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Sony DVP-S325 DVD Player, £

VERDICT ****

 

Why’s it here: The Sony DVP-S325 is what marketing people refer to as an entry-level product, which basically means it's the cheapest model in a manufacturer's range. Needless to say Sony would be perfectly happy if you went out and brought one, if it's the kind of simple no frills DVD player you are looking for, but it has a secondary and less obvious purpose. Its other role in life is to help dealers sell up prospective purchasers to slightly dearer and better-specified players, otherwise known as step-up models. In this instance it provides an introduction to the DVD-S525 -- on which the S325 is based – which has a few extra bells and whistles like on-board Dolby Digital and MPEG decoders and virtual surround sound

 

Any unique features: This player is unusual in one respect in that it's one of only a handful of DVD players we've tested that doesn't have some sort of 3D or virtual surround sound system. Nevertheless it has all of the format standard facilities, which is analogue mixed stereo, containing Dolby Pro Logic information and bitstream digital (optical and coaxial) outputs carrying the Dolby Digital, MPEG Audio and DTS surround sound data. The rest of the feature list is fairly routine though it has a couple of extras worth mentioning. There's a choice of RGB or S-Video output on the TV output SCART socket and it comes with a multi-brand remote handset that can control the main functions on a selection of TVs and AV amplifiers from other manufacturers. TV makes covered are Grundig, Hitachi, Loewe, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Saba, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Telefunken, Thomson and Toshiba, on the AV amp front it has codes for Denon, Kenwood, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sansui, Technics and Yamaha.

 

In common with its better specified stablemates the S325 has a smart-looking graphical menu display with selections controlled from the four-way cursor buttons on the handset and the player's front panel. In addition to all of the usual language, subtitle and disc play options the OSD can also superimpose a pretty but pointless winking bit-rate/bit rate history bargraphs or a graphic showing the approximate position on the disc and which layer the player is reading.  

 

In the scheme of things it's a reasonably good-looking machine, a little shorter than the norm with reasonably discrete cosmetics. The all black livery is a double-edged sword though, and the front panel controls are hard to spot and the labels almost impossible to read in a dimly lit room.  

 

How does it perform: Entry level or no, video quality on the S325 is at least as good and in some respects better than some mid-range players we've tested recently. The picture is exceptionally clean and detailed with no trace whatsoever of any processing artefacts. It's the wide dynamic range that sets it apart though, revealing an unusual amount of detail in gloomy scenes and darker areas of the image. There is no picture noise and colours look bright, crisp and natural, even subtle shades like skin tones. Trick play performance is impressive too, slow motion on many DVD players is just a jerky frame advance; on this machine there's a choice of two speeds, both of them producing smooth liquid movement. The two speed picture search is fast and fluid rather than a succession of rapid snatches or skip frames, which is what you seem to get on a lot of players.

 

Layer change on or tests discs  – something we always take a particular interest in on Sony players following glitches on some early models – occurs in less than half a second and is over almost before you know it.  

 

There is very little background noise on mixed stereo analogue audio output, so low as to be almost insignificant; Dolby Surround soundtracks come alive with the kind of detail and movement, that you simply don't get on tape. There are no discernible problems with the digital output either and it isn't found wanting when connected to a decent decoder amp and speakers.

 

Our Verdict: If you can live without Dolby Digital and DTS, or are content to make your own arrangements for 5.1 multi channel surround you could do a lot worse than give this splendid machine the once-over. Don't expect too much in the way of gadgets and gizmos, there aren't any, but in the important matters of picture and sound quality and genuinely useful secondary features, like trick play and ease of operation, it is well worth the extra.  

 

Sony (0990) 111999

 

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Features        

Region 2 PAL/NTSC, DTS compatible digital output, dynamic range control (DRC), RGB output, multi-brand TV/AV amp remote control,

           

Sockets

AV output (2 x SCART), composite video & mixed stereo outputs (phono), S-Video output (mini DIN), digital audio outputs (coaxial & TOSlink optical

                       

Dimensions                

430  95 x 305mm

 

Rival Buys

Denon DVD-2500 £400, Thomson DTH-3300 £330, Yamaha DVD-S795,  £375

 

Captions

Spot the buttons… Black on black cosmetics makes it a tad awkward to drive without the remote if you like the lights down low

 

Two SCARTs – one configurable for RGB or S-Video – and a standard set of analogue and digital outputs means you shouldn't have any connection problems

 

The remote can also control the main functions on a fair selection of other manufacturer's TVs and AV amps

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1999, 0411

 

 

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