|Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 DVD-A/V Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Saturday, 01 December 2001|
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My first video choice comes from my favorite release of the month and the recent Dreamworks masterpiece, Shrek. I first viewed this film through the Seleco Sim2 HT200 DLP front projector - look for the Sim2 HT200 review in an upcoming publication of the AudioRevolution.com.
When compared to the standard interlaced signal, the DV-5700’s progressive scan output enormously improved the video quality. Images became much more three-dimensional and lacked motion distortion. Shrek and his friends had a smoothness you could only dream of achieving from a standard interlaced DVD source. There were no real distracting artifacts at all. Additionally, there was far less video noise, an effect that causes the color and edges of your images to suffer.
My next selection is from the hugely anticipated Star Wars, The Phantom Menace (Lucas Film Ltd.) While viewing the much talked about race scene, I took the opportunity to compare both Interlaced and Progressive images. In the interlaced signal mode the images looked somewhat blurred and lacked resolution. The jagged edges made the scene look distorted and unnatural. Conversely, the progressive image was much smoother and presented considerably greater color and image detail.
In the romantic comedy "The Wedding Planner" (Columbia Pictures), I realized that the Progressive signal coming directly from the DV-5700 actually looked better than the one coming from my $4,000 Faroudja NR Series Scaler, perhaps due to the streamlined signal path and limited cable length. The picture using the progressive output of the 5700 is really very good lending great video consistency. Images looked very good with much improved three-dimensionality and depth. The deficiency that causes images to look two-dimensional is often imperfect edges. Jagged or discolored edges due to scan lines and motion related artifacts can draw visual attention and never truly allow you disappear into the event.
DVD-Audio 5.1 Music
For many years there has been talk of the next new digital music format to replace the CD. Just the thought of this brings fear to many music collecting enthusiasts, facing the reality of again replacing much if not all of their music collection. For those old enough to remember, there were vinyl records, 8-track tapes, the much improved cassette tape, and then the format that was billed as "the perfect sound forever" – the Compact Disc.
Today there are two formats fighting for a dominant share of the future – DVD-Audio and SACD (Super Audio Compact Discs). There is no denying that both provide a much higher resolution reproduction than standard Compact Discs. Today, both have continued to be plagued with a lack of available software, both promising an explosion of titles lie just around the corner. In the case of DVD-A, this has much to do with continued arguments about how best to protect the software from copywrite infringements. Didn’t anyone learn from the Metalica vs. Napster ordeal? Let me help this along, hackers will find a way to break any watermark encryption you come up with - release some music. Today we are limited to approximately 200 available DVD-Audio releases.
For many reasons I consider the DVD-Audio format to be to future of digital sound with player sales of greater than 500,000 compared to a mere several thousand SACD players sold. Although nobody wants to be part of a dying technology, reminiscent of the VHS vs. Beta wars of the 80’s. You can be assured that DVD-Audio is here for the long haul. The only question as I see it is how soon you want to buy in.
When the standard CD was invented, it was designed to contain 74 minutes of music on a 120 mm diameter disc. At the time Digital to Analog converters were limited to 16-bit quantization and used a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. This sampling rate was selected due to the limited storage space on the disc although most in the industry thought this was more than satisfactory to reproduce perfect sound. With the invention of the DVD, there is a vastly greater amount of available space to store data, close to 70 times greater. This makes it possible to sample at a greater rate. DVD-Audio samples at either 96 kHz, or 192 kHz depending on whether it is recorded in 2-channel or multi-channel format, understanding that there is insufficient space to store 192 kHz data for 6 or more channels. What 192 kHz means is that it is re-plotting stored points as if on a graph, at a frequency of 192,000 times per second. When you draw the waveform between these dots, they are immensely more accurate than that of the standard CD, which plots them at 44,100 times per second, which creates a much less accurate waveform.
With all that techno-mojo behind us, let’s get down to what really interests us about this new format – music. Jammin’ to the Doors classic release, LA Women (Elektra,) and the song "Love Her Madly," I was inspired by this recordings ability to involve me. Okay, admittedly I was once one of the 2-channel snobs that resisted multi-channel music, sighting the lack of desire to hear some engineer play with what has always been so right with 2 channel recordings. Lets face it, you have two ears and they hear surrounding music fine, why are we introducing more microphones and more opportunity to reproduce something wrong?
