V Inc. Bravo D1 DVD Player 
Home Theater Video Players DVD Players
Written by Augie Bettencourt   
Saturday, 01 November 2003

Not long ago, in my infinite quest to squeeze the most out of the DVD format, I purchased a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC). I was lured into purchasing the HTPC by the promise of video nirvana with the ability to scale DVDs to resolutions that were previously limited to the most expensive video scalers. The problem with the HTPC was that by the time I was done turning on all my audio equipment and projector, and waited for the HTPC to cycle on and then configured my DVD set-up menu, I was ready to call it a night. I just wanted to watch “Apollo 13,” not re-enact its launch sequence. Not only was the HTPC cumbersome and difficult to use, but at $1,500 it wasn’t cheap. Needless to say, I’m over my HTPC phase now.

Recently, a company by the name of V Inc introduced a $199 DVD player called the Bravo D1, claiming to have many of the same advantages that were previously only available in HTPCs and expensive video scalers. The urgent question for me is, at $199, does it produce the same image quality of an expensive video scaler or HTPC and does it retain the same user-friendliness of a consumer-level DVD player?

At 16.9 inches wide, 12.2 inches deep, and a little more than two-and-a-quarter inches tall, the five-and-a-half pound, sleek and lightweight design of the Bravo D1 likely won’t impress the same people who purchase expensive DVD players commonly wrapped in exotic packages. What I can say is that I’ve seen DVD players costing twice as much with similar build quality. Even though it lacks the mass of some of the more wildly expensive “statement” DVD players, it does not lack in functionality or quality of internal parts. Based on the Sigma Designs EM8500 Media Processor, it will play DVD-Video, DVD-R, Video CD, and CD-R/RW. In addition, it also supports playback of MP3-CDs, MPEG-4 AVI movies or videos and JPEG picture CDs. The remote control is a rather uneventful, cluttered unit with many small buttons and it is not backlit, but it does get the job done. The back panel is where things get more exciting. The player offers RCA analog audio outputs and coaxial and optical digital audio outputs. It also offers composite, 4 pin din, component and s-video outputs and last, but definitely not least, DVI digital video output. The DVI (Digital Visual Interface) video output isn’t just another way to connect a DVD player to a display device like a projector, plasma screen or HDTV. Unlike analog video, DVI is a direct digital connection that eliminates the need for any digital to analog conversion, keeping the digital video signal completely in the digital domain until it is viewed. In theory, by eliminating digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital video conversions, there is a good chance of significantly improving picture quality. The Bravo D1 offers four different options for outputting through the DVI output signal including 480p, 720p and 1080i. 480p is the native resolution of the DVD format at 720x480. The three outputs allow the Bravo D1 to rescale the DVD format for output to match the native format of your plasma, LCD, DLP, DILA or LCOS display. This direct digital signal path allows the Bravo D1 to select a 1:1 pixel-mapping DVI output resolution that can match that of the display's native resolution. As simply defined as I can, 1:1 pixel-mapping is the process of matching up video-standard pixel resolutions to computer-standard pixel resolutions, so if you’re lucky enough to have a display device with one of the four different options for outputting through the Bravo D1’s DVI output, you will receive the benefit of 1:1 pixel mapping. If you're not cocky enough, don't despair. the Bravo D1's engine’s have ported a firmware option on their www.vinc.com website that allows you to insert custom "power strip-like" timing settings. So even if your display native resolution isn't one of the default outputs, you can have 1:1 pixel mapping perfection. As an example, my display device is the Marantz VP-12S2 DLP front projector, which uses the Texas Instruments' Mustang/HD2 DMD. It has the exact same resolution (1280_720 pixels) as a 720p output, which happens to be one of the Bravo D1’s offerings. This does not mean that DVDs will have the equivalent resolution of a 720p HDTV source, but depending on the Bravo D1’s ability to scale a DVD (720x480) to the native resolution of the Marantz VP-12S2 (1280x720), it could have a huge impact on image quality.

I connected the analog audio outputs of the Bravo D1 to my Krell HTS 7.1 preamp/processor for two-channel audio listening and connected Bravo D-1’s digital audio output for 5.1 audio movie watching. The DVI output of the player was directly connected to the Marantz VP-12S2 with a 10-meter V-Inc. DVI cable. Once I connected the DVI output of the Bravo D1 to the DVI input of the Marantz VP-12S2, it eliminated video adjustments except those still of importance - contrast and brightness. Now all DVD Movie watching was done with an unaltered direct digital image.

The Movies and Music
The Bravo D-1 is the first DVD player I’ve had in my home theater with a DVI output, so I couldn’t wait to try it out. I was able to quickly navigate through the Bravo D-1’s intuitive, onscreen menu and quickly had the DVD player set to its 720p output, which gave me 1:1 pixel mapping and a direct digital connection. I started my viewing session with one of my favorite reference discs, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (New Line Home Entertainment). Chapter 21, the exciting scene where Liv Tyler’s Arwen is being chased on horseback with the near-dead Frodo (Elijah Wood), has never looked better. This exciting scene offers majestic camera sweeps through fields and forests, with trees whipping by. The combination of the Bravo D-1 and Marantz VP-12S2 handled this fast-motion scene without any motion artifacts and color reproduction was rich and vivid, with perfect flesh tones and lush greens. Immediately obvious was the increased clarity of the image, as if a veil of video-haze was removed. Color rendition was at least as good as I have ever seen, as was contrast and sharpness, but it was definitely a much cleaner and clearer image. The difference in clarity was astounding.

