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PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

 

MAKE/MODEL

 

BUSH DVD-2023, £99

All credit to Bush for daring to be different and it has steadfastly refused to follow whatever the prevailing trends in DVD design might happen to be. However, whilst all of its machines have been competitively priced it has to be said that the performance of some models has been fairly average. Getting the right blend of features and performance, at a price people are prepared to pay is not easy but it looks like Bush has pulled it off with the new DVD-2023. The first thing you notice is how small it is; itís getting on for half the size of an average DVD player, a bit like a fat laptop computer in fact, and the price, at around £99 itís getting close to impulse buy territory, or to put it another way, about what you might spend on a really good night outÖ

 

The feature list is quite sparse, thereís the usual mixture of replay facilities and bog-standard audio, which is a good thing incidentally as you can concentrate your budget on a decent surround sound amplifier and speakers. It does have some handy extras, forward and reverse slomo, like MP3 replay, thereís also a picture zoom and, unusually for a budget machine, it can play both DVD-R and DVD+RW discs, so there should be no future compatibility problems with recordable DVD. The remote is quite good too with big and clearly labelled buttons and it comes with a SCART cable. Weíve saved the best Ďtill last, and thatís the fact that as far as weíre aware, this model is being shipped set for all region replay. One word of warning though, do check before you buy, this is an unofficial feature and can easily disappear.

 

Picture performance is excellent, well above the average for a budget player with crisp well-balanced contrast that reveals plenty of detail in darker scenes. Colours look lifelike and we didnít see any processing errors or artefacts, even on our tricky test discs. Sound quality on both DVD playback and when listening to audio CDs is also very good, noise levels are well controlled and on movie soundtracks surround effects, even the quiet ones, are sharply defined.

 

The 2023 looks like a very good deal indeed, you could easily spend twice as much to get this kind of AV performance and there are the added bonuses of all region replay and that very smart-looking compact case.

 

Contact Bush 020 8787 3111

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

All region replay, PAL/NTSC replay, MP3 replay, multi-speed replay, 2-stage picture zoom, SCART cable included

 

FOR

Excellent AV performance, compact size and very reasonable price

 

AGAINST

Titchy front panel controls, but weíre nit picking, itís lovely reallyÖ

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, easily one of the best budget players seen so far this year

 

RATING

5/5

 

 

 

HITACHI DV-P325, £150

Hitachi has the distinction of being one of only two A-brand manufacturers (the other one is Philips) that routinely markets DVD players with hackable region locks. Of course it may have something to do with the fact that it out-sources most of its budget and mid-range models but that matters little, as performance is generally everything youíd expect from the company. Unfortunately that very welcome spin-off feature seems to be missing from Hitachiís latest entry-level machine, the DV-P325, or at least, if the region lock is hackable the code hasnít surfaced yet.

 

Otherwise it is a very agreeable little player, fairly basic when it comes to the feature list it does have MP3 replay, a zoom facility and switchable black level (contrast) function.  Picture quality is great, it copes well with gloomy scenes and shadows and tricky colours, like flesh tones are accurately rendered. No problems with audio quality either, movie soundtracks are lively with loud and soft effects having plenty of impact and audio CD replay compares well with mid-range hi-fi components.

 

The P325 is a very competent little player, well built and fairly priced, shame about the region lock, though.

 

Contact: Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, MP3 replay, multi-speed replay, picture zoom, 3D sound, picture control

 

FOR

AV performance, compact case and solid build quality

 

AGAINST

Huge remote, forward only slomo, no hack yetÖ

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, the Hitachi name inspires confidence, it works well and it looks good

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

LG DV1000, £250

A combination DVD/VCR seems like a good idea on paper, itís certainly convenient but there is a price to be paid and thatís a lack of flexibility and there is the increased chance that if something goes wrong you loose the lot. The LG DV1000 also suffers from being quite basic in both departments, the VCR section has NICAM sound and NTSC replay but apart from a set of AV input sockets on the front thatís about it. The DVD player features are also fairly thin on the ground, thereís MP3 replay and a 3D sound option but weíve no details of a hack code for the region lock (yetÖ) and thereís no S-Video output, so you canít get the best possible picture quality. On the plus side it is very easy to set up and thereís an auto-installation for the VCR tuner.

