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CEC DV-51, £1045

The CEC DV-51 looks like quite a classy piece of kit Ė which is just as well on a DVD player sporting a £1045 price ticket! If you know your high-end hi-fi brands you may have heard of CEC, in addition to some upmarket amps and turntables its main claim to fame was the worldís first belt-drive CD transport back in 1991. Even so, a thousand pounds is still a lot to pay for a DVD player these days so it needs to be a bit special.


There are no obvious clues on the features list; it has built-in Dolby Digital and dts decoders. Around the back thereís a set of component video outputs, which is mainly of benefit when watching Region 1, NTSC material on suitably equipped TVs. By the way, the region code can be changed from Preferences on the Setup menu, the trick is to select the country name, press OK then enter the region code number and confirm the setting by pressing OK again


At least it looks the part and it certainly wonít look out of place alongside other items of high-end kit. Front panel layout is neat and understated yet functional though the display lets the side down slightly. Itís quite gaudy with the kind of flashing icons that look much more at home on budget and mid market players.


The DV-51 has a small handful of convenience features, like a picture zoom and MP3 replay, but so too do a lot of players costing a great deal less. Trick play options are confined to a modest 4-speed picture search (2x, 4x, 6x, & 8x) and single-speed, forward only, slow motion. 


Whilst it has no especially unusual or exotic features it does have a headphone socket with a level control on the front panel and apart from the extra component video output sockets the back panel connections are entirely conventional. In addition to normal DVD-Video and audio CD replay it can also handle Video CDs. For interest sake we also tried it with some discs made on DVD recorders; it played a DVD-R recording without any problems but it didnít recognise a DVD+RW recordings made on the Philips DVDR-1000.


Maybe youíre buying exceptional picture and sound performance? Unfortunately not, picture quality is very good but not noticeably better than many mid-market players selling for less than a third as much, and most of these machines have more advanced trick play facilities. It scores well on contrast balance, moody sequences are reasonably revealing, and it does an admirable job keeping up with the rapidly changing shifts in brightness and colour in the wormhole journey in Contact. Thereís lots of fine detail and texture in the picture, colours and skin tones are natural looking and we saw no significant processing faults or artefacts.  


Audio quality is also jolly good the digital surround channels are very clean and the analogue stereo output sounds fine. Dolby Surround effects have plenty of impact and thereís negligible amounts of background noise. Audio CDs sound great with the kind of depth and clarity you would associate with a quality hi-fi component but once again itís nothing we havenít heard before on more modestly priced equipment.


No question, itís a fine machine but if the DV-51 has any unusual attributes that could help to explain the high price they have been very well hidden.



Thereís nothing intrinsically wrong with the remote handset. Frequently used keys are well spaced and easy to identify, but itís clearly a rather ordinary off the shelf item. It could belong to any one of a score of budget players and does nothing to help take the sting out of the price.


Verdict 3/5


Ultimate Sonics, 0208 534 0134,  http://www.cec-international.de/index.htm


Overall              3

Picture Quality            4

Sound Quality            5

Features                       3

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            3





Make/model                  CEC DV-51

£                                  £1045

VERDICT                      3


COMMENTS            good performer but rather pricey

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMPíNT VID            Y

SCARTS                       1







JVC XV-SA72SL, £350

If the latest crop of mid-market players is anything to go by DVD-Audio appears to be rapidly loosing its status as a premium feature. On the JVC XV-SA72SL, which can be all yours for around £350, DVD-A gets top billing but thereís plenty more besides, starting with the smart low-profile case, sharply styled front panel and classy-looking dot-matrix display.


Audio features abound, it has built-in Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround decoders and it can play MP3 tracks on CD-R/RW discs and JVCís own 3D Phonic spatial surround effect with three modes (action, drama and theatre) with variable level adjustment.


Thereís no shortage of video playback options either, it has a 4-stage picture search up to 60x and slomo (both directions), chapter digest, strobe play plus a set of picture controls (sharpness, colour, contrast, tint, Y-delay & gamma). Thereís also a truly bizarre picture zoom facility with a 10-stage magnification up to 1024x, and picture reduction, down to 1/8th normal size. Why JVC thought anyone would want or need such a thing is a mystery, but it is fun to play with, for a few minutes anyway. The remote control handset has multi-brand TV facilities and the transport buttons glow in the dark.


JVCís slick and well thought out on-screen display system makes another welcome reappearance on the SA72SL. The picture is reduced to around two-thirds normal size and shown alongside various menu buttons.


Saturated colours are crisp and vibrant, Toy Story II has an extra intensity and the scene where Woody is being restored in Toy Barn Alís apartment reveals a fantastic amount of fine detail and texture that many players gloss over or ignore. It does an excellent job on real life subjects too; extreme close ups expose every line crag and pimple. The wider than normal contrast range gives a useful lift to darker scenes and shadows, and the predominantly gloomy Seven gets a lot closer to the lighter look of the film original.


Dolby Digital and dts soundtracks carry a lot of information, small and subtle effects remain tightly focused and it copes just as easily with big, loud or sudden sounds, like explosions and gunfire. Dolby Surround effects on the stereo soundtracks also pack quite a punch; noise levels are kept well in check and remain firmly in the background. DVD-Audio continues to impress and the decoder on the SA72SL delivers a smooth rich sound from both stereo and multi-channel sources.


The steadily growing DVD-Audio catalogue means the format is becoming much less of a gamble but the risk is minimal on the SA72SL as even without DVD-A youíre getting a brilliant little player, stuffed with features and capable of superb picture and sound performance.


Verdict 5/5



JVC has produced some really good handsets in the past but this one looks a bit cluttered, and the extra labelling for the TV remote functions hasnít helped. Fortunately the on-screen display is very easy to navigate from the 4-way cursor keys and the glow in the dark buttons is a neat touch.


JVC 020 8450 3282, www.jvc-europe.com


Overall              5

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            5

Features                       5

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  5

Value for Money            4






£                                  £350

VERDICT                      5


COMMENTS            Excellent all-rounder, DVD-A a bonus, good value

TYPE                            DVD/DVD-AUDIO

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMPíNT VID            N

SCARTS                       1






R. Maybury 2001, 1210









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