|Camelot Roundtable Mk.2 DVD Player|
|Home Theater Video Players DVD Players|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Wednesday, 01 May 2002|
The Camelot Technology RoundTable Mk.2 is a 24-bit/192 kHz progressive scan DVD player, with a host of audio and video features, that sells for $4,995. Camelot offers a factory upgrade path for the original RoundTable priced at $995 plus $25 return shipping fee, equaling the price as the factory Mk.2 version.
The Mk.2 Roundtable is packaged identically to the original (reviewed by Jerry Del Colliano on AudioRevolution.com in the October 2000 issue), measuring 17 inches wide, 12 inches deep and three-and-one-half inches in height. In fact, the only way you can physically tell the difference between the two is the slight yet distinctive clicking sound from the Mk.2’s DACs while sampling a CD or DVD. For those who are used to mass-market DVD players, this unit is sure to tickle your fancy. The RoundTable Mk.2 has a ruggedly built steel chassis, finished in black and accentuated by a one-quarter-inch thick aluminum faceplate, a stark and welcome difference from the stamped metal and molded plastic Japanese units that reside in most of our households.
An important feature of the RoundTable Mk.2 DVD player is its Progressive Scan output, which is licensed from Silicon Image, the makers of the DVDO I-Scan Pro. Progressive (line-doubled) video signals are capable of providing significant improvement over standard interlaced signals. Most owners of larger video systems and projectors are familiar with the unsightly horizontal scan lines, a part of interlaced video reproduction. The larger the set, the more visible the scan lines are. The solution, outside of high-definition feeds, is to employ a line-doubler or progressive video device (aka line tripler, quadrupler or video scaler). This will reduce the effects of scan lines, or spaces between the horizontal lines, when implemented correctly and will provide a smoother and more film-like picture. (See the DVDO I-Scan Pro review in the Audio Revolution archives for more detailed description of this technology.)
The Mk.2 possesses many of the same features as its predecessor. As with the original RoundTable, the Mk.2 is based on a heavily modified Panasonic A-110 DVD player. However, there are few Panasonic parts in this player. In fact, the only parts that Panasonic was responsible for are the transport and firmware, and my assumption is that Panasonic purchased the transport.
The video portion of the Mk.2 comes without change from the Mark I. The most significant modification with the Mk.2 is in its D/A conversion. The Mk.2 provides 24/192 kHz audio capabilities with automatic upconversion, compared to the 24/96 sampling capabilities of its predecessor. What this means is that the RoundTable Mk.2 will automatically upsample and decode the stereo digital audio track on any standard 16/44.1 kHz CD or 24/96 kHz DAD or DVD to 24/192 kHz accuracy – twice the sampling rate of its predecessor. As with the original Roundtable, this unit is equipped with the capability to decode the aging but sometimes tasty HDCD format, a format that has since been somewhat overshadowed by the significantly higher resolution and multi-channel capabilities of DVD-Audio and SACD.
The Mk.2 incorporates all new custom algorithms supporting the new high-performance 24/192 D/A converters and analog stage. Another significant upgrade with the Mk.2 is its elaborate Adaptive Time Filtering. This feature eliminates degradation associated with timing errors caused by the inevitable variance between the input and output clocks, an element that causes music to sound both digital and synthetic if not controlled or eliminated.
The Roundtable Mk.2 has a good variety of inputs and outputs to include RGB and Component video connections, S-Video and a rare VGA connection. I yearn for the day when the video industry finally rids itself of this low quality connection that it inherited from the computer industry. For sound, the RoundTable provides a coax digital out, I2S, Optical TOSlink connection, and PCM output. There is a switch on the rear of the unit that provides the ability to reposition 4:3 sources to the center of a 16:9 screen, a useful feature for those who possess video that is not available in the 16:9 or anamorphic format.
The transport mechanism is smooth, with a nice feel. The buttons on the front of the unit have a nice touch and, although sparse, provide any necessary functions as the majority of functions are found on the remote control. The display is moderate in size and can be easily seen from a close viewing position, but could be a challenge from any great distance. The remote control is constructed from plastic and provides all the necessary functions, although it felt on the flimsy side for a player of this price range. I did find, however, that the remote was easy to learn and manipulate, and was very user friendly. Camelot Technology president Howard Schilling said, "Camelot is a company about value… No money is spent on anything that does not bring value directly to the consumer." In this review, I will attempt to evaluate his success.
