|Adcom GDV-850 DVD-A/V Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Thursday, 01 April 2004|
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The last dedicated DVD player I had in my theater was the Kenwood DV-5700 five-disc changer. After sending the review sample back to Kenwood, I was without a DVD player, so I had to turn to my trusty X-Box for a week or so before the Adcom arrived. My Sony XBR television has component inputs, so I was thrilled to be able to put a DVD player back in my theater with component outs. Needless to say, the difference between the picture on the X-Box and the Adcom was jaw-dropping. The real comparison, however, is between the Kenwood and the GDV-850. With many hours of viewing DVDs and listening to DVD-Audio discs with the Kenwood under my belt, I decided to watch the last few DVDs and listen to the DVD-Audio discs that I had recently played on the Kenwood DV-5700.
Beginning with the 2003 horseracing drama “Seabiscuit” (Universal/Dreamworks), I opened the solid front-loading single-disc tray, popped the disc in and wanted to test the player with scenes that I have found make lesser DVD players struggle. In the horse-racing scenes that were filmed at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA, the curved white rails around the track cause trouble for many DVD players. Maladies like dot crawl and color bleed on the round white railings are minimal on the GDV-850. As the camera pans along with the action of the Santa Anita Handicap, the details of the crowd are crystal clear. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is thunderous as the horses fly around the track at breakneck speeds. Having seen the film in theaters, then experiencing it through the Adcom combination powered by the ultra-beefy GFA-7805 Adcom amplifier, the experience of watching “Seabiscuit” in my home theater now almost rivals the movie theater.
One interesting feature that the GDV-850 boasts is the ability to zoom in on a scene. Once I realized the player had this feature, my first instinct was to watch the Oliver Stone film “JFK” (Warner Home Video) to see if I could figure out if there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll in the Zapruder film. I didn’t end up solving this conspiracy theory, as the picture gets pretty pixilated when zooming in to extremes, but I did find the digital sound quality of the player to be excellent, especially in the timbre and clarity of the actors’ voices. In the courtroom scenes, the subtle ambience of the hard, cold walls of the room was transplanted in my carpeted living room. Cranking up a movie like “Star Wars Episode 1” and blasting the speakers and subwoofer at insane levels may be a good way to test the audio on your DVD player, but to truly be great, a system has to be able to reproduce natural-sounding dialog like that found in “JFK.”
Thinking back to another film that I had seen recently on both my Kenwood DV-5700 and the X-Box fill-in DVD player, I went to the Disney animated hit “Finding Nemo.” The vibrant colors of this underwater computer animated adventure can become washed out on many a player, but they are much more vibrant and alive with the Adcom’s progressive component outputs. Each of the characters have very distinct dark lines around them and there is no color bleed between the colors of the tropical fish and the blue ocean water they swim in. During the scene with the migrating turtles, millions of small bubbles whoosh by and the GDV-850’s ability to reproducing these with outstanding detail is impressive. Not everyone has progressive inputs on their television monitors, so I decided I would give “Finding Nemo” a try with the S-Video and composite outs as well. As you might expect, the picture quality is not quite as stunning, but you certainly would not be disappointed with any of the video outputs on the GDV-850.
One of the best examples of a DVD-Audio disc that truly works in the surround sound format is Yes’ Fragile (Rhino/WMG). This is a must-have DVD-Audio disc for any fans of classic rock who own a DVD-Audio player. I have heard this disc probably 20 times through on my Kenwood DVD-Audio player, so needless to say, I am very familiar with it. When listening to DVD-Audio, the “Dig Audio Out - OFF” button needs to be pressed so that the 5.1 analog outputs are utilized. The DACs on the 5.1 analog outputs of the Adcom are bit smoother than on the Kenwood and have a more natural-sounding high end. Sound effects and different reverbs play an important role on this album and they have a silky-smooth quality when played through the GDV-850 DVD-Audio player.
On the hit song “Roundabout,” the bass management feature of the Adcom AV preamp makes it easy to keep the low notes of Chris Squire’s bass from bleeding into the speakers and causing unwanted overtones and possible distortion. This frantic tune in the highest level of audio playback - MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) surround is an essential demo track to wow your friends with and it does not disappoint on the GDV-850.
Keeping with the classic rock/artsy vibe, I decided to spin up some live Frank Zappa from the outrageously entertaining Halloween DVD-Audio disc (DTS Entertainment). The crowd noise that starts the album is eerily realistic as the band tunes up for their set and, when blasted at high volumes, the trio of Adcom gear doesn’t flinch once. Through each hilarious track, the GDV-850 performs flawlessly and the corresponding images on my TV screen from the disc are bright and clear. The disc includes some bonus features, such as a live performance of Zappa doing “Dancin’ Fool” on Saturday Night Live. The footage is old and obviously dated-looking but looks great through the GDV-850.
The quality playback capabilities that the GDV-850 has as a DVD player could easily overshadow the fact that it is also a very capable CD player. When listening to standard CDs and MP3s on discs, there are DSP options that allow you to EQ the discs. A host of standard EQ preset settings, such as classic, jazz, rock, pop, ballad and dance are available, as well as a customizable one called “personal” that allows you to live your lifelong dream of being a mixing engineer. Subtle moves with the digital EQ seem to work better, as I was able to produce some pretty unnatural sounds when moving the virtual sliders to extreme positions. Putting the White Zombie album Astro Creep: 2000 (Geffen) and cranking the high end and low end, forming the classic metal “scoop,” made for some fun listening on songs like “Electric Head, Pt. 1 (The Agony)” and “Super-Charger Heaven.” I had to back things down to a much flatter setting to get the most out of the Counting Crows’ Hard Candy (Universal) album that was recorded so brilliantly that it doesn’t need much frequency tweaking to pull out the lush harmonies and instrumentation.