 

VCR performance is so-so, okay for timeshifting but itís borderline home cinema. DVD picture playback is a better but still not great, it doesnít sound too bad though and again VCR audio is fairly average.

 

If you are really pushed for space and you just happen to want to buy a VCR and DVD at the same time them maybe itís worth considering but if you want home cinema performance separates are still the best bet.

 

Contact LG Electronics 01753 50047, www.lge.co.uk

SPECS

Video output                  composite

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

VCR: VHS LP/SP, NICAM stereo hi-fi, Video Plus+ with PDC, auto tuning, NTSC replay, commercial skip

DVD: Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, MP3 replay, multi-speed replay, picture zoom, 3D sound

 

FOR

One box convenience, fair DVD performance

 

AGAINST

Very average VCR picture quality, no S-Video/RGB/optical bitstream outputs

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Not convincedÖ Not up to usual home cinema standards and you sacrifice flexibility

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

SONY DAV-S400, £450

Based on the popular DAV-S300, this integrated DVD home cinema package system is one of the easiest ways to get into multi-channel digital surround without having to worry about amplifiers decoders and speakers. The main difference between the S400 and its predecessor is the inclusion of SACD (Super Audio CD) playback, which is a leading contender to replace CD though itís notable mainly for its home cinema facilities, which include a 4 x 40 watt and 1 x 100watt amplifier, matching speakers and a sub-woofer, Dolby Digital and dts surround sound decoders plus a set of colour coded cables for effortless connection and setup.

 

Unfortunately it hasnít got an S-Video or RGB video output so you donít get the best possible picture quality, even so itís still pretty good with bright natural colours and plenty of detail. The small speakers lack the guts to fill a large room but it still manages to sound quite good, and audio CD replay is a cut above the average. Minus points include an awkward remote and the uncharacteristically bland styling. Nevertheless, if youíre looking for an easy route into digital surround with decent all round home cinema performance but without sacrificing hi-fi performance quality it is definitely worth considering.

 

Contact Sony 08705 111999, www.sony.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite

SCARTs                        n/a

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/optical

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital/dts

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, 3D sound, 4 x 40 watt and 1 x 100 watt (sub woofer) amplifier,

 

FOR

Easy installation and setup, DVD performance

 

AGAINST

Awkward remote, slightly thin home cinema sound

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, if you prefer the convenience of a package system

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

YAMAHA DVD-S1200, £680

You can tell straight away that this big, black, butch-looking player is both expensive, and a bit out of the ordinary. The headline feature, and the main reason why you would be willing to shell out the thick end of seven hundred quid is DVD-Audio replay. Like Super Audio CD (SACD) itís being touted as the replacement for audio CD, delivering high quality, multi-channel digital sound. The jury is still out so buying one on the strength of its specialist audio facilities might be a bit of a gamble.

 

Nevertheless, even if the format does go belly up youíd still be left with a very capable DVD player, with built-in Dolby Digital and dts decoders and a high-end audio CD player with all of the trimmings. Itís a little short on frills but thatís to be expected on equipment of this nature, and the remote is nothing to write home about Ė weíve seen better ones on budget players Ė but thereís no escaping the fact itís a quality item. Itís built to last and it really does look the part. The only downside is the high price but if youíre into exotic audio formats youíll know only too well that it comes with the territory.

 

Contact Yamaha, (01923) 233166 www.yamaha-audio.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 DVD-Audio/Dolby Digital/dts

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, DVD Audio replay, multi-speed trick play

 

FOR

Top-notch DVD and audio CD performance, DVD-Audio might be a major selling point for some

 

AGAINST

Pricey, cheapie remote with awkward controls

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Possibly, if you like the sound of DVD-Audio and fancy a bit of a gamble but a bit over qualified for everyday home cinema

 

RATING

4/5

---end---

 

R. Maybury 2002, 0708

 

 

 

 

 


 

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