Anytime I evaluate a video product, I like to use the “Moulin Rouge” DVD (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), which I have always found visually astounding. Chapter 4 is a favorite, because it epitomizes the film’s dizzying, psychedelic imagery with richly colored sets and costumes that seem to pop off the screen. The Bravo D1 and Marantz VP-12S2 proved to be a winning combination, as I was treated to the most lush, saturated colors I have ever seen in my viewing room. Images were smooth and had excellent detail, without having a digital appearance. Once again, the single most impressive aspect was it appeared that a layer of video grunge had been lifted and the image looked pristine.

Chapter 22 in “Pearl Harbor” (Touchtone Home Video) is visually tantalizing, with whizzing planes, dropping torpedoes and explosions. This DVD is a sparkling clean print with terrific blacks and excellent contrast. Colors were vivid and had a glossy quality that is rich with detail, especially the outdoor scenes, which are wonderfully lifelike and have never appeared better than through the Bravo D1. The Bravo D1 created one of the smoothest, most filmlike images I have seen in my home theater so far. With stunning clarity, the Bravo D1 proved that the DVD format still has much to offer until HD DVD is someday available.

“Shrek” (DreamWorks) is an amazing direct-digital transfer, so I was anxious to see how it would look, played by the Bravo D1, without any digital to analog conversions. In Chapter 6, as Shrek and Donkey trudge through a field of sunflowers, lesser DVD players can have the field crawling with noise and motion artifacts, but not the Bravo D1. I watched for character outlines against the blue-sky background and saw no jagged lines on the characters’ outlines. All I saw was an incredibly clean, crisp and clear picture that was not marred by grain or any other video imperfections - an image that was superior to an anything I have seen in my system, regardless of price.

For music evaluation, I began my listening session with Dave Matthews Band’s Busted Stuff (RCA Records). The first song I listened to was “Digging a Ditch.” The sound of Matthews’ voice was good. It lacked the natural sound when compared to higher-priced music players, yet performed as well or better than other players in the $400 and below price range. Overall the Bravo D1 performed admirably and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it sounded.

Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising (Columbia Records) is one of my favorite recent rock recordings. The first track I listened to was “You’re Missing.” The weathered maturity of Springsteen’s voice shone on this track and I was impressed by the Bravo D1’s ability to deliver great detail, if only on occasion exhibiting a slight shrill quality. Dynamics and clarity were on par with many other more expensive DVD players I’ve listened to and bass response was relatively tight and accurate.

Next I listened to Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me” (Capitol Records) and her hit single of the same name. Jones’ voice lacked some of its lush quality heard in higher-priced players, but it did seem to retain a good sense of presence in my listening room. I noticed a slight sibilance and glare on occasion that I don’t usually hear with my high priced rig, but overall, the Bravo D1 performed well, especially considering its retail price of $199.

The Downside
At $199, the Bravo D1 is an incredible buy, but it does have its downsides. Sure, the lightweight build quality could be better, the remote control could be a little less cluttered and backlit. The sound from its digital audio output was as good or better than anything I’ve heard in its price range, but I have heard other DVD players that sound a bit better from their analog audio outputs. I said better, but I wouldn’t say dramatically better, and these are minor complaints about such great product.

Until now, the ability to scale the DVD format to alternative resolutions was previously limited to the most expensive video scalers and cumbersome HTPCs, but the introduction of the Bravo D1 offers a cost effective and practical solution. It offers four different options for outputting the DVD through the DVI output signal, with 480p, 720p and 1080i, with 480p as the native resolution of the DVD format at 720x480. Plus a custom setting that output and allow the Bravo D1 to rescale the native DVD format for outputs to match the format of your plasma, LCD, DLP, DILA or LCOS display. This direct digital signal path allows the Bravo D1 to select a 1:1 pixel-mapping DVI output resolution that can match that of the display's native resolution and offers stunning images at incredibly affordable prices. The Bravo D1 is a truly revolutionary product. There are no mass-produced DVD players with this much scaling ability available, although I’m sure many will follow. This is the type of product a designer label manufacturer could spray gloss black, slap some wood side panels on and sell for $1,500. Is it perfect? No. Its remote control could be better and, if you compare its analog audio quality to other more expensive DVD players, it could stand to be improved upon, but these are minor criticisms for such an amazing and affordably priced product. Consistently, all I saw was an incredibly clean, crisp and clear picture that had a level of clarity I have previously never seen from the DVD format. With its stunning picture quality, ease of use and affordable price, the Bravo D1 is to video what the movie Star Wars was to sci-fi enthusiasts – simply amazing.
Manufacturer V Inc.
Model Bravo D1 DVD Player
Reviewer Auggie Bettencourt

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