Integra DPS-10.5 Universal Disc Player 
Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Thursday, 01 September 2005

With the advent of high-quality universal players, the need for dedicated CD, SACD, DVD-Audio and DVD players is a thing of the past. Equipment racks around the world gave a sigh of relief and those people out there who were fretting over the DVD-Audio/SACD format war could rest easy, knowing they can have both formats at their fingertips in one single player. Integra has a very nice lineup of universal players for all budgets, with the crowning jewel in their roster being the $2,500 DPS-10.5 THX Ultra certified universal player.

Anyone who scoffs at the price of this universal player compared to the lower-priced players they see advertised by electronics megastores in the Sunday newspapers need to hold this it to see that it’s in a whole different stratosphere of quality. One look at the front panel of the DPS-10.5 tells you that you are dealing with some serious playback hardware. Embossed DVD-Audio and SACD logos sit side by side underneath the disc tray. Along the bottom left side of the player are white logos from DTS, Dolby Digital, HDMI, OPlus FlexScaling, VLSC (Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry) and THX Ultra certification. The solid aluminum frame and brass feet of the DPS-10.5, along with its internal high current toroidal transformer and generous power supply, give the player a hefty weight of 26.7 pounds and help isolate it from vibrations. The DPS-10.5 features Wolfson 192 kHz/24-Bit Audio DACs and separate internal power supplies for audio and video elements. Silicon Image Deinterlacing takes interlaced signals and converts them to progressive for flicker-free images, corrects errors on the DVD, and reduces scan lines and motion-interlacing artifacts. A system Integra calls “Dual Direct Digital” is incorporated in the player, with high-purity heavy-gauge shielded internal cables that can output DTS, PCM and Dolby Digital, while simultaneously sending out a down-mixed stereo PCM version to another location, perfect for multi-zone set-ups.

Besides the obvious playback formats that you’d expect from a quality universal player, the DPS-10.5 can play back MPEG1 Audio Layer 3 format 44.1 or 48 kHz fixed-bit rate MP3 files from a disc. It can also read a disc full of JPEGs, so if you are jonesing to show off pictures from your last vacation to your friends and family on the big-screen TV, you can show any .jpg or .jpeg file as long as it is less than five MB in size. Video CD and DVD-VR are also supported formats on the DPS-10.5.

The back of the Integra DPS-10.5 is even more impressive than the front, as the connectivity options are among the most compete for any player I have ever seen. Moving up from the Adcom GDV-850, a nice player in its own right, to the DPS-10.5 was like stepping into a new world. The single most important output for my system, and most likely yours if you have a modern HDTV display, is the HDMI out. This single connection allows the video signal, along with digital audio, to be passed from the DVD player to either a receiver or AV preamp that has HDMI switching (or DVI with an adapter), or can be run directly into the display, removing the levels of digital to analog to digital conversion that occurs with component video connections. Finding a DVD player with an HDMI out is becoming increasingly easy. However, the DPS-10.5 has more horsepower behind its HDMI out than your average player. Featuring an internal Oplus FlexScale High Definition Scaler, DVDs can be upconverted and are then sent out the HDMI output at a whole host of resolutions. A button on the remote called resolution allows you to easily go through the various combinations of resolutions, frequencies and screen aspect ratios. One press of the button shows the current resolution. A second press of the button, if done quickly, switches to the next one. In my system, the optimal setting was 1280x720p 50/60 Hz. This is the native rate of my display and, although sending the TV 1920x1080i and letting the TV scale it back down looked good as well, the native rate seemed to have the smoothest picture.

For multi-channel audio output, the DPS-10.5 features two i.LINK digital outputs. This is a multi-channel audio connection that links with a receiver or AV preamp that has a corresponding i.LINK input, eliminating the need for the six analog interconnects that are used for listening to surround sound music in DVD-Audio and SACD. The i.LINK S400 sockets can output up to 192 kHz/24-bit digital audio. In an Integra exclusive mode called “5.1 -7.1,” multi-channel DVD-Audio and SACD surround sound can be output in full 7.1, adding surround back channels when using the analog outputs.

Component video (Y, Pr, Pb) outputs with RCA connectors and the higher-end BNC connectors that are common in broadcast-quality video applications are included on the DPS-10.5. Two S-Video and two composite video outputs are available, as well as an S-Video input and composite video input that can internally convert the composite video signal from a satellite receiver or cable tuner to progressive video and be output by the component output.

A RS-232 port is included, as well as a 12-volt trigger and inputs for IR repeaters. An IR IN socket allows the DTR-10.5 to be controlled from another room with a commercially available IR Receiver, and the IR Out socket can pass remote controller signals received by the IR In along to other components. Stereo audio outputs, 5.1 analog outputs and a second set of surround sound audio outs round out the back of the DPS-10.5.

