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Sony DVP-S3000 DVD Player Print E-mail
Friday, 01 September 2000
Image Now that the huge media hype over DVD has waned a bit and we are seeing an array of hardware options and plenty of software, it's time to take this exciting new format very seriously. It's no longer a matter of when is it going to be the best time to buy a DVD player, but rather which one is the best buy for you.

Sony, one of the driving forces behind the DVD format, has added the DVP-S3000 to its DVD player line up. Featuring a 10-bit video digital-to analog converter, an exclusive MPEG-2 decoder and a Dual Discrete optical pickup, the DVP-S3000 will appeal to consumers looking for high quality audio-video performance on a modest budget.

The Details
The DVP-S3000's front panel provides more functionality than many DVD players, yet it retains an uncluttered and stylish appearance. All menu options are controlled via the remote control or directly from the front panel and displayed on your TV screen. The large fluorescent screen on the unit's face plate displays playback information such as the chapter (track) and elapsed time. As an energy saving feature, the player automatically shuts off when it is not in use for 30 minutes.
The DVP-S3000 provides analog and digital (coax and optical) audio outputs. However, to fully appreciate Dolby Digital DVDs or DTS encoded CDs you must use the digital output to the digital input of a preamp/receiver with the appropriate decoder. Both composite and S-Video outputs are provided, though, I highly recommend using the S-Video output for a cleaner, more detailed picture. Since, most manufacturers include S-Video connectors on TVs and A/V preamps/receivers, you will most likely be able to take advantage of this option.

Unlike a CD player, a DVD player requires a few minutes of set-up before you can pop in a disc. Use the Initial and Custom Setup menus to select the aspect ratio of your TV (4:3 or 16:9), select your preferred language and indicate the type of outputs you are using (analog or digital). It's possible to give Dolby Digital priority by setting the player so it automatically defaults to the 5.1 datastream, or you can choose to downmix the 5.1 soundtrack into stereo. Additionally, you can engage DRC (Dynamic Range Control) which reduces the dynamic range for playback in situations where extreme dynamic range is either not desired or not appropriate.

Auditioning The Sony DVP-S3000
If you currently own a Laserdisc player, perhaps one of the first things you will notice missing on the rear panel of the DVP-S3000 is a separate RF output jack. On DVD players the Dolby Digital datastream passes through the digital output jack (coax or optical). This advantage is particularly significant if you have a preamp or receiver with Dolby Digital decoding. The preamp will usually detect the 5.1 datastream and adjust itself accordingly.

From a promotional DTS-encoded DVD disc, I used scenes from Jurassic Park, Apollo 13 and Waterworld (Note: future DTS DVDs will not play on this machine but will likely play on the next generation Sony DVD units). The digital video and audio transfers on this promotional disc are excellent and since I have both Apollo 13 (MCA/Universal, DTS) and Jurassic Park (MCA/Universal, DTS) on Laserdisc I decided to do a quick comparison using my reference Pioneer CLD-79 LD player.

Overall, the DVD picture exhibited greater depth of field and increased contrast. The most dramatic example of this was seen in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex tentatively walks through the opening in the electric fence. He is shrouded in a haze from the rainstorm. On the Laserdisc, his gray head and body start to blend into the murky background. On DVD, he stands out in sharp contrast against the grayish background for a more three-dimensional feel. You can see how much more rich black is on DVD, which has a direct effect on contrast and depth of field. A little later in the same scene, when the T-Rex stands next to the open door of the children's car, his head is against a pure black sky on the DVD disc while on Laserdisc the sky appears to be a dark gray.

Colors on DVD are brighter and more vibrant as evidenced on the deep turquoise Earth in Apollo 13 and the multi-colored Ford Explorers in Jurassic Park. Edges are clean and sharp without dot crawl, even on plaids and bright colors. Screen lettering still has some dot crawl around the edges, but noticeably less then Laserdisc. Facial features are sharply defined with pores and wrinkles even more apparent on DVD, whereas, Laserdiscs tend to soften faces a bit more and skin tones are ever so slightly paler.

Unquestionably, DVD's digital video has some clear improvements over the Laserdisc's analog video. As far as sound, there is no apparent advantage between the two, especially when the same soundtrack is transferred in the same encoded 5.1 digital format.

Playing through a plethoria of DVD titles from Gloria Estefan's Evolution Tour (Epic Music Video) to the sci-fi adventure The Fifth Element (Columbia Pictures), I was very impressed with the overall performance and operation of the DVP-S3000.

The Downside
The DVP-S3000 doesn't have component outputs, which break out the chrominance and luminance into three separate wires to avoid signal loss, resulting in a cleaner more detailed picture with increased depth of field and color saturation. Of course, to benefit from the component outputs, you must have a TV or projector with the appropriate inputs. If you are considering a new TV purchase or planning the eventual step up to a front screen projector, pick up the ($1100) DVP-S7000 instead, for the added improvement that component video will provide. Moveover, the DVP-S7000 provides digital video noise reduction and equalization which directly improves the overall picture quality.

If you haven't quite made the jump to Dolby Digital and/or DTS (and what are you waiting for?) or even to surround sound, the $699 price tag for the DVP-S3000 may sound steep since you may or may not be taking advantage of the amazing 5.1 surround features. However, if you love watching movies at home, then the superior video quality plus CD-like sound is a sensible enough reason to pick up the DVP-S3000.

If you're an avid Laserdisc collector, you may be confused as to which way to go with DVD. Yet, as you are already predisposed to high-end audio and video, a DVD player will be a natural addition and as time goes on you'll find yourself purchasing fewer and fewer Laserdiscs in favor of DVD's for the improved picture quality. Unfortunately, not everything released on Laserdisc is available on DVD, so both high-end formats will continue to co-exist for some time. The upside to this is you have time to make the transition to DVDs gradually instead of overnight.

It is safe to say DVD will be the new millennium's standard playback (and ultimately recording) medium. So, if you've been wondering if you should dump the clunky controls, poor quality video and sub standard sound of VHS and get a DVD player, the answer is a resounding YES. Whether you're a VHS or Laserdisc user, the Sony DVP-S3000 is an excellent choice as your first DVD player.

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