This format is
by Les Enser
After many months
of promises and hype, the format that has gained so much attention over
the last couple of years has become a reality. When Don MacRae, the Panasonic
branch manager here in Calgary, called to let us know the machine was
on its way the adrenaline started to flow . Since we only had seen DVD
in controlled environments such as CES (consumer electronic show) we now
had the chance to put it through its paces in our own home theatre setting.
Once the box
arrived we unpacked it immediately to find Panasonics model DVD-A300,
their top of the line unit which retails for $999.00CDN. A rather
handsome, thin profile unit which includes a shuttle search dial along
with headphone volume control and microphone input level control for the
panel is reasonably uncluttered and looks very much like a high end single
disc CD player. The ubiquitous open and close button for the drawer is
still there. The remote control included an array of functions, including
menu, title, skip, search, subtitle, audio, angle and select functions.
The select switch reminded one of a small joystick which could be moved
back and forth, up or down as well as pushed down. The joystick was integral
for selecting the search modes as well as the slow motion features.
Once again with
the remote capable of so many functions - it is not
backlit. Manufacturers need to get this right, especially on a true home
theater product such as the DVD-A300. Home theatre enthusiasts like to
turn down the lights and hate having to guess where the functions are
on a remote, especially if they hit the STOP button by accident. An embarrassment!
On the back
panel a number of outputs are available which include Center, Front L/R,
Subwoofer L/R, Surround L/R, which shows that this DVD player has Dolby
Digital (AC3) decoder built in, handy for those who have multichannel
amps but no AC3 processing. Right next to these are standard video and
audio outputs accompanied by a S-connector. Also included, for those who
have no audio and video input on their T.V.s is an RF out which can be
connected by an optional RF cord.
Now for the
fun! We connected DVD-A300 to our system, put in the disc and turned down
One point before
we go on is that the unit was supplied with only a DVD demo disc which
included several excerpts of recent movie releases along with Panasonics
location shots of Tahiti, a bright red MG in Beverly Hills, and Kyoto.
Unfortunately we could not get our hands on a fully featured movie presentation
so we had to use the demo disc as our only source. Luckily Panasonic did
include scenes from Twister, Free Willy, Goldeneye, and Thumbelina.
Once we inserted
the disc in the player it was ironic how little its functions resembled
Laserdiscs. The player went into Panasonics little 4 second
intro and then locked onto the first chapter while displaying a menu with
five subchapters from which one could choose: 1. Movie demo 2. Quality
demo 3. DVD explanation 4. Function demo and 5. Auto demo. We chose number
one first and went into the movie demo. From there a sub menu came up:
1. Twister 2. Free Willy 3. Goldeneye 4. Thumbelina. Since we like being
number one we chose Twister.
Gone with the
The scene features
our capeless crusaders Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as they chase down the
twister in their Jeep, only to be thwarted by the power of mother nature.
What can we say? The picture quality was simply outstanding, the colours
were rich and vibrant. Contrast looked excellent. Video noise was non
existent, indicating that video signal to noise was the best we had ever
seen in consumer gear.
Best of all,
we could not immediately detect the digital artifacts we expected, probably
because the picture quality simply overwhelmed us. The sound, of course,
was first rate but didnt seem any better than we have heard before
on Laserdics. In the Free Willy scene where the whale is about to make
its giant leap into freedom shows why DVD is going to be shining star.
The detail of the water droplets running down on Willys best friends
face is stunning as the giant Orca leaps over him.
Again, we cant
say enough about the colours and the sharpness. It is with regret that
the Goldeneye example was not thought out a little more since it only
showed Pierce Brosnan jumping off the dam. Thumbelina, well most the animated
movies, look good even if watched on regular T.V. cable, so it wasn't
much of a test for DVD.
that Panasonic did not package their impressive player with a movie or
two for the purchaser, just to give him or her an idea of what DVD is
all about. The demo disc is great for an introduction to DVD but it leaves
one yearning for more. Especially since movie title selection is so far
almost non-existent, it would have been a nice touch.
convinced that DVD is the way to go and Panasonic will sell a few boatloads
over the next year if the software becomes readily available. The DVD-A300
is a nice package and should give many hours of high entertainment value
in the home theatre setting. It is a better first generation that we expected.
take the DVD plunge, your eyes will thank you for it.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think