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Adcom GDV-850 DVD-A/V Player Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 April 2004
Article Index
Adcom GDV-850 DVD-A/V Player
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ImageIn a world where you can pick up the Sunday newspaper and see full-feature, entry-level DVD players advertised for less than the price of a video game and DVD-Audio-capable players for about the same price as top of the line video game consoles, you may be asking yourself, do I really need a high-end DVD player? If you are one of the many millions of consumers with a TV, big screen, plasma or LCD that can take a progressive (480p) video input (which most if not all can do), then it might be time to consider the visual benefits that come from a more upmarket source component. At $1,000, the Adcom GDV-850 could be just the player you want.

With its beautiful matte silver finish and a clean, simple layout, the front of the Adcom GDV-850 is not your run-of-the-mill DVD player. Featuring progressive scan video output with “field adaptive” deinterlacing, high-quality DACs for high-resolution 5.1 analog audio reproduction and a linear power supply, everything about the GDV-850 screams high quality. Despite not having the physical bulk and weight (or price) of some other high-end DVD transports, such as offerings from Meridian, Classe’ or Lexicon, you can still feel the quality in the fit and finish of the player as you crack open the box and pull out the player. Made to be stacked on top of the current line of Adcom AV preamps and amplifiers, the 19-pound GDV-850 has fairly tall feet to allow a good amount of air to circulate under it, yet it has a profile that is low enough that it should easily fit in most racks or cabinets, even if you don’t yet have the other “stackable” components in the Adcom line. Its complete dimensions are 17 inches wide, 3.63 inches tall and 15 inches deep. Options abound on the DGV-850, including 5.1 analog audio outputs (mostly for DVD-Audio) and stereo analog audio outputs, as well as coax and optical digital outputs. On the video end, besides the component video outputs, which have a toggle switch for progressive 480p and 480i interlaced, the GDV-850 also has S-video and composite video outputs. Like any quality piece of AV gear, it has the necessary connections for custom installation, including RS232 control, a 12V DC trigger and an IR input that can be hard-wired on the back. The included remote isn’t the sexiest piece of technology I have seen, but many of the programming functions require the remote, so you’ll still want to keep it handy on the occasions when it’s time to do some tweaking.

It is possible to play MP3 files, MPEG movie files and JPEG files on CD, which can be displayed using the GDV-850. This would be useful for showing your friends virtual slides of your Hawaii vacation photos that you took with your digital camera. Needless to say, the GDV-850 has almost everything you could hope for, with the only glaring omission being the lack of a DVI-enabled digital output for connecting directly to a digital video display and SACD playback, as is now more commonly found on “universal” players from the Asian manufacturing companies.

Some of the other features that help set the GDV-850 apart from your typical DVD players include a very thoughtful test tone generator for assuring that your speakers are connected properly, variable audio compression for listening to music or watching movies with wide dynamic range at night and a screen saver that protects your monitor from burning in when the player sits idle for an extended period of time. Plasma owners will love this feature.

The GDV-850 is literally a perfect match for the Adcom GDP-880 AV preamp. I was able to get the player up and running in a timely 10 minutes, once I had determined which cables I wanted to use and how I was going to wire my system. One item to note is the fact that the component outputs on the GDV-850 are RCA-type plugs, but the inputs and outputs on the GDP-880 preamp are BNC. This required a trip to the local electronics store to get six RCA-to-BNC adapters for my Accell component video cables. Although this was a small inconvenience, I immediately understood why Adcom chose to wire their DVD player this way. At the price point the GDV-850 is at, not everyone is going to have a receiver or AV preamp that has BNC inputs, so Adcom wisely keeps the product relevant to the masses.

The instruction manual that is included with the GDV-850 is topnotch, including a large section in the back that shows a diagram of almost every scenario that you could hope to use in hooking up the player. Using these simple layout diagrams, almost any electronics-loving idiot can get the player up and running with ease. What’s even better than the diagrams is the way that the instruction manual almost reads like a dictionary of audio/video terms. Rather that just telling you that the player has Dolby Pro Logic, the instruction manual gives you a basic definition of this feature. The same goes for almost every bell, whistle and other feature that the DVD player has. This is just one of the reasons why you spend an extra few hundred dollars on a premium player over a mass market component.

Audio Set-up
Once I had the player connected, it was time to run the speaker set-up. Leaving the AV preamp on its stock settings, I wanted to see how versatile the set-up functions of the GDV-8500 were. Beginning with the audio/speaker set-up, I was able to dial in a small amount of delay for the center channel since it sits on top of my TV monitor, about a foot in front of the main speakers in my system. When the audio mode is set for multi-channel playback and the user does not have a center channel speaker, there is a clever option that allows the center output to be disbursed evenly between the two front speakers, while the integrity of the signal that normally goes to the fronts is maintained. The same delay options are available on the rear speakers and they can be toggled on or off. When turned off in surround mode via the analog outputs, the front speakers will be fed their signal, just like the center channels. It is important to remember that the delays for the center channel and rear speakers will not be audible if you use the digital output of the DVD player. When running digital, you’ll have to make these adjustments at the receiver or preamp if your system has this option.

Continuing with the audio set-up menus, the audio output mode options include 5.1 channel surround (digital and analog), two-channel stereo, two-channel Pro Logic and two-channel virtual surround. When using the S/PDIF outputs, there are the options labeled “LPCM 48K” and “LPCM 96K.” LPCM 48k downsamples 96k or higher material to 48k. When 96k is chosen, any source material that is higher than 96k is downsampled to 96K.

Video Set-up
Once the audio setup was dialed in, it was time to scroll through the video options. Three video display options – pan/scan, letterbox and widescreen – give you the option of formatting the picture in a manner that best fits your display. If you have a 4:3 monitor like I do, the instruction manual suggests you use either the pan/scan or letterbox setting. The letterbox option inserts black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when displaying widescreen material. If you have a 16:9 widescreen set, such as most plasmas, you’ll most likely want to set this on widescreen. If your monitor has progressive inputs, a series of options for “pic mode” allow you to optimize the progressive scan mode.

The only place where the menu buttons become unclear is when you get to a sub-option where there are only two choices. When choosing audio resolution, for example, the options shown are 48 and 96K. As you use the supplied remote control to toggle between these two choices, it can sometimes be a little confusing as to which of the two selections you are actually making. Where there are more than two choices, this is obvious when looking at the selected menu bar. A slightly inverted border surrounds the selected menu item, but the simple rule to remember is that the menu selection that the cursor is on turns the text white.

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