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ONKYO DR-90, £800

VERDICT 4/5

 

Why’s it here: One-box convenience is the name of the game, and you can’t get much more convenient than an AV amplifer/receiver/5.1 decoder with a built-in DVD drive, just add speakers and a TV. Full marks to Onkyo for being the first, in the UK at least, and you can be sure they won’t be the last. We shouldn’t be at all surprised to see DVD drives turning up in all sorts of other devices before long; we’ve got 50 pee on at least one portable TV/DVD combi arriving before the summer. The DR-90 makes a lot of sense, not least the fact that it reduces the box count, and it can form the basis of a complete home entertainment system by connecting it to other AV components. You could argue that putting all of your eggs in one basket makes upgrades difficult though in this case the most important features are all there. Then there’s the concern about what happens if one component develops a fault, though previous experience with combi systems suggests that reliability is not usually an issue.

 

Any unique features:  Onkyo has decided to play it fairly safe and none of the key components are in any way unusual. The DVD player has few extras, there’s a 3-stage picture zoom and a good selection of trick-play modes but that’s about it. Officially it’s a Region 2 player but we have it on very good authority that the DR-90 is being shipped with Region 1 playback enabled, though the video output is raw NTSC, so you’ll need a suitably equipped TV to take advantage of it. It has both Dolby Digital and dts decoders built in and the amplifier is a five-channel design with 50 watts rms going to the front, centre and rear surround channels. In addition to the digital and analogue surround sound modes there’s a small handful of DSP options plus separate bass and treble controls. The AM/FM receiver has 50 preset channels and an RDS decoder for station idents, programme info and traffic reports. Two digital inputs (coaxial and optical), two AV inputs and two line level audio inputs provide a fair amount of flexibility when it comes to using it with external source components. It comes with a ‘learning’ remote control but Onkyo has been a bit mean by only allowing it to control one other component -- a TV --, which seems like a bit of a waste of a potentially useful facility. Unfortunately the remote handset suffers from an acute case of button blight, brought about by a truncated on-screen display system that only shows basic status and disc information during replay.  

 

How does it perform: Picture quality is generally good with a reasonably broad contrast range that reveals a fair amount of detail in darker scenes and shadows. Resolution is comparable with most mid-range players; colours are clean and crisply defined. Video processing is fine with no artefacts or texturing on our selection of tricky discs and layer change takes less than a quarter of a second on most recordings.

 

The Dolby Digital decoder generates a well-balanced and largely neutral soundfield at normal listening levels with effects and dialogue firmly locked into place. However the lack of bass grunt is evident and it really needs a sub woofer to get behind big blockbuster effects. DTS soundtracks are a bit livelier in the bass department but again a sub is more of a necessity than an option. Dolby Surround is there if you need it or you’re using it with a VCR but compared with 5.1 material it sounds a bit woolly.

 

Our Verdict: Good effort but... Onkyo has done a decent enough job of integrating a DVD player and 5.1 decoder with an AV amplifier/receiver and everything works well but it is a bit, well, dull. It starts with the cosmetics, there’s no getting away from it the DR-90 is a boring black box that hardly merits a second glance. The disc loading tray is lost against the black fascia, buttons and knobs, even the front panel display gives nothing away. Then there are the DVD facilities; most budget players have better on-screen displays and control systems than the DR-90, the remote makes heavy weather of basic operations and the one learning function for a TV is a joke. The amp and decoder are both okay, but again it’s all rather ordinary and lacklustre. The price is nothing special either, there are some excellent DVD players on the market for less than £300, and a good AV amplifier/decoder receiver needn’t cost more than £400. Having everything in one box is a great idea and the low-key presentation and ease of installation will undoubtedly suit some people, but this is an entirely new species of AV component for heaven’s sake, surely it deserves a bit of razzamatazz?

 

Jamo UK,  01788 556777,  www.onkyo.net

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features

Region 2 PAL/NTSC (see text), Dolby Digital, PCM & dts decoders, 3-step picture zoom, 8-mode DSP, AM/FM tuner with 30 station preset, sleep timer, multi-function learning remote, 2 AV & 2 audio inputs, 2 digital inputs, 5 x 50 watts RMS amplification

                       

Sockets           

AV out (1 x SCART), composite video & line audio in/out, coaxial bitstream in/out (phono), S-Video out (mini DIN), optical bitstream in/out (TosLink), speakers (spring terminals)

 

Dimensions      

435 x 145 x 414mm

 

Rival Buys            nothing yet…

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2504

 

 

 

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