Music and Movies
I loaded "Training Day" (Warner Home Video), recipient of this year's Best Actor Oscar for Denzel Washington's performance, and a movie with no shortage of nail biting thrills. To best evaluate the video portion of the RoundTable, I connected it via the component video output, with its progressive scan signal, into the impressive Seleco HT200 (reviewed January 2002). Scenes that were dark had exceptional contrast. The RoundTable’s progressive signal provided a smooth picture void of visible scan lines at a viewing distance of 10 feet on a 90-inch projected picture. This tells me that large rear-projected pictures, 50 inches or greater, would likely provide a picture void of unsightly jagged, stair-stepped lines. I played close attention to motion-related artifacts and, although motion scenes did expose some motion-related distortion, the picture was very good. The color was very exemplary, providing a very satisfying picture.
I next selected the DVD of "Bridget Jones’s Diary" (Miramax Home Entertainment). In this movie, I immediately noticed detail that I had previously missed with other players. Subtle background details were not only evident, but also pleasantly satisfying. I instantly felt more informed -- a sentiment that will please every viewer. I then navigated through the RoundTable Mk.2’s onscreen menus and selected the PCM output. This allows you to listen to movies straight from the linear PCM audio track in 24-bit/192 kHz resolution. This is only available through the front two speakers, but it's something that I love for music-related video. Concert videos such as Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas' Cabo Wabo Birthday Bash Tour (Image Entertainment) were outstanding. I listened to this show through the 24/96 standard 5.1 track, then compared it to the 24/192 stereo PCM track. The PCM track was remarkably more resolute and provided a more dynamic and realistic concert reproduction. I didn’t miss the other three channels of information in this case.
To test the RoundTable Mk.2’s 24/192 upconvertion with a standard CD, I went for a personal sonic reference, Shawn Mullins' The First Ten Years (Sony/Columbia), and the song "Joshua." This song provides excellent vocal depth and resolution to gauge the RoundTables’ upsampled performance. Focus was very good and resolution was outstanding. Camelot provided me with the original Roundtable (Mark 1) for sonic comparison, which gave me the opportunity to compare the Mk.2’s 192 kHz performance to that of the 96 kHz upsampling on the original RoundTable. The original RoundTable provided a very respectable sound, with its 24/96 sampling creating a warm and detailed presentation. I grew quite fond of it, as it was very musical, with extended depth and coherence across the entire spectrum. The original sounded very neutral and somewhat laid-back in a positive way. Comparing the Mk.2 to the Mk. 1 utilizing the same music, I found that the newer edition had much greater resolution and detail. The Mk.2 had extended decay, provided much more detailed instrumental timbre, and had improved texture. I did find that the upper midrange of the Mk.2 sounded somewhat leaner than that of the original RoundTable. Initially, I missed the warmth of the original, yet the Mk.2 impressed me so much that this was eventually a non-factor. I clearly preferred all of the positive things that the Mk.2 did for my music.
The RoundTable Mk.2 cannot play DVD-Audio-encoded discs, other than the default surround mix, through the PCM digital output. This is a clear downside in today’s higher resolution multi-channel world. The Roundtable will play 24/96 DVD-Video discs, but when playing DTS encoded music, you need to navigate through menus to select this feature rather than having the unit automatically detect the source. Additionally, this player will not play many of the formats that today’s higher-technology players will, including CD-R and CD-RW.
Component video is the best way to connect your video source to your television set, providing a better quality picture than that of composite and S-video. The RoundTable outputs its progressive signal through the component video connection and does not give you the choice of a interlaced signal for those who don’t have a compatible set. Therefore, if you can't accept the progressive signal, you will be forced to connect to your set via the sub-par S or composite video connectors.
The Roundtable is a DVD player for the person who wants a single CD/DVD-Video player that will play video and audio discs at the highest level. It provides a high-quality progressive signal for the growing number of people who can accept and benefit from it. The RoundTable Mk. 2 employs state-of-the-art digital to analog converters that upsample to 24-bit/192 kHz automatically, improving absolutely every old CD you own when compared to comparably priced 16/44 players. For movies, the audio portion is equally exceptional. The RoundTable Mk.2 is well built and easy to operate. It is clearly a limitation that it does not play DVD-Audio, CD-R or CD-RW discs, but this is a minor complaint that falls into the "who really cares" category as far as I am concerned. This player is right for the person who doesn’t want to run dual players and wants top quality music reproduction. It’s one of those rare products that bridges the gap. At nearly $5,000, this isn’t the player for everyone, but on the other hand, I remember auditioning CD-only players just a few years ago that provided lower performance at a much higher price.