V Inc. Bravo D2 DVD Player 
Home Theater Video Players DVD Players
Written by Ben Shyman   
Thursday, 01 July 2004

While DVD has been around for over five years, only recently, with the proliferation of digital displays (plasma, LCD, etc.), have home theater enthusiasts been able to appreciate the power of digital video. With the popular acceptance of a new industry digital video standard, Digital Visual Interface (DVI), it is now possible to watch DVDs while keeping the signal in the digital domain without ever having to convert the signal to analog. The conversion of digital video to analog video is undesirable for a digital display because the resulting picture usually contains annoying artifacts.

V, Inc. is a relatively new entrant into the consumer electronics marketplace. They are most famous for making products like low-cost plasmas for other name brands, yet they also sell a growing line of high-value, performance-oriented video products like plasmas, LCDs, DVD players and HD tuners under their own brand V, Inc. Their products are sold direct at vinc.com, as well as some wholesale retailers like Costco.

Two ideologies make V, Inc. the
company and their products unique. First, the company makes products that are for practical consumers looking for the absolute most modern technologies without breaking the bank. Second, their products (with the exception of the 13-inch LCD display) are all DVI-enabled.

The build quality of the Bravo D2 is perfectly reasonable for a player at its modest $249 price point. The front panel is a snazzy polished silver and is extremely clean, bearing only the most necessary controls. The blue LCD is large and easy to read and complements the player’s silver font facade. The remote control is comfortable, uncluttered and provides for comprehensive control of the Bravo D2, containing all the usual functionality found on typical disc player remotes. The rear panel of the Bravo D2 is simple, with composite, S-video, component and DVI video outputs, and analog and digital optical and coaxial audio outputs.

Setting up the Bravo D2 was a snap. After unpacking the unit and reading the 30-page user guide (yes, even reviewers read user guides and you should, too), which is written in plain and simple language, I connected the unit directly to my Fujitsu 50-inch plasma, using Transparent DVI cable for video and to my Proceed AVP2 preamp, using coaxial digital audio cable. During the initial installation, it was necessary to make a one-time connection of the Bravo D2 to the display using composite video cable, since the player comes preconfigured to this output. Using composite is therefore the only way to visualize the onscreen display during first-time set-up.

While the Bravo D2 has the usual component, S-video and composite video outputs, the player, in my opinion, should mainly be used with the DVI output. V, Inc. offers high-quality digital video at this price because it is not investing big engineering and manufacturing dollars in high-end and expensive digital-to-analog technologies found in higher-priced disc players. Think of the Bravo D2 as a digital transport for your music and movies – outputting digital video via DVI and digital audio via either the optical or coaxial outputs. Hooking the Bravo D2 up this way provides the most bang for the buck and, because the digital-to-analog conversion is done outboard for audio and video stays in the digital domain right to your display, the Bravo D2 can be considered even for high-end theaters where $249 players are not commonplace.

The onscreen display of the Bravo D2, much like the user guide, cannot be any simpler to understand, which is a pleasure. When one boils it down, there are only three critical decisions in a proper set-up: video output and native rate, audio output and TV type. I configured the player to output video in DVI 720p to match the native rate of my Fujitsu Plasmavision display. The Bravo D2 can output digital video in the most common native rates, including 480p, 720p, 1080i, 852x480 (this last is DVI-only) plus a custom setting if the user knows the display's specific timing. I configured the player to output audio in “encoded digital” via the coaxial digital output. Lastly, I set the TV type to 16:9.

Calibration of a top performing video device is essential. My Fujitsu plasma was ISF calibrated for gray levels by a professional video expert for each of my inputs. As an additional and very cool new feature of the D2, you can adjust brightness, color, contrast and color levels through the DVI inputs. These tools allow you to get the top level of performance with your DVI device for those looking or needing the tools to take the player's performance to highest level.

