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ROTEL RDV-995, £700

 

Not a very good start… One of the screws holding the deck mechanism in place on our sample had come adrift in transit, but this is a very screw-intensive design and whereas most DVD players are held together by plastic clips, this one is made of much sterner stuff. It also weighs a ton, thanks mainly to a meaty torroidial mains transformer and some very large and densely populated printed circuit boards inside the box.

 

The RDV-995 is Rotel's first foray into DVD and it is a rather curious mixture of bits and pieces. The company's illustrious hi-fi heritage is certainly evident in areas like the power supply and audio side of things but the main DVD processing components are all very ordinary, and there's the odd bizarre touch, like the multi-brand TV remote handset, which is a JVC design and a clue to the 995's origins. There are no on-board digital surround sound decoders – unusual on such an expensive machine -- but it does have it's fair share of gadgets like screen digest, strobe, 3D Phonic spatial sound and Theatre Position, which are all more or less standard fitments on JVC players (more clues…). There are no SCART sockets, so there is no RGB output, but it does have a set of component video sockets, as well as the usual composite and S-Video connections.

 

Using the 995 is a bit of an adventure, our sample had a low tolerance of dirty or scratched discs and could take up to 50 seconds before anything appeared on the screen. Our test machine was set up for all-region playback and it read and played MP3 recordings, but no sound came out… Chapter skip and picture search share the same buttons, and you have to remember to hold down a shift button to access the whole range of speeds and things like scene digest, strobe and zoom.

 

On screen results are generally good, it has a fair stab at resolving detail in dark scenes and Godzilla's rampage through New York – which can end up looking very mushy -- is handled well. Colours are crisp and slomo and picture search are both smooth. The stereo audio output is rich and lively, audio CD quality is especially good and Dolby Surround effects -- big and small -- create a busy and dynamic soundfield. Dolby Digital and dts information on the coaxial and optical audio outputs comes through clean as a whistle making it an ideal partner for a high-end digital decoders and amplifier.

 

Verdict

Rotel has obviously had a major influence on the design but there's a nagging suspicion that much of the specification and feature list belongs to a more modestly appointed machine, which makes it look quite expensive, for what it is.

 

Rotel, telephone 01903 524813

 

Ratings

Overall              4

Picture Quality            4

Sound Quality            5

Features                       3

Ease of Use                  2

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            3

 

Pros

Highly respected name, good picture and great CD audio sound

 

Cons

Pricey, odd blend of features, awkward controls

 

Rival Buys

Denon DVD3000, £700

Panasonic DVD-A7

Sony DVP-S7700

 

Quote

'Using the 995 is a bit of an adventure, our sample had a very low tolerance of dirty or scratched discs'

 

 

NAKAMICHI DVD-15, £1100

DVD players with auto changer decks tend to be large or clunky or both. Nakamichi's innovative 'Music Bank' 5-disc mechanism, first seen on its range of high-end CD decks, is neither. Discs are posted in through a slot on the front – there are no pop-out loading trays -- it is quick, quiet and the DVD-15 is only slightly larger than most single disc players.

 

Music Bank undoubtedly contributes to the substantial price but even without it the DVD-15 would still rate as a high-end AV component. It has on-board Dolby Digital and dts decoders, advanced video and audio processing and a dual-mode laser pickup. It has a fair few gadgets too, like scene digest, which generates a quick-access menu screen of thumbnail stills, grabbed from the beginning of each chapter. There's a 2-stage zoom, a good selection of trick-play modes, virtual surround and our sample happily played Region 1 discs.

 

The DVD-15 has a full set of AV connections to the outside world including a SCART socket with switchable S-Video and RGB, separate S-Video and twin composite video outputs plus a headphone jack with level control on the front. Despite the slightly larger than normal cabinet it doesn't look out of proportion, thanks to a well thought out control layout and big display panel. The remote handset is a tad crowded though, with lots of tiny buttons. Nevertheless, the Music Bank mechanism doesn't make it any more difficult to use, compared with single disc machines or other types of auto changers, though you can't change discs, whilst one is playing.

