|Marantz DV-12S1 DVD-A/V Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Richard Elen|
|Friday, 01 November 2002|
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In the moderately recent days when Marantz was owned by Philips, the company released two high-end players that were intended to be direct equivalents of one anotherr: one was a Super-Audio CD player (SACD), and the other, the DV-12S1, was a DVD player capable not only of DVD-Video playback, but also replay of the latest high-resolution DVD-Audio (DVD-Audio) discs. With the Marantz equipment of this period, the higher the quality of the unit, the lower the model number, and the DV-12S1 is as low as the numbers get.
The first thing you notice about the DV-12S1 is how heavy it is. The unit is big and solid, and has a large footprint – it’s nearly 16 inches deep and weighs 29 pounds. The unit itself has curved corners, in keeping with much of the Marantz gear, and elegantly complements their other equipment. The build quality overall is excellent.
The rear panel includes an S-video output, two composites and one component video out on RCAs (replaced by a D1/D2 output on a D terminal outside the US). There are two two-channel audio outputs and a six-channel analog out, all on RCAs, plus optical and coax digital outputs that will deliver up to 96 kHz sample rates. Remote control connectors complete the picture.
The front panel features a tray-loading slot for the single disc and a large fluorescent display, which clearly indicates the status of the unit, including how many audio channels the current disc is playing. Transport controls are included on front panel also, along with a button to disable video output for audio-only listening, in which case the machine behaves very much like a CD player and does not require an onscreen display. One early criticism of DVD-Audio was that you needed a TV display to listen to music – however, this was solely a player design problem and only affected the very earliest players. Later units like this Marantz can happily operate in audio-only mode.
The DV-12S1 will play most of the discs you throw at it, and includes Dolby Digital and DTS encoding on board, plus of course MLP decoding for DVD-Audio. There are both black and gold versions of this Marantz model.
The remote has an unusually long, slim gold design with gold-tipped buttons, all of which have a very positive action: you know when you’ve pressed them. Curiously, I kept trying to hold it the wrong way round. All the usual controls are provided, including a central five-way button for navigation and selection. An uncommon feature is the ability to store configuration information for up to 15 DVD-video discs, and “last memory,” which enables you to resume playback of a disc from a stored point, even if the disc has been removed from the player in the meantime. This feature did not seem to work for DVD-Audio discs.
Installation and Operation
The unit is easy to connect and set up, once you’ve lifted it into place. I hooked up the 5.1 output into my Outlaw Audio bass management system and also connected composite, S-Video and component video outputs, along with the coaxial digital out. Configuration is carried out by means of a series of onscreen set-up menus with a rather more elegant appearance than usual, including a “set-up navigator,” which steps through a number of fundamental configuration options one by one, so you are not likely to miss them. The unit includes a complete bass management set-up for the 5.1 analog outputs: bass management also appears to operate in DVD-Audio mode, an unusual capability. You can also set channel levels with a built-in tone generator and configure the channel delay to compensate for speaker distance from the listening position.
Another unusual capability is hidden away in a special “FL Menu,” which is only visible on the front panel display, and is actually a little temperamental to set. This determines the component video output as either interlaced or progressive (non-interlaced) with 3:2 pulldown (which I unfortunately cannot look at right now). It’s sensible to use the front panel display for this, because if your TV doesn’t handle progressive scan, you won’t be able to see the onscreen display. The same goes for another setting in this menu, which selects the TV system output by the player (NTSC/PAL). Unfortunately, this is not available on U.S. models and I couldn’t find a hack for it to enable multi-region playback, without which this feature has rather limited use.
In addition to DVD-Audio and DVD-Video discs, the player will also handle CDs, video CDs and (in the case of the U.S. model) DVD-RW discs, which are not tremendously common at this point.
There are two complete onscreen menus that determine what kind of audio signals are output at different times, enabling you to match the player to your A/V system’s capabilities, notably in the area of surround decoding. One interesting option, “CD Direct,” bypasses all extraneous processing when playing back a CD so as to maximize replay quality.
Separate from the main set-up menus is a video quality configuration system, accessed via its own button, which allows the video noise reduction and other characteristics to be configured. This requires a certain amount of knowledge to set up correctly. Three memories are provided to store your settings.