The Movies
I began my review with Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece “Magnolia” (New Line Cinema). As the much-anticipated follow-up to his blockbuster “Boogie Nights,” Anderson in “Magnolia” uses a similar cast and cinematic style as its predecessor but with an entirely different storyline. To attempt to describe what this three-hour motion picture is about would require another dedicated review. What you need to know is that “Magnolia” has an all-star cast and totally original plot. With beautiful color and many unique camera angles, this DVD is fun to watch and ideal to use to audition the Bravo D2.

In Chapter 2, the color rendition was very good and details in the facial hair of Julianne Moore’s elderly and bedridden husband were clear. Even when the camera panned, his facial details remained as sharp as they should on a DVI-enabled player. I would have liked to see a somewhat sharper edge to the picture near the black bars, where there was some slight ghosting. In Chapter 5, the Bravo D2 struck a nice balance between good contrast and brightness, thus presenting the finer details of John C. Reilly’s black police uniform with precise clarity. Many DVD players in this situation would have washed out or overly saturated the black uniform, making the wrinkles and texture of the fabric less perceptible, but not the Bravo D2. The chapter revealed some graininess between the picture frames and on the walls of the apartment, which reflects how the disc was mastered.

Next I decided to watch the special extended DVD version of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (New Line Home Entertainment). Much like the first DVD in the trilogy, “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” is a visual buffet of the grandest type and is undoubtedly among the best DVDs available today. The transfer from film to DVD is unquestionably a reference standard in my book.

The details in the costumes and the colors of landscapes are incredibly lifelike throughout “The Two Towers.” In Chapter 59, “The Flooding of Isengard,” the texture of the bark and beards of the Ents was clearly rendered. Furthermore, the mountainside and dam which floods Isengard below had an appearance that was detailed and visually pleasing. The Bravo D2 did not present a picture with the outstanding crispness and depth that grants a transparent, three-dimensional appearance, as with many high-end players costing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but it definitely put forth a picture well beyond many players its price range. In Scene 66, “Gollum’s Plan,” the Bravo D2 brought the CGI Gollum to life with confidence. The few filthy strands of hair left on the emaciated and deformed Gollum were clear and reasonably sharp. Details like the blood-filled veins in Gollum’s eyes and his decaying teeth were quite clear. The Bravo D2 brought out the creepy and sinister nature of Peter Jackson’s recreation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s amazing Gollum character. If I were to criticize, much as with “Magnolia,” there was some occasional graininess and edginess in the picture and the edges of the screen could have been sharper, but for the most part, the picture was free from many annoying motion artifacts and my movie-watching experience of “The Two Towers” was totally enjoyable.

What more can be said about the amazing series of animation films that have come out of Pixar Animation Studios? With movies like “Toy Story” and “Monsters Inc.,” Pixar is on a roll and has become the Hollywood studio that can seemingly do no wrong. Its most recent blockbuster, “Finding Nemo” (Disney/Pixar Animation Studios), said by many to be Pixar’s best film yet, is a humorous yet emotional feel-good, father-son adventure that is in my view a must-have for your DVD collection. The soundtrack is dynamic and the 16x9 video presentation is so sharp and contains such deeply saturated colors that it almost literally leaps off the screen.

In Chapter, 16, “Sea Turtles,” Nemo’s dad Marlin finds himself swimming in the East Australian Current off the Great Barrier Reef with a school of giant sea turtles. When Crush the sea turtle suggests that Marlin hold on during a rush in the current, the animation moves quickly with a series of rushing waves. The texture of the water with its bubbles and saturated blues and brilliant whites was satisfactorily rendered on the Bravo D2. Chapter 30, “Back on the Reef,” is among the most colorful chapters in the animation and the corals and vast collection of brightly-hued fish looked truly fantastic. The reef’s sandy bottom had excellent textural detail and sunlight reflections from the sky above cast over the reef gave the water a natural liquid feel. The clownfish Marlin and Nemo the Regal Tang Dory looked first-rate throughout “Finding Nemo.” The graininess I witnessed with “Magnolia” and “The Two Towers” was far less perceptible here, no doubt the result of “Finding Nemo” being digital animation rather than originally shot on film.