I paired this top of the line Integra player with their equally impressive, top of the line DTR-10.5 receiver, and not only are they cosmetically a perfect pair, but they also talk to each other quite nicely with the i.LINK and HDMI card installed on the receiver. The Integra remote control works flawlessly for both products and I have quickly become a fan of the DVD player’s backlit, feature-filled remote.

In the set-up menu, you can select the size of your speakers and distances to the main listening position. A test tone allows you to make sure that the volumes are set correctly and the speakers are wired up correctly as well. The Integra receiver has this feature, too, but I found that by using the player’s menus to set up my speakers, it made the picture on my screen synch better and feel more connected to the sounds as they were occurring. Having these time delay and speaker volume options on both the universal player and receiver lets you really fine-tune your room set-up.

All technology aside, the day-to-day ease of use of a universal player is one of the most important things for me. Even after opening the disc tray close to a thousand times, the transport feels as solid as it did the day I cracked the box open. All of the basic play, pause, fast-forward and rewind features that anyone commonly uses when watching a disc are extremely simple to use on the DPS-10.5. I wouldn’t expect a novice to be able to drill deep into the set-up menus, but the small joystick type button in the center of the Integra remote control made this a total breeze. Up, down, left and right are handled with this controller, while pushing the joystick down selects the highlighted menu. If you get yourself into an area that you don’t want to be in, simply pressing the “return” button gets you out of trouble and back to square one. Neat features like Zoom let you pause a scene, then move in and focus on just a small part of the screen. I can’t help but think of the scene from “JFK” where they are examining the Zapruder film to see if they can spot a second gunman on the grassy knoll during the Kennedy assassination. Chances are, you can find other things you’d want to zoom in and see with this feature as well.

The Movies
One of the most used demo discs of all times in the world of audio/video is “The Fifth Element” (Columbia/TriStar) starring Bruce Willis and motormouth Chris Tucker. I would normally shy away from this stellar-looking disc since it’s “played out” in reviews. However it, was recently re-mastered and re-released in a super-deluxe special edition that looks even better than previous releases, according to the studio. It’s actually an improved version over the already stunning Superbit Edition, featuring an absolutely killer DTS soundtrack and high bit-rate picture.

I cued up the scene where Leeloo is being created in a glass case in the laboratory and my jaw dropped to the floor. The level of detail that the Integra’s internal video scaler was able to produce, combined with the direct digital HDMI connection, had me salivating over what HD-DVD and/or Blu-ray are going to look like. Upscaled to 720P, this scene is so jam-packed with eye candy from the bright orange hair of Leeloo (strangely with blond roots) to the detail in the gold foil walls, I’d be hard-pressed to say that I’ve ever seen anything look better on my TV screen. There were no motion artifacts and my three-chip HD-ILA JVC rear-projection set worked in perfect unison with the Integra Universal player.

”The Fifth Element” is full of vibrant colors and supernatural creatures, but I next wanted to see how well the DVD player could reproduce skin tones. On the Will Smith film “Ali” (Columbia/TriStar) during Ali/Frasier II, the red tone of Ali’s shorts with the white trim could have easily been an area where a lesser system could flicker and show dot crawl. None was evident on the screen in this system. My TV is ISF calibrated and I left the stock settings on the universal player’s progressive color, tint and contrast levels. The skin tones on “Ali” looked absolutely perfect. The sweat on the actors’ backs and the faces in the crowd are just some of the intricate details that the video scaler is able to really bring out.

I recently got into the DVD release of the primetime drama “Dallas” (Warner Home Video). The picture quality of this vintage TV show is pretty lackluster and the sound quality is poor, too, as the discs are literally in mono. I used them as an example in this review for only one reason. On several of the episodes, for some strange reason, possibly poor re-mastering, the voices drift from the picture and the movement of the actors’ mouths get out of synch. I played the disc on several different players to confirm it was not a time-delay issue with my particular system. This is where the Integra stepped in and saved several unwatchable sections. Any time the sound would drift on the DVD I could, on the fly while watching the show, cue up the semi-transparent onscreen display, access the AV Synchronization menu and set the delay with a virtual slider knob until the sound was back in synch. This feature is normally used for delays in picture vs. sound caused by AV preamps, but it ended up helping me fix a poorly created DVD. Of course, I had to set it back to the default setting after watching the disc for other movies that didn’t have this issue. It’s important to note that the AV Synchronization setting has no effect on SACD and 192 hKz/176.4 kHz DVD-Audio.

The Music
I began with the SACD release of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol) and cued up the track “Money.” The sounds of cash registers opening and slamming shut in a syncopated rhythm makes this easily one of the most recognizable tracks in the history of classic rock. With the i.LINK connected digitally to the Integra receiver, the spaces in between the sounds were as dead silent as I have ever heard and then each percussive element of the songs intro had a full-bodied presence that I simply had not heard when listening to this track through SACD players that were hooked up with 5.1 analog cables. I feared that the direct digital connection might cause the sound to be a little brittle, but this was not the case. The tone of the bass guitar riff that follows the into was round and smooth, a combination of the fine electronics I was using with the recent addition of a Revel B12 Subwoofer. The bottom line was that the bottom end of this track sounded better than ever in my system.

