READY TO PLUNGE INTO THE WORLD OF DVD?
We give a few
hints and tips
your laserdisc into your favourite neighbourhood dry cleaner's, then discovering
upon pickup that the 12" disc has been shrunk to the size of a CD, while
its capacity has been increased substantially.
the latest generation of video: DVD.
DVD discs not
only up the laserdisc's 60 minutes per side to 133 minutes, but by adding
another layer beneath the original one - and using both sides of the disc
- you can have an amazing 8.7 hours in total on a CD-sized platter. And
you get the best video and audio quality ever offered to a home theater
however, you need a whole new player, which means a new search of the
What do you
need to know before making a buying decision? The few basics outlined
here should help you make an informed choice.
players have built in Dolby Digital decoders, for receivers that have
the six channel inputs or hi-fi systems that offer separate amplifiers
and preamps. Other units incorporate high end features such as component
or multiple S-Video outputs, while some can play Video CDs or "home made"
audio CD's. Some even offer a built in microphone mixer for the karaoke
So what really
stands out from one machine to the other? Are there any differences in
their picture and sound quality? How do they do for playing music CDs?
And what does the future hold for the DVD format?
FEATURES AND BENEFITS
DVD's picture quality is simply breathtaking and never has such consistency
of picture quality ever been achieved in A/V components before: whether
you purchase a relatively inexpensive player or a top of the line unit,
you'll enjoy picture quality never before experienced in your home.
are feature differences to consider, but if frills aren't on your agenda
we recommend purchasing a basic model from a well-known brand name.
Look at least
for an S-connector output (even if your current television doesn't have
it), because your next TV probably will have one. Most players today have
the S-connector, which improves the image quality you get on your TV.
There are a variety of I/O options as well, for hooking the player into
your A/V receiver or amplifier. Our advice is to have a look at the back
panel of your potential DVD player to make sure it will be compatible
with your current or future A/V system.
video" outputs are found on many of today's DVD players. These split your
video signal into its components: the luminance (all video signals use
black and white "luminance" as the basis for a picture), and the colour
signals. This is a "high end" hookup that gives the best possible picture
quality, without any smearing or noise - but remember that it isn't much
good if your TV set doesn't have the corresponding inputs.
component video, DVD gives you the best picture you'll experience in your
livingroom today, but it's something you may want to keep in mind if you're
planning to upgrade your TV.
COMBI OR NOT?
If you have
a collection of Laserdiscs and your LD machine is on its last legs you
may want to consider a combination machine. Pioneer is the only manufacturer
doing this to date, and there probably won't be a lot more offered because
DVD has, unfortunately, virtually killed the LD format.
As far as combination
machines are concerned, we generally feel you can't really go wrong since
it gives you access to the best of both worlds.
player" is the DVD changer, which like a CD changer plays up to five discs!
This can get a great way to feed your CD or DVD addiction - though it
also makes for a long evening of movie watching!
DVD MUSIC MACHINE
Is the DVD
player's sound as good as that from a CD player?
If you're looking
for high end sound quality and you're willing to spend thousands to hear
subtle sound differences between one machine and another, then we suggest
purchasing a separate CD player. This way you will be assured of the best
sound quality from the different formats. Generally speaking, if one can
isolate disc the drive transport and the electronic circuitry from each
another, there's less chance of impairing the sound quality.
will be perfectly happy with the "all-in-one" DVD machine, though if you
still want that little "bit" extra, look for the higher end DVD players
in a manufacturer's lineup: the CD section will usually be upgraded.
Many audio experts
feel that a new, higher "sampling rate" (using the 96kHz format) will
produce better audio quality than the regular CD format. This has led
to the introduction of "DVD Audio," which offers "high resolution" multichannel
This is a high
end audio format that may never catch on with "mainstream" consumers -
and not all DVD players are capable of handling the format. An increasing
number of discs is being released, however, so you may want to take it
into consideration if high end audio is a priority for you.
DVD's already give great sound even if they aren't "96K compatible."
DIGITAL OR OUTBOARD?
As with boating
enthusiasts, the inboard or outboard debate has always been big in the
world of audio and video. There are pro and cons to both, including those
of your pocketbook.
more cost effective to purchase a "Dolby Digital and/or DTS" or "Digital
ready" receiver. Remember, though, that a Dolby digital "ready" receiver
means you still have to add either a separate outboard digital processor
or buy a DVD machine with all the goods inboard.
The "high end
way" to set up a Dolby digital system is to go with separate components,
like preamplifier, surround processor, and five amplifiers, as opposed
to the more mainstream method of getting everything built into one box
(the trusty old receiver).
you choose, make sure the DVD machine has all the capabilities needed
to work with your audio set-up. Just remember that there are always trade
offs when you choose to have everything built into the DVD player as opposed
to what a separate processor may offer.
Don't be afraid
to make a compromise (today's equipment is so good you'll probably be
happy anyway) but be aware of what you're buying.
CAN YOU SEE
You know this
scenario: five people witness an accident and the police receive five
different accounts of it. Luckily, in the DVD world, picture quality from
one machine to another is so close that - relatively speaking - everyone's
opinion is about the same: "Awesome!"
The DVD format
has adhered to very close standards as compared to the wide variety of
amplifiers and receivers in the marketplace. That isn't to say that there
are no differences between a $700 and a $3000 unit, however, especially
to the trained eye. The comparisons generally lie in the detection of
"digital artifacts" which can cause a picture to shimmer or produce some
jagged outlines in a scene.
have increased their video processing abilities from 9 bit to 10 bit,
which is supposed to minimize this problem.
may make the picture look a little softer than others, or you may find
the contrast better on some. As mentioned earlier, you can find subtle
differences among manufacturers, but you may not see $2300 worth of difference
between the $700 and $3000 unit.
We can't stress
enough to try before you buy - and trust your eyes and ears!
DVD is a wonderful
addition to any home theatre system and will enhance your enjoyment. If
you're uncertain, rent a DVD player and a couple of discs to see for yourself.
We bet you'll
never want to look at VHS again!
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think