Cheap Versus Expensive

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by Arthur.S, Mar 17, 2002.

  1. Arthur.S

    Arthur.S
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    There's been a bit of a bun fight going on recently in the amp/receiver forum. The thread is entitled "Best Digital Connection". This digressed a bit when one guy (Cream) made a statement that "all DVD players sound exactly the same" - regardless of cost. I won't go into the whole argument, but he went on to say that anyone with the opinion that their new 'expensive' player sounds better than their old 'cheapo' was suffering from the 'placebo' effect. They wanted to hear an improvement, & so did so. My own experience was actually the opposite - I bought a more expensive player - the Sony 735 - & was slightly disappointed in the audio after my Panasonic RV60. Just for the record, the RV60 had to go back as no one could disable MV on it at the time, & i believed (wrongly it turned out) that it was causing a problem with my PJ.

    Anyway, for Christmas I bought my missus an Acoustic Solutions 551 DVD player. This is only coupled to a 14" TV, so audio/video quality isn't anywhere near as important as my own HC setup where the picture is to a 7' screen. I thought at the time that the player was a bargain. For a mere £119 you got every connection that my 735 has, inc component video & onboard DD/DTS. The killer function though is that via a simple handset hack, this player plays everything automatically, even the 'enhanced region coded' discs.

    Well, the comments made by Cream got me curious. So I did a little comparison test, with the 551 Versus the 735 in my HC. The video connections were identical S-Video cables, with the audio being first optical, & then coaxial. The reason I used S-Video & not my usual RGB was simply for convenience. My RGB connection goes directly to the PJ, & so would have meant a lot more 'swapping' of the cables.
    I used no technical tools whatsoever, so these tests were just objective, & my MOHO. Remember also that 'DVD Review' gave the 735 a perfect 10/10 for audio/video when the player first came on the market.

    The material used was as follows:
    DVD.
    A Knights Tale. Chapter 14, 'Adhemar Vs Ulric. DD
    Gladiator. Chapter 2, 'Hell unleashed'. DTS
    The Matrix. Chapter1, 'Trinity in a jam'. DD
    The Eagles, Hell freezes over. Chapter 5, 'Hotel California. DTS

    CD.
    Crowded House. 'Weather with you'.
    Bruce Hornsby. 'The way it is'.

    Video: The 735 was a clear winner here. Not that the 551 performed badly mind. But the Sony's pics just seemed more vibrant. Also, 'ringing' was less noticeable on the Sony. This is one good reason to use RGB - 'ringing' is virtually non existent. I have to say though, that on say a 32" widescreen set, you'd probably find the 551's picture very acceptable.

    DVD Audio: A bit of a surprise here. The 551 actually seemed 'sharper' & more detailed. I replayed the tests again with the cables swapped over in case one of the connections was the culprit, but the results were the same. I think the reason is that the 735 has a 'warmer' sounding audio, which gives the illusion that in comparison, it's not as detailed, or dynamic.

    CD Audio: The warmer sounding 735 was much more suited to music here. The 551 just sounded too 'clinical' & harsh to my ear. I'm sure though that any 'non-afficianado' just playing the occasional CD would be more than happy with it.

    My honest opinion then is that DVD players do sound different. As far as expensive Vs cheap goes though, I was very surprised that the 735 wasn't much better than the 551. Let alone finding that it could (for movies) actually seem to have inferior audio! After all the 735 cost me £500 18 months ago, & the 551 a mere £119!! Not exactly a slight difference is it?
    This little comparison test of mine has really reinforced my opinion that the 551 is an absolute bargain. By the way; No I don't work for Richer Sounds!:D
     
  2. alanrob

    alanrob
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    I can only judge the four players I've had in the house -
    Pioneer DV505(£400) / Arcam DV88(£900) / PS2(£200) / Tag McLaren DVD32R(£2700)

    The Pioneer (being a day one DVD player) was the worst sounding and looking player of all four (yep, even the PS2 was better with DVD's!!!).
    I hadn't really noticed the difference until I got my Arcam and plugged it in (using the same cables to my then Arcam amp).
    What a difference with both vision and audio performance.

    I now had a DVD player that wasn't too bad a CD player too.
    Now, given that my CD player is a two box Linn Karik/Numerik it was a bit hard for the Arcam to come up to that standard and of course it couldn't, but my new Tag is another story.