The 2002 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, “A Beautiful Mind” (Dreamworks SKG/Universal Pictures), was the final disc I watched on the Bravo D2. The movie is among director Ron Howard’s greatest achievements and stars Hollywood A-list actor Russell Crowe and the strikingly beautiful Jennifer Connelly.

In the beginning of Chapter 12, blacks were deeply rendered on my Plasmavision during the high-speed car chase. The scene is lit only by streetlamps, car headlights and the moon, yet I was never found the action difficult to follow, especially during quick camera pans where digital artifacts would have been present with component video on comparable DVD players. When Crowe meets Connelly at their home, reds in the furniture were well saturated, flesh tones were properly balanced and details such as the intricate wallpaper patterns were reasonably sharp and clear. In Chapter 14, the tiled walls of Crowe’s cell were somewhat grainy and soft, but the side walls which were angled on the screen were absent the digital artifacts which would no doubt have put many DVD players on the fritz as the camera panned backwards. I give the Bravo D2 very high marks in this area.

The Music
I used the Bravo D2 exclusively for listening to music during the weeks it was in my system. Listening to my usual diet of classic rock, jazz and hard rock, I quickly came to the conclusion that the Bravo D2 is a quality CD transport. The limiting factor to musical enjoyment will probably rest more in the quality of digital-to-analog converters (DAC) in your AV preamplifier than with the Bravo D2. This is true for most music disc transports in your average home theater system, where speakers, amplification, speaker cables and DAC conversion in the preamp are the bottlenecks to great sound. This is not to suggest that a player doesn’t make a huge difference, just to say that in systems where the Bravo D2 will most likely be found, it will not become the limiting factor to great sound. When listening to movie soundtracks, the Bravo D2 did an equally excellent job of sending encoded digital to my processor, which added greatly to my listening enjoyment and time spent with the Bravo D2. The D2 did specifically well on sending out the digital output of 5.1 albums, such as DTS CDs like Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth, as well as the default tracks on many of the better DVD-Audio titles out there, including Yes’ Fragile and Queen’s A Night At The Opera.

The Downside
In my mind, the Bravo D2 is a digital audio and video transport more than anything else. Video quality was exceptional on the DVI output, although there was occasional and slight ghosting, graininess and video noise. These critiques must be put in proper perspective in that the slight maladies I mention are far less than you might see from the component or S-video output on most DVD players near this price.

V, Inc. could improve the speed of the Bravo D2, which at times is painfully slow for this gotta-get-what-I-want-when-I-want-it New York GenXer. I know the price of the unit is one of its calling cards, but if the unit could have somehow added DVD-Audio and SACD playback even for $200 over the current price, the player would still be one of the best values in the industry. Maybe those specs would make for another higher-priced product?

At the end of the day, V, Inc. is offering outstanding value in the Bravo D2. If you own a digital display with a DVI input, you are making a monumental mistake in not auditioning the Bravo D2. If you are on a budget, buying the Bravo D2 affords the luxury of spending less on your disc transport and more on your display, speakers and processor. I could see the Bravo D2 fitting in comfortably with any DVI-enabled display and a mid-priced home theater receiver from Denon, Pioneer, Yamaha, Marantz, Integra or Sony. Add speakers and you are on your way to exceptional home theater without going broke. I can also see many home theater enthusiasts using the Bravo D2 exclusively for DVD and buying a separate SACD or DVD-Audio player for high-resolution music. This would be a knockout combination and an ideal way to get the most bang for the buck when choosing components for your home theater set-up.

While it is totally unfair to compare the Bravo D2 to my reference system, which contains a $3,000 Lexicon RT-10 Universal DVD/SACD player and a $4,500 Faroudja NRS-DVI video processor, I frequently switched back and forth during each disc in this review to accurately judge the video limitations of the Bravo D2. While there was no comparison in picture quality, one could consider it a powerful compliment that the Bravo D2 was even able to “hang” with my system and withstand A/B comparisons against a disc player and video processor that combined cost over 30 times as much. At $249, the V, Inc. Bravo D2 is an amazing DVD player in terms of performance and especially value.
Manufacturer V Inc.
Model Bravo D2 DVD Player
Reviewer Ben Shyman

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