Dolby Digital or dts decoder. Players with built-in decoders convert the digital data into six analogue outputs or 'components', one for each channel (i.e. right and left front stereo, right and left rear surround, centre front dialogue and low-frequency sub woofer).


There is no definitive answer as to whether it is better to have the Dolby Digital (and dts) decoders built into the player, or in AV amplifiers or as separate components, though on high-end (read expensive) set-ups separate components are preferred as they allow a greater degree of mix-and-match flexibility.




Ó R. Maybury 2001, 0401














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