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Yamaha DVD-S700 DVD Player Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 September 1999
ImageDuring the past few years, we've seen the A/V family tree grow and bear more fruit than ever before. Perhaps the most noticeable offspring is DVD. With new titles being born daily and the fall in player prices, how can you resist throwing down a few hundred bones and walking away with one of these babies?

One thing that may be stopping you is the "price vs. feature" dilemma. At $799, the Yamaha DVD-S700 is packed full of features that may eliminate the anxiety of raising a home theater system of your own. Read on.

The back panel of this unit is clear and concise, with plenty of output options as your system continues to develop and mature. These options include composite video, S-video and component video. The audio output section employs the following outputs: stereo pairs, six-channel discrete, coaxial and optical digital. If you thought you'd have to replace your existing receiver/preamps to take advantage of DVD's multi-channel soundtracks, the DVD-S700 is the perfect component, with its built-in Dolby Digital decoder.

Growing pains can be hell on home theater systems. Yamaha has planned ahead for adolescence and future software (DVD title) developments, including subtitles displayed in 32 languages, soundtracks heard in up to eight languages and a multi-angle function which allows you to view a scene from up to nine different camera angles. (The subtitle, language and multi-angle features are all software -dependent.)
The DVD-S700 really takes root with impressive hardware, featuring twin focus laser pick-up, MPEG-2 capability and 500 lines of horizontal resolution and luminance. In addition, with a sleek low profile, the industrial design of this product is clean and unobtrusive.

Enough with the tech-talk, let's get on to the performance. The DVD-S700 sounds, looks and feels great. Yes, feels great... right down to the remote control.

The onscreen, icon-based display is positioned at the top of your TV screen. This feature allows you to see and access controls without disturbing what is being viewed. Very cool.

Another one of my favorite characteristics of this unit is the "mark" capability. This feature, usually reserved for the VHS domain, allows you to set up to five location tags. Picture this: You've started to watch a movie, it's getting late and it's a school night. You find yourself dozing off. Simply set a mark and continue to view your feature the following day.

The video performance of this unit was wonderful. I viewed an assortment of movies, new and old, utilizing the S-video connection. The depth and color separation was outstanding. The sound tracks didn't miss a beat.

The Downside
There weren't many downsides to this unit. However, a couple of things should be noted. The organization of the owner's manual was disappointing. The manual is written is three languages, which is overall very helpful. However, each section contains all three language versions. I would have preferred for each language to have its own self-contained manual. In other words, three manuals in one.

In addition, when you first insert a CD or DVD or search the contents, you can hear the drive motor. This is a minor point. I noticed this hum only in close proximity to the unit and the noise diminished as I backed away from it. From a distance of approximately three feet, I couldn't hear a thing.

The Yamaha family has delivered another success. Although it is not the least expensive product on the market, the mark feature alone makes it well worth a few extra bucks. And remember our "growing pains" scenario? This unit also is capable of doubling as your Dolby Digital decoder if you already have a "5.1 Ready" receiver/preamp: a second decoder is unnecessary. The Yamaha DVD-S700, like most second-generation DVD players, passes the DTS bitstream, but you must have a DTS decoder in your system.

At the time this review was written, Yamaha was on the brink of releasing the replacement unit which is the DVD-S795. All of the features described in this review are included with the new model plus three additions. One is the Cinema Image control, which allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast on the unit without disturbing your TV's settings. Second, the Cinema Dialog control allows you to tweak the center channel of your system without disrupting other channel levels. Best yet, the DVD-S795 is $100 bucks cheaper than the DVD-S700 that was reviewed. Truly a great value.

I know that entering DVD-hood is a big step. Don't worry, the DVD-S700, or should I say DVD-S795, is ripe and ready to pick. This one is a keeper.

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