My opinion has changed as DVD-Audio continues to impress and enchant me. There is no denying this multi-channel format’s ability to involve you in the music is unparalleled if done correctly. And with 24 bit 96 kHz resolution, you simply have more bits to recreate a musical signal thus a lower priced machine can create an astonishingly good sound. Is DVD-Audio so good that issues like jitter and high performance DACs don’t matter? No way but for less money you do get beter audio. Period.
In the song "Riders of the Storm," the surrounding effects enveloped me as if I were listening to great music on an actual rainy day. Rather than just blending in with the music, details like the falling rain found themselves supporting the music rather than blending in, only confusing it. I imagine this is exactly what the late Mr. Morrison wanted when he produced this piece.
While in the mood for some slow grooving, I plopped in "Truckin’" from Grateful Dead’s American Beauty (Warner Brothers). This DVD-A recording sounds almost live with a seductive reverberant effect reminiscent of the many hundreds of live shows that they performed. Compared to the original 2-channel release, this recording was monumentally superior in detail and presentation. Instruments that were dull and lifeless in the original recording came to life and had a much greater level of resolution and detail. At one point I think I found myself facing the rear of the room, dancing on one leg.
The DV-5700’s 5-disc transport /changer is, in a typical fashion, fairly clumsy and can be frustrating at times. I have never used a multi-disc changer that didn’t cause me occasional anguish. It has never made a whole lot of sense to me to have multi-disc capabilities. Who would ever need to load multiple video discs? With respect to audio, I can see the desire to load multiple discs for an event or party where you either want random or continuous music, but not so much that I would ever seek this feature.
Once a disc is playing and you want to remove the disc, you need to stop the disc, then push the "skip disc" button and wait for the discs to be accessed, and then open the drawer to access the discs. In some cases, the player would start if you pressed the "skip disc" button and waited too long causing a delay in your ability to access the disc. In some releases such as Disney, you are not allowed to stop the intro and are forced to wait, and then restart the sequence. If you try to access the disc prior to this sequence being complete, the tray would not contain your disc, as it would remain within the player.
I strongly recommend running progressive scan video to all HD compatible sets. Progressive scan is a must for top quality video. One issue that raises my curiosity is that if you chose to purchase a DVD player with a progressive output, such as the Kenwood DV-5700, you will have progressive scanned DVD, but if you choose to run additional video sources such as Digital Satellite or games such as PlayStation2 or Microsoft’s new X Box, these sources would remain interlaced. It suggests in this case the need for an outboard Progressive processor. Much of the higher price of the DV-5700 is in providing high-quality 480P progressive output. It would make little sense to purchase this over a much less expensive player if you find the need to connect additional progressive sources. That is unless you are considering an inexpensive outboard video processor such as the $800 DVDO I-Scan pro from Silicon Images. In this case, I would consider the DV-5700 due to its superior Progressive processing. Otherwise I would suggest a less expensive player and a Faroudja NR Series scaler at an estimated cost of $4,500 that will run all video sources and provide video switching.
The DV-5700 may sound expensive on the surface considering that you can go down to your local retailer and purchase a DVD player for $300 that looks equal on many sets that don’t accept progressive scan signals. But if your set does accept these signals or if you plan to buy a HD set soon, the DV-5700 then begins to look quite inexpensive. Its video quality is outstanding and provides monumental improvement over interlaced sources. If you own or are planning a purchase of a compatible front or rear projection system and are not running a doubled progressive signal, you are truly missing out. The DV-5700 is one of the best progressive player in its class and when compared to the very good Denon 2800 with its licensed DVDO technology from Silicon Image, there is little similarity. The DV-5700’s video processing leaves its competition in the dust. The DV-5700 is a very versatile player. Its transport is a tad lethargic but aside from that this player is a gem. It was a huge success selecting Faroudja technology for their progressive scan licenser. It’s the difference between a good video signal and a great one. Highly recommended.