|Integra DPS-10.5 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Thursday, 01 September 2005|
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I began with the SACD release of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol) and cued up the track “Money.” The sounds of cash registers opening and slamming shut in a syncopated rhythm makes this easily one of the most recognizable tracks in the history of classic rock. With the i.LINK connected digitally to the Integra receiver, the spaces in between the sounds were as dead silent as I have ever heard and then each percussive element of the songs intro had a full-bodied presence that I simply had not heard when listening to this track through SACD players that were hooked up with 5.1 analog cables. I feared that the direct digital connection might cause the sound to be a little brittle, but this was not the case. The tone of the bass guitar riff that follows the into was round and smooth, a combination of the fine electronics I was using with the recent addition of a Revel B12 Subwoofer. The bottom line was that the bottom end of this track sounded better than ever in my system.
Being a universal player, I felt it was my duty to next spin up a DVD-Audio disc in surround sound. The Doors DVD-Audio release of LA Woman (Elektra/WMG) is one of my favorite DVD-Audio releases, as I would put the Doors in my top five bands of all time. The opening track “The Changeling” has a hypnotic guitar/bass riff and, like all good ‘70s songs, modulates (changes keys mid-song) and then ends with an absolutely killer outro before segueing to the radio hit “Love Her Madly.” The DPS-10.5 was so resolute that I could hear a bit of the hiss from the master tape, as this disc was not re-mastered, and was originally not recorded as well as the Pink Floyd disc. However, the modern technology playback system did not suck the soul out of Morrison or the rest of the band. After cueing up the disc and turning off the video circuitry, which I will explain in detail shortly, I was able to lean back and let the music envelop me. The purely digital connection from the DPS-10.5 was much more musical and transparent that I would have ever guessed.
The DPS-10.5 is also a killer CD player, as I found out when tossing the new Beck album Geuro. On the album’s first hit tune “Que Onda Guero,” which translates loosely to “What’s Up Skinny White Boy?”, Beck’s signature hip hop meets slacker sound hit hard on my two-channel system and was a real treat to hear in a system so resolute after hearing this track about 30 times on the local Los Angeles alternative rock station KROQ in my car. The song features a host of streetwise Latinos talking in the background at certain points over a tripped-out drum machine beat. The song had an immediacy and clarity to it that was engaging but did not feel like it was overly edgy.
Integra’s engineers smartly created a feature on the DPS-10.5 that optimized audio-only playback. A button on the front of the faceplate or the remote control allows all of the video circuitry to be turned off when listening to just audio playback. DVD-Audio discs have onscreen menus, so you may want to leave this feature off until you have cued up your music to the proper sound format and track, but once you have done so, clicking the Video Circuit Off button makes the sound of audio discs noticeably smoother. The effect isn’t mind-blowing, but any time you can eliminate the possibility of interference, you’ll want to, and it’s very easy to get in the habit of pushing this button. An indicator light comes on when this mode is pressed to remind you to turn it off; having a blank screen when playing a movie DVD will quickly remind you that this setting is still on.
The only downside that I can see to owning a high-performance DVD player like this is the fact that HD-DVD and Blu-ray are looming on the horizon. $2,500 is a fair chunk of change for a universal player, but I feel that the DPS-10.5 is such a winner that it easily justifies the price tag. However, many early adopters of HDTV are probably in a holding pattern right now. There are two schools of thought on this. This player is so good at making your DVDs look like they are HD that you can feel almost like you have a wall full of HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs already in your collection. This is how I choose to see it, even though some may hold off and not buy a new player until the new formats hit the street.
This player has been nothing short of a champion in my system. It is supremely intuitive to use for a novice home theater enthusiast, yet infinitely customizable and programmable. It has also never failed to read a single disc, and in the world of high-end players, it has been my experience that the more expensive a player, the less likely it is to properly play certain discs. This all goes back to one of the lasting impressions that I have when thinking of this player. Reliability.
The other two words that come to mind with the DPS-10.5 are versatility and performance. The fact that it is one of the only players that can output HD, progressive, interlaced component, S-Video and composite at the same time has made it my favorite new component. I have been able to not only use it as the main DVD player for my system as I feed it to my main TV the HD output, but I also send it to a smaller HDTV in my kitchen via the component video output and a two-channel analog audio feed. The picture looks stunning on both my main TV and my second set as well.
The performance of the DPS-10.5 as a music transport falls right in line where I would expect it to pricewise. It is smoother-sounding than the $1,000 Adcom DVD player and benefits from the direct digital i.LINK connection for DVD-Audio and SACD that the Adcom lacked. I also found it more refined and much less brittle and more resolute than Sony’s SCD-C555ES dedicated SACD player. You have to go to players like Meridian’s G series player or the legendary (and now defunct) Proceed PMDT to start getting a smoother two-channel player. The DPS-10.5 from Integra holds its own musically against anything in its price class. A three-year warranty also sets it aside from similar performing universal and DVD players with internal video scalers that may cost a little less. With almost no compromise in video performance and the ability to play just about any audio format at higher than average quality, the DPS-10.5 is an absolute winner and should be auditioned by anyone who is serious about music and movies.