|Philips DVX 8000 Multimedia Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Kim Wilson|
|Thursday, 01 April 1999|
Perhaps, the most compelling new concept in consumer electronics is the idea of convergence; which is the integration of real-time audio, video and data. Not surprisingly, Philips Electronics, is the first manufacturer to provide a practical and cost-conscience answer to convergence, the DVX 8000 Multimedia Home Theater. The DVX 8000 is the world's only A/V preamp/tuner that also combines a DVD drive, a line doubler, and a personal computer in the same chassis. Marantz developed the audio portion, incorporating Dolby Digital and THX's ReEQ(TM) circuit.
Computers have become so prevalent in our lives that the idea of integrating them with our A/V gear doesn't sound as unnatural as it might have a few years ago. The powerful on-board computer is equipped with a 233MHz Pentium MMX(TM) processor, 32 MB RAM, a 3.1 GB hard drive, and a 3.5" floppy drive plus a 33.6 KBPS modem. The DVD drive can also access CD-ROM's and ultimately DVD-ROM's. In addition to the programming software used to set up the DVX 8000, the computer is pre-loaded with Windows-95 among other entertainment-oriented software.
The supplied RC2000 Universal Learning Remote (also marketed separately by Marantz for $200) can learn all the functions of your existing components and is one of the most sophisticated universal remotes currently available that isn't a touch screen system. All programming for the RC2000 can be neatly saved to a floppy disk.
Installation and Calibration
Even with the plethora of connections and computer cards on the rear panel, the unit doesn't have a cramped appearance. There are six analog and three digital audio inputs (RF, coax, optical). A total of four video inputs are provided with both composite and S-Video connections with two composite and two S-Video outputs. An additional set of A/V inputs is provided on the front panel. To facilitate the built-in line doubler, a SVGA (RGB) output (DB-15 connector) is provided for hook-up to data grade projectors and monitors. The usual outputs for L/C/R, stereo surround and LFE (low frequency effects) are provided for sending the signal to external amplifiers.
As for computer-related connections, there are two USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports for peripherals such as printers and scanners. A game port is located on the front panel to connect a joystick. Phone jacks are provided, making it possible to log onto the Internet using the internal modem. Upon request, an Ethernet connection can be factory installed. TV can be watched on your computer desktop, when the cable line is attached to the TV/Cable antenna input.
It's recommended that you power up the DVX 8000 from the standby mode. Every time you power up from the wall outlet, it takes at least a minute for the unit to become operational, as the computer must boot up.
For the initial set-up, it's best to use the wireless remote, rather then the RC2000. Using the graphically rich on-screen displays you can calibrate convergence, grayscale and color on any TV or projector. The next step is to set-up the amp for 5.1 audio playback. Using the built-in mouse on the wireless keyboard, each speaker level can be adjusted by pointing and clicking on the desired channel and then clicking on the button marked Test Tone. The tone continues until you click on another channel. Believe it or not, DVX 8000 actually one of the simplest systems I've ever set-up.
Testing the DVX 8000
While the DVX 8000 was conceived to be a balanced and comprehensive home entertainment product, I have to admit that I approached this product with some skepticism in that it offers so many features in one chassis. When I immediately encountered DVD playback problems, I was afraid my suspicions were confirmed. The picture from both the internal driver and an external source (Pioneer DVL-91 CD/LD/DVD combo) were distorted and pixilated. Fortunately, it was a simple fix. The unit was shipped with the full screen mode set to 640x480 and I only needed to reset this parameter to 720x480 to get an acceptable picture. In fact, it was a splendid picture, great colors and super sharp images from both the internal and external DVD/LD sources. After that bit of troubleshooting, it was smooth sailing.
Playback from the internal DVD is simple enough, just choose DVD from the front panel input selector or tap the DVD button on the RC2000. Insert the disc and it starts automatically, choosing Dolby Digital playback when appropriate. The DVD's playback functions can be executed from the RC2000 or wireless keyboard.
Any video source can be viewed (with full surround sound) in a separate window on your desktop, allowing users to peruse the Internet or do some other computer-related function while watching the video.
The DVX 8000 provides a SVGA connection rather than the more common component outputs found on top-end DVD Players. To utilize it's built-in line doubling feature you must use this connection. To interface the DVX 8000's SVGA connection to a TV monitor or projector with component inputs it would be necessary to get a special adapter. Since, my current reference video system doesn't include a TV with component inputs I wasn't able to evaluate the effectiveness of the line doubler. Fortunately, at the recent Hi-Fi '98 I had the good fortune to see the DVX 8000 hooked up to a Philips 32PD8000 progressive scan monitor designed specifically as a companion piece for the DVX 8000. I immediately witnessed increased color saturation with more image detail and depth.
The sound quality of the unit was generally satisfactory though it exhibited a bright quality, particularly, noticeable on pop CD's such as Janet Jackson's, The Velvet Rope. Despite the brightness, the DVX 8000 didn't exhibit any harshness and overall the tonal balance was quite pleasant. Imaging is slightly restricted and heavily layered tracks such as "You" from The Velvet Rope CD feel slightly compressed, loosing the depth and warmth I experienced with the Theta Casablanca that I was using as a reference processor. 5.1 audio DVD sources such as Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (Warner Reprise Video) were enveloping, offering superb separation.
There are some righteous explosions in the film The Fifth Element (Columbia) demonstrating seemingly unlimited dynamic range with extreme clarity. The DVX 8000 did remarkably well, but it wasn't able to reproduce the most explosive scenes with the same level of detail I obtained from my much more pricey reference system. Movie soundtracks were definitely loud enough, but microdynamics and the ultra details suffered.
The THX Re-EQ circuit compensates for the brightness often experienced from movie soundtracks played in a small listening environment. Both DVD and LD sources benefited from the insertion of the ReEQ circuit, smoothing out the top end, for a more cohesive spectral balance.
The learning curve on the DVX 8000 is a bit steeper than your average digital processor due to the sheer number of features and functions it offers. Using a computer to run through my usual five-channel set-up seemed cumbersome at first, but with some practice on the keyboard it was actually quite efficient. Now if you're a wiz with Windows-95 you're a step ahead of me, as the operating system was a bit foreign to this die-hard Mac user.
I found it somewhat disquieting that the track/chapter numbers for the internal DVD drive are only displayed on-screen and that this information couldn't be obtained with a fast glance to the front panel LCD display. Generally, I don't have my TV on when listening to music, so it was most frustrating when playing CDs. Moreover, there is no time elapsed information available anywhere.
The most obvious, and potentially egregious, omission is no factory installed provisions for DTS. Not only is there no DTS decoder built-in, there are no inputs for adding a stand-alone DTS decoder either. However, Philips informed me that MSB Technology will upgrade the unit to include a DTS decoder for $700.
While it had nothing to do with the operation or performance of the unit, the fan located on the rear panel was seriously distracting. The fan is always on because of the computer. While it's not particularly apparent when in use, it is still raises the noise floor by a few dB. I have an open rack, so, I hope that an enclosed cabinet will mask the noise more effectively when the unit is in standby.
Despite some of its quirkiness, I applaud Philips for this breakthrough product. Potentially ushering in a new era in product design, the success and reputation of the DVX 8000 will bear strongly on future products from all manufacturers. For this reason, the DVX 8000 should be looked at as a very significant piece of equipment.
Overall, the DVX 8000's sonic performance was very good, and general operation (without the computer) isn't all that different than other processors. Anyone on a budget who wants to set up a complete 5.1 capable home entertainment system complete with computer and Internet access should give the DVX 8000 some serious consideration.