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DENON DVD-900, £250

Manufacturers of top-end AV equipment are in something of a quandary as the cost of DVD players continues to fall further and faster than anyone anticipated. Do they ignore what’s happening in the budget sector and concentrate on exotic high-spec kit or join in the fray with more keenly priced products? Denon has the distinction of making some of the most expensive DVD players on the market and to date has stayed aloof from the rough and tumble but now there are signs the company is seeking a wider audience with players like the recently launched DVD-900. At just under £250 this machine is still a world away from the sub £100 cheapies though it does share a common heritage with several other players sporting well-known names and at first glance the feature list appears relatively modest, considering what you can get for a couple of hundred quid these days.

 

Nevertheless, Denon has ensured that the DVD-900’s specification will appeal to those looking for useful rather than frivolous facilities plus the kind of superior performance and build quality the brand is associated with. High end processing circuitry is used throughout, in particular the respected ST Microelectronics Omega 5519 chipset, which does most of the hard work, extracting picture and sound information from the disc. Of more immediate interest to a lot of users is the fact that it can play virtually all flavours of recordable DVD (DVD-R, +R/+RW) plus MP3 files and homemade audio CDs on CD-R media. There’s a two-stage picture zoom plus RGB and S-Video connections and a full set of analogue and digital outputs for connection to an external 5.1 Dolby Digital & dts surround sound processor. It also has switchable SRS TrueSound spatial effect on the analogue output, for puffing up the audio when it’s piped through a stereo TV.   

 

The DVD-900 is housed in a smart slimline cabinet with a solid looking aluminium front panel that’s available in a black or gold finish. The controls are well ordered and there’s a handy set of menu functions, driven from a cluster of cursor keys, should the rather ungainly remote handset go walkabout. The on screen displays and menus are neatly presented and easy to navigate. Incidentally, the player’s regional coding appears to be firmly locked to R2 though in the past multi-region hacks have appeared for this particular chipset, however none had surfaced at the time of going to press.

 

DVD playback is excellent, dark and moody movies like Se7en reveal lots of detail and background textures indicating a wide contrast range. Colours are crisp and skin tones are natural looking. At the other extreme it has no problems with movement or rapid changes in brightness in fast paced action films like Black Hawk Down and Phantom Menace.

 

Surround effects on the analogue stereo output are sharply focused and retain plenty of drama and this is helped by lower than average levels of background hiss. The optical and digital bitstream outputs are squeaky clean and ensure that a decent 5.1 decoder will have plenty to get its teeth into. There are no problems with audio CD replay either and the DVD-900 stacks up well against mid-range and some top end decks with a smooth, rich sound.

 

Full marks to Denon for managing such a delicate balancing act with this player. It has the look and feel of a refined high-end component, showing it can deliver a well-specified player at a realistic price without sacrificing performance or stripping away too many features.

 

DETAIL

The most obvious internal differences between first generation DVD players and machines like the DVD-900 is the amount of integration that has gone into the electronic circuitry. Early players were crammed full of circuit boards, smothered in microchips. Inside the DVD-900 you’ll find just two circuit boards, a main board carrying the mains power supply and the output connections and a small ‘daughter’ board with just a small handful of chips. The largest of these is the ‘back-end decoder’, and it is responsible for virtually all of the video and audio processing, plus a host of other functions, including downmixing the analogue stereo output, generating on-screen displays, encoding the PAL and NTSC video outputs. It also provides an interface for the deck mechanism and ancillary functions like regional coding and Macrovision copy protection. This has meant a huge reduction in the cost of manufacturing players, increased reliability and a big saving in space. There’s also a less obvious spin-off and it’s not unknown for budget players to use the same processor as machines costing two or three times as much, though manufacturers can justify the higher prices with additional enhancements to the AV outputs, better deck mechanisms and improved build quality.

 

CAPTION

The only obvious sign of cost cutting on the DVD-900 is the large and unwieldy remote control handset, which looks as though it might belong to a much cheaper player.

 

Contact: Denon (01234 741200), www.denon.co.uk

 

VERDICT

 

What's good
Picture and sound performance, both on DVD and audio CDs

Smart cosmetics and solidly built

A good assortment of features

 

What's bad

Clumsy remote

Forward only slomo

 

KEY FEATURES

Advanced AV processing

MP3 Replay

2-stage picture zoom

SRS 3D sound

DVD+R/RW-R replay

Value for money rating    4
Ease of use rating
                4
Performance
                              5
Features
                                   4
Overall
                          4

 

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

Denon DVD-900

£                                  £240

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            Good looks and top-notch performance but a tad pricey

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig Dolby Digital/dts

COMP'NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              110      

 

 

TECH SPEC

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

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo and coaxial bitstream (phono), optical bitstream (TOSlink)

(procomegaSti5519 –R/+/R+RW)

 

 

HEAD

PRO V PC/TV TUNER, £148

 

When it comes to seeing the big picture a video projector or plasma screen is the only way to go. Unfortunately many of these devices are equipped with only a couple of video inputs and a PC display socket, resulting in severe socket congestion or forcing the owner to shell out on a tuner/adaptor module. This little gadget called PRO-V might prove helpful, inside the compact silvery box there’s a basic TV tuner and a scan converter, which turns regular composite or S-Video signal into PC-type VGA/XGA output. It also lets you use a PC monitor as a video display, and you can switch between computer and video inputs so you can watch a movie on tape or DVD or catch your favourite soap whilst you are at the keyboard.

 

Everything is controlled from a remote handset and an on-screen menu display. Installation is a doddle -- it comes with a standard VGA cable and a set of AV leads -- tuning is automatic but you have to sort the channel order and create and assign station labels manually. There are three display output modes (640 x 480, 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768), which covers most monitor and display types and there’s an array of TV type picture and sound adjustments.

 

Image quality depends on the type of display, the source material and output setting but on the 1024 x 768 setting on a PC monitor and fed by a DVD player the picture looks good with plenty of fine detail, bright vibrant colours and negligible flicker. There is however some evidence of the processing going on behind the scenes and vertical pans are ever so slightly jerky, there are also tiny changes in brightness in off-air material via the built in TV tuner though it didn’t seem to affect external video inputs.

 

Unfortunately since the PRO-V doesn’t have a NICAM decoder its role as a serious home cinema component is limited but it could prove useful as an input adaptor for projectors and plasma panels in a corporate or commercial environment and watching TV or displaying video on a computer monitor, but it has to be said there are easier and cheaper ways. 

 

DETAIL

Converting a PAL video signal into a PC compatible display is no mean feat. The two interlaced fields that make up a normal TV picture have to be combined into one ‘progressively’ scanned image. Inevitably this involves a fair amount of digital trickery and it is extremely difficult to avoid at least some picture defects, such as motion artefacts.

 

Contact: AMC, 01982 535007, www.av-sales.com

 

VERDICT

 

What's good


Picture quality

Simple connectivity

Flexibility

 

What's bad

Some processing artefacts

No NICAM decoder



Value for money rating    3
Ease of use rating
                4
Performance
                              3
Features
                                   3
Overall
                          4

 

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2002, 2409

 

 

 

 

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