Being a universal player, I felt it was my duty to next spin up a DVD-Audio disc in surround sound. The Doors DVD-Audio release of LA Woman (Elektra/WMG) is one of my favorite DVD-Audio releases, as I would put the Doors in my top five bands of all time. The opening track “The Changeling” has a hypnotic guitar/bass riff and, like all good ‘70s songs, modulates (changes keys mid-song) and then ends with an absolutely killer outro before segueing to the radio hit “Love Her Madly.” The DPS-10.5 was so resolute that I could hear a bit of the hiss from the master tape, as this disc was not re-mastered, and was originally not recorded as well as the Pink Floyd disc. However, the modern technology playback system did not suck the soul out of Morrison or the rest of the band. After cueing up the disc and turning off the video circuitry, which I will explain in detail shortly, I was able to lean back and let the music envelop me. The purely digital connection from the DPS-10.5 was much more musical and transparent that I would have ever guessed.
The DPS-10.5 is also a killer CD player, as I found out when tossing the new Beck album Geuro. On the album’s first hit tune “Que Onda Guero,” which translates loosely to “What’s Up Skinny White Boy?”, Beck’s signature hip hop meets slacker sound hit hard on my two-channel system and was a real treat to hear in a system so resolute after hearing this track about 30 times on the local Los Angeles alternative rock station KROQ in my car. The song features a host of streetwise Latinos talking in the background at certain points over a tripped-out drum machine beat. The song had an immediacy and clarity to it that was engaging but did not feel like it was overly edgy.

Integra’s engineers smartly created a feature on the DPS-10.5 that optimized audio-only playback. A button on the front of the faceplate or the remote control allows all of the video circuitry to be turned off when listening to just audio playback. DVD-Audio discs have onscreen menus, so you may want to leave this feature off until you have cued up your music to the proper sound format and track, but once you have done so, clicking the Video Circuit Off button makes the sound of audio discs noticeably smoother. The effect isn’t mind-blowing, but any time you can eliminate the possibility of interference, you’ll want to, and it’s very easy to get in the habit of pushing this button. An indicator light comes on when this mode is pressed to remind you to turn it off; having a blank screen when playing a movie DVD will quickly remind you that this setting is still on.

The Downside
The only downside that I can see to owning a high-performance DVD player like this is the fact that HD-DVD and Blu-ray are looming on the horizon. $2,500 is a fair chunk of change for a universal player, but I feel that the DPS-10.5 is such a winner that it easily justifies the price tag. However, many early adopters of HDTV are probably in a holding pattern right now. There are two schools of thought on this. This player is so good at making your DVDs look like they are HD that you can feel almost like you have a wall full of HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs already in your collection. This is how I choose to see it, even though some may hold off and not buy a new player until the new formats hit the street.

This player has been nothing short of a champion in my system. It is supremely intuitive to use for a novice home theater enthusiast, yet infinitely customizable and programmable. It has also never failed to read a single disc, and in the world of high-end players, it has been my experience that the more expensive a player, the less likely it is to properly play certain discs. This all goes back to one of the lasting impressions that I have when thinking of this player. Reliability.

The other two words that come to mind with the DPS-10.5 are versatility and performance. The fact that it is one of the only players that can output HD, progressive, interlaced component, S-Video and composite at the same time has made it my favorite new component. I have been able to not only use it as the main DVD player for my system as I feed it to my main TV the HD output, but I also send it to a smaller HDTV in my kitchen via the component video output and a two-channel analog audio feed. The picture looks stunning on both my main TV and my second set as well.

The performance of the DPS-10.5 as a music transport falls right in line where I would expect it to pricewise. It is smoother-sounding than the $1,000 Adcom DVD player and benefits from the direct digital i.LINK connection for DVD-Audio and SACD that the Adcom lacked. I also found it more refined and much less brittle and more resolute than Sony’s SCD-C555ES dedicated SACD player. You have to go to players like Meridian’s G series player or the legendary (and now defunct) Proceed PMDT to start getting a smoother two-channel player. The DPS-10.5 from Integra holds its own musically against anything in its price class. A three-year warranty also sets it aside from similar performing universal and DVD players with internal video scalers that may cost a little less. With almost no compromise in video performance and the ability to play just about any audio format at higher than average quality, the DPS-10.5 is an absolute winner and should be auditioned by anyone who is serious about music and movies.
Manufacturer Integra
Model DPS-10.5 Universal Disc Player
Reviewer Bryan Dailey

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