 

DVD processing is handled by the ever-popular C-Cube chipset, which we reckon has been used in around a third of players we've seen lately, and for good reason. Picture quality is very good with sharp clean colours and, as our test sample confirmed, a better than average ability to extract detail from dark and gloomy scenes. You can count the rivets on the robot beasties attacking the Nebuchadnezzar in The Matrix and pick out every ripple and contour on Batman and Batgirl's costumes, should you so desire. DVD sound from the stereo output is punchy and rich with subtle little sounds that lesser players miss or obscure. CD audio is equally impressive, delivering the same kind of smooth and revealing sound that you get from high-end audio components. The internal digital surround decoders do a very workmanlike job on Dolby Digital soundtracks, producing a busy and highly focused soundfield that compares favourably with the best AV amps and standalone decoders.

 

Verdict

A top quality AV component; whilst the value of a multichanger deck for watching DVDs is debateable but it's a boon for playing audio CDs, which is something the DVD-15 also does very well!

 

Nakamichi, (020) 8863 9117

 

Ratings

Overall              5

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            5

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  5

Value for Money            4

 

Pros

Top-notch AV performance and slick 5-disc auto changer

 

Cons

Crowded remote handset, can't change discs whilst one is playing

 

Rival Buys

Denon DVM-3700, £1000

Kenwood DVF-R9030, £900

Sony DVP-CX-850, £600

 

Quote

Music Bank undoubtedly contributes to the substantial price but even without it the DVD-15 would still rate as a high-end AV component

 

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BUSH DVD-140TV, £299

 

TV/DVD 'combis' seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately and a pattern is starting to emerge. The current trend is for small screen models (typically 14-inches), which, incidentally was the way the combi TV/VCR or 'televideo' market eventually developed after a few false starts. The newest arrival is the Bush DVD-140TV, destined like its VHS-based counterparts for use in the bedroom, kitchen, a bedsit, a child's room and hotels and at just under £300 the price is realistic. The feature list is fairly brief, though to be fair things like multi-channel surround and advanced video processing would be a bit out of place. DVD replay facilities satisfactory with multi-speed search, six forward and reverse slomo speeds and out model was set for multi-region playback. There's also a 3-mode zoom and a switchable widescreen display setting, so it can function as a DVD player by connecting it to a TV.

 

The TV is modestly appointed with a sleep timer, Teletext and automatic tuning but the sound system is bog-standard mono (even though it has two speakers), which is a shame considering what DVD has to offer. It is possible to connect the unit to an AV sound system or amplifier and it has digital sound outputs (optical and coaxial) so it can be used with an external digital surround sound decoder, it also has two SCART sockets for hooking it up to a VCR, satellite receiver or another TV, plus a set of sockets on the front for a camcorder or video game, but there's no headphone socket, which seems like an oversight on an AV device designed largely for personal use.

 

With a good signal broadcast TV pictures are crisp and lively, the set-top loop aerial is only of use in areas of good reception. Needless to say TV sound quality is very average and there's no depth to it. Sadly it doesn't improve during DVD playback, so we'll move swiftly on to DVD picture performance, just pausing to say that it sounds fine when connected to an external AV amp. Picture quality is very good indeed, though it has to be said that it's rare not to see a good picture on a 14-inch screen, but it tends to favour bright, well-lit material and darker scenes, like the boxing sequence and house interiors in Billy Elliot, which look just a touch murky.

 

Verdict

Of course there is the 'one-box' convenience factor, and in that respect the DVD-140TV scores well. It's fine for occasional use in the bedroom and kids will love it but functionally it is rather limited and it's worth pointing out that you can buy a 14-inch TV and DVD player for considerably less than £300 these days.

 

Bush 020 8594 5533

 

Ratings

Overall              3

Picture Quality            4

Sound Quality            3

Features                       3

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            3

 

Pros

Handy one-box design, easy to use

 

Cons

Disappointing sound, no headphone socket

 

Rival Buys

£300

Thomson 24WT25US £700

 

Quote

'The feature list is fairly brief, though to be fair things like multi-channel surround and advanced video processing would be a bit out of place'

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2001, 1004

 

 

 

 

 

 

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