|Marantz DV8400 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Matt Evert|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
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Marantz has long been a revered manufacturer of quality high-fidelity audio (and now video) equipment. Saul Marantz founded the company in 1953 and was responsible for the production of the Model 18 receiver. The Model 18 was the world’s first example of a receiver that combined a preamplifier, power amplifier and tuner all in one chassis. Marantz was owned by Philips (one of the pioneers of the compact disc) for some time and made the world's first CD player in 1982. Recently, Marantz merged with Denon and established a joint holding company, D & M Holdings, Inc. Needless to say, Marantz is a familiar name in the home theater industry and has a solid track record for its CD players, receivers, projectors, plasmas and more.
The latest DVD player from Marantz, the DV8400, is no disappointment to their legacy of making quality CD players. The $1,699 DV8400 is a THX Select certified “universal” DVD player, capable of playing SACD and DVD-Audio formats, along with every other permutation of CD, CDR, DVD-Video, DVD-R and many others as well. As a DVD-Video player, it features both interlaced and progressive scan outputs with 3:2 pulldown and numerous video adjustments, making it one of the more versatile, mid-level players on the market today.
The DV8400 appears similar to other DVD players in its class, featuring a brushed black aluminum face plate and steel frame as the others do. The gold lettering and cool blue LED CD tray light is also pretty standard. The front controls are simple and feature the basic stop, play and track advance controls that are standard with other players. This is where the similarities end. Underneath the steel frame is a completely redesigned audio section featuring a “zero-impedance” copper chassis for superb sound reproduction. Adding value to the impressive sound is the fact that Marantz uses separate power supplies for the video and audio sections of the player. The audio section also benefits from the use of Marantz HDAM output devices in place of the normal Op amps. A DSD-based SACD chipset is used instead of the multi-bit chipsets, which down-convert DSD (the technology behind SACD) to PCM for playback. Clearly, keeping your DSD pure is a top priority for a top universal player and the DV8400 does just that. The sum of all these extra efforts by Marantz has resulted in increased dynamic range and overall quality of sound playback.
When the unit is powered on and a disc inserted, a DOT matrix display lights up a gaggle of symbols and characters. These helpful icons tell the user what type of disc is inserted (DVD-Audio, SACD, VCD, etc), what type of audio format is featured (Dolby Digital, 5.1, 192kHz/96kHz, downsampled two-channel, etc.), and which channels are recorded on the disc playing (left, center, surround left, etc.). It certainly takes the mystery out of what settings are being used and what the disc actually supports, without having to go into the onscreen display (OSD).
The construction of this player is sturdy and at 13-and-seven-tenths pounds, you can tell the engineers did not skimp on quality (or at least heavy) components. The design, although beefy, is relatively sleek at only three-and-a-half inches tall. Soft rubber feet mounted on circular legs provide a nice dampener to the 17-and-five-sixteenths inches wide and 12-and-one-eighth inches deep player. The CD drawer opens and closes smoothly. The drawer is a little more flimsy than other players I have used. The drawer will shift and move if you touch it while the drawer is closed. Not a big deal unless you have a frat party at your house and Biff the sumo wrestler is your DJ. Do not fear, skips will not be common, even with Biff walking around.
There is a vast offering of audio/video connections on the back of the player. The back panel is nicely laid out into four sections: audio, video, digital output and remote control. All the RCA connectors are gold-plated and a removable EIC power cord is present for future power cable upgrades. Video outputs include one S-video, two composite video, one component video connector and a DVI-D output (25 pin with HDCP). The DVI-D connector is awesome. It is much easier to manage one cable than three (i.e., component video) and offers great digital video output to the latest Plasma or LCD monitors. I had to log in to a Marantz web site to get the special key press sequence to unlock the DVD-I connector (a standard for the connector was not finished at the time my product was purchased). The procedure was easy and well worth the trouble. The audio outputs include one optical digital, one coaxial digital, one analog set of RCAs and a set of six-channel analog outputs. Remote inputs and outputs and an RS232c terminal allow for many control options either from remotes from another component or a computer. There is no HDMI output (this is quickly becoming the hot connection for HDTV sources).
The term “universal DVD player” is appropriate for a product like the DV8400. This player will play CDs, CDRs, CD-RW (closed session only), DVDs and DVD-Rs. Compatible video and audio formats include CD audio, MP3s, DVD-video/audio, DTS-video/audio, video CDs and SACD formats. The MP3 ID3 tags are limited to eight characters (like many DVD players), so Dr. Demento – Fish Heads.mp3 will actually appear as DRDEME~1.MP3.
Other noteworthy items about the player are that it features quality chipsets for video and audio, such as a 192 kHz/24-bit Audio DAC chipset by Cirrus Logic, a Mitsubishi MPEG video decoder, and 12-bit 108 MHz video DACs are from Analog Devices. The DV8400 uses a DSD (Direct Stream Digital) method to decode SACD audio information. The DSD format has a dynamic range of 120 dB and supports a playback frequency that extends up to 100 kHz, enabling playback that is nearly exact to the original signal. The addition of a bass management feature lets you control the amount of bass sent to your speakers, for better multi-channel sound with your DVD-Audio and SACD recordings. Also featured is a 2:3 pulldown output for progressive scan, which converts 24-fps film-based material to 60-fps TV/video playback, while also being able to handle video-based material. This results in a superior home theater experience that looks as close as possible to how it would at the movie theater. Marantz uses a Noise Shaped Video (NSV) feature to reduce noise in the video signal frequency band in order to enhance video signal linearity. The web site says it does not have this feature, but the manual and rest of the product information confirms that it actually does.
The remote, like many remotes for DVD players, is critical to using and setting up the player. The remote is ergonomically well designed and fits well into your hand. The buttons are soft and responsive (and glow in the dark). Most of the buttons are the same on any player, but there are a few differences. One worth noting is the function memory key. This allows you to program a macro that will allow you to quickly change multiple settings (even the ones buried in the OSD submenus) at the touch of one button. This is a much-needed feature, especially when switching between two-channel and 5.1 channel source material. The OSD features a helpful set-up navigator that quickly walks you through setting up the language, type of monitor, amp connections, digital formats that your amp supports and number of speakers. This feature saved me a ton of time and was much easier than hunting for all the settings that I need to change and getting frustrated in the process. There is an expert mode of the OSD that allows you to adjust just about everything from color saturation to the size of the speakers that you have in your system (for bass management). Bring some bread crumbs, though; it is easy to get lost in all the options and settings.