|Marantz DV8400 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Video Players DVD Players|
|Written by Matt Evert|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
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Bring on the music! I have always been drawn to the blues, so why not use a legend in the business, Robert Cray. His album Time Will Tell (Silverline Records) is rich with emotion and tells stories of perseverance and hope. Leave it to the blues to remind you of the bad times and to be grateful for the good times. “Survivor” is a prodigal example of just that kind of reminder. Cray’s electric guitar work, married with the classic blues-style piano work from Jim Pugh, really demonstrated the midrange details that the DV8400 is capable of. Some of the guitar picking danced near the edge of the high-frequency range of the audio spectrum, yet still remained lush. A cool demonstration of the soundstage was revealed as the gradual sound of marching feet slowly became noticeable towards the left of the stage and floated to the right side of the stage. The marching sound eventually became so prominent that the lows began to shake my couch. Nice, the neighbors love that.
Cray’s electric blues sitar work “Back Door Slam” really was mind-numbing. Extensive whammy bar and pick work on this track was so sweet. A walking bass guitar with a punchy bass drum and snare really got my butt moving in my couch. I was especially enamored of Cray’s solo at the end of this track, his jam with the organ player was pure bliss. This song was much busier with a larger array of instruments than his other tracks, yet still the DV8400 was dynamic enough to display all those melodies to the satisfaction of my ears.
The prior music selection was a little light on the bass elements of music, so naturally a hip-hop selection such as Behind The Front (Interscope Records) by the Black Eyed Peas would more than cover for it. “Fallin’ Up” was a powerful display of bass and snare drums. I had to turn my subwoofer down a bit, since the dominant bass was starting to impact my ability to hear other elements of the track, like the sample of a sick frog or toad that would chime in periodically. That is the thing with hip-hop: not everything is an instrument so you kind of have to guess where it might have originally come from. Some bold chirping of the trumpets and crisp sounds of high hats managed to dazzle my ears at the high frequencies. It seems all the rappers got some air time on this track and, surprisingly, I was able to place their positions in the soundstage. If you can hear soundstaging on a hip-hop record, it’s a decent recording.
“Clap Your Hands” was rich with dozens of different samples and instruments to create a complex symphony of music. Tamborines jiggling, an old-school pipe organ, a chorus of men chanting and clapping their hands, and some impromptu mouth noises and clicks that Biz Markie would be proud of. I will admit that chorus of “clap your hands now” was a little harsh on my ears. For some reason, the background chorus’s lyrics became fatiguing on my ears. Having tried the same track on my NAD CD player, the issue appears to be with the recording and not the player.
The Transporter (20th Century Fox) was one action-packed flick. The nerdy guy from Snatch, Jason Statham, somehow takes a complete role change and becomes Jean-Claude Van Damme. There’s Hollywood for you. The film does not take too many breaks from the action and begins with a car chase sequence that now is part of my demo for friends coming over to check out my system. It has it all: killer driving, sirens, puking, humor, one-liners, car stunts, and of course lots of destroyed cop cars. There was a splendid bit of rap music with record scratching jamming as background music throughout the scene that I thought was tastefully done. The thumping of the BMW 735’s tires as Statham tore up a flight of terraced streets in Nice was brilliant. The subtle sounds in the scene were never obstructed by the excitement of the more dominant sound effects. An example of this was that even as sirens were screaming and tires were squealing, you could still hear the gear shifts, the passengers talking in the background, and distant honks of horns. I detest BMWs, but even I would consider getting a 735 (and displacing some yuppie from his car) after watching this film.
The color palettes used in this film were amazing for an action film. The end of the “butt-kicking time” scene was a perfect example of this. The inside of the villain’s house was mostly done in shades of red, the hospital was all shades of blue, the outside of Statham’s house was mostly tan hues, and lastly, there were vivid greens inside Statham’s house in the morning. The DV8400 really wowed me with this impressive display of colors. Unlike the Pioneer Elite DV47Ai, there were no green flashes or other video issues encountered when using this player. The sound on this disc was amazing. The scene where Statham’s house is used as an artillery range and blown to pieces was a fine example. The thugs shot a rocket into the tower of the house and sent it crashing through the ceiling and onto a table in the kitchen where Statham and the heroine were hiding. The crash of the tower and the falling of dirt and building materials enveloped the listener. It really seemed like a tower had fallen next to me and dirt was raining down all around me, a very convincing sound effect and one that reminds us all why we spend our hard-earned money on home theater gear.
On the humorous side, the Wayans Brothers are hard to beat. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka is a classic example of their warped sense of humor. The young gang competition featuring events such as the senior mugging contest and the stripping a car clean contest was a crack-up. The all-star cast includes ex-football great Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes of Shaft theme fame. The fly buzzing around the listener when Jack Spade enters his old bedroom that was kept literally as he left it ten years ago was very convincing. I needed to double check that my cat had not killed some poor rodent and left it as a present again. The soundtrack was awesome and it did feel like someone threw me into some ‘70s time warp with all the pimps and zany outfits used in this film. The funky theme music was full of wha-wha-ed guitar and orchestral instruments to challenge the mid-range portion of the audio spectrum.
Michael Jackson has always been surrounded by controversy, from his hair catching on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial to his pet chimpanzee, to his nearly inexplicable relationships with young children. It is easy to forget that he is also a gifted singer and magical dancer. History on Film Volume 2 (Epic Music Video) is a collection of some of Jackson’s revolutionary music videos. Before the boy bands and Britney Spears, Jackson was making MTV videos that had everyone was trying to figure out the dance moves (okay, at least I was). “Thriller” is simply one the best videos ever with its great music, revolutionary special effects and awesome choreography. The crickets chirping in the background as Jackson and his date walk down the dark streets only to discover Jackson’s hidden secret: he is a werewolf. Major drag, right? Not to fear, he is a werewolf who can dance. Whew! The eerie dark set contrasted against Jackson’s red leather jacket bled a little, but I am sure the recording of the film had something to do with that (it was 1983, after all). Jackson’s glossy jheri curls and tight pants are well reproduced by the DV8400, not to mention his lighting fast spins and robot-like popping. The “ows” and the “whoo-hoos” emanating from the King of Pop span both the mid and high-frequency range, all the while sounding smooth and detailed.
“Smooth Criminal” keeps up with Jackson’s legendary singing and dancing skills in this 1920s speak-easy spoof. Zoot suits and flapper girl outfits are vivid in color and solidify the theme of the film: that gangsters can really dance. Naturally. The trumpets and keyboards are dominant towards the main dance scene at the end, but never harsh on the ears. The snapping of Jackson’s fingers and the atonal sounds of the piano keys being walked on by the black cat were also well-reproduced. Let’s not forget the flipping of the coin across the room and into the jukebox to kick off the dance scene. Smooth baby, smooth.