    At last I have a one box solution for video and audio performance. So it would appear that if you can part with a few grand for a player you will notice a great improvement, but it tends to appear that most players in the £200-£500 price range have very little between them.

    Not having heard a great many players in this price range I can't comment on them all, but I found my brothers cheapo far eastern player (can't remember the silly named make) sounded better than both my PS2 and my Pioneer player. Considering I paid £400 for the Pioneer and my brother got his for £100 is seems that technology has moved on somewhat within DVD players :)

    I guess it's down to how much you want to pay and what you want from the player. I wanted the best player I could get and I think I've now found it (well I've stopped hunting for a better one :D ). I'm sure dozens of other people on the forum will have a view point on what was better in their mind, but I can say that my players have got better the more money I've spent on them (except the day one Pioneer against the PS2).
     
  3. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Best demo I ever saw that DVD players sound different was not actually an audio demo at all but a video one! It was at the Event comparing the Arcam and Skyworth. The differece is sound quality was astonishing. The Skyworth was just a pale imitation in comparison to the Arcam.
     
  4. paiger

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    If this guy thinks that all players sound the same then he's just wrong. They do sound different. Most people would prefer the sound of a Tag over a Sony, simple as that. He may prefer the Sony over the Tag, that's up to him and nobody could tell him he was wrong. At the end of the day if he thinks they all the sound the same then he's ignorant or hard of hearing.

    S
     
  5. Kane D Williams

    Kane D Williams
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    Just like to point out that both Cream and Arthur are talking about the digital outputs only, delivering DD and DTS (not PCM). Cream says that with packaged datastreams, all digital outputs should sound exactly the same (he has kind of conceded this now - I think).

    BTW, I agree with Arthur that digital outputs do sound different, for DD, DTS and PCM, but just thought I'd clear up the fact that Cream has never denied that the analogue outputs from DVD players sound different or that jitter would effect PCM on a digital output.

    Don't want any misunderstanding that would lead to Cream being slated, resulting in him retaliating with terrible wrath and vengeance!!

    Cheers Kane
     
  6. gavan

    gavan
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    Arthur,

    unless you did the tests under 'blind' conditions I don't think you can use them as evidence of different sounding players.

    A DD or DTS signal will sound the same regardless of where it's coming from - it is literally a computer data stream. The only way there's going to be an audible difference is where the player has an electrical fault corrupting the stream, or the manufacturers have cocked up the design to the point where it doesn't extract and deliver the bitstream correctly to the amp.

    I could see this happening in the cheapest budget players but once you get into the quality names that really is unlikely to happen.


    Gav
     
  7. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Gav

    This is just not true, if you trawl through the Best Digital connections thread it is all in there. Packeted DD/DTS signals work differently to computer signals.
     
  8. Arthur.S

    Arthur.S
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    Gavan,
    Conjours up some lovely pics in my head, that. Just imagine meself - blindfolded - staggering around the baldyplex, stubbing me toe & stuff. "Where the fudge did I put that optical lead". "What is this I've got in me hand?" AGGGHHHHHH sh*t, that's where I left that soft boiled egg!! :D :D :D
     
  9. gavan

    gavan
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    I must have trawled through about 3/4 of that thread before giving up in despair at the vitriol and saw very little to support the notion that DVD players could sound different on DTS or DD other than through a fault in their design. Plenty of personal abuse directed at the guy who insisted that they all 'sounded the same' though.


    What I was getting at with my comment was that DD and DTS signals are not like a bitstream coming off of a CD where jitter could conceivably affect the sound quality (that's another matter for debate, but not here) - the packets are compressed *computer data* and are decompressed and reassembled by a processor in the surround decoder.

    As long as the DVD player does its job and drags the DD/DTS signal from the disc and squirts it out the S/PDIF port, the amp will reassemble the packets into a bitstream and play them.

    The only way a player could sound worse than any other when played through a digital surround decoder is if that player has a physical fault, or there is *really* bad design work leading to lots of bit errors in the output.

    I could maybe see that happening with cheap far east imports, but a decent brand name player should not suffer from that. It's not exactly rocket science to extract the DD/DTS data from a DVD and squirt it out a simple serial digital port and DVD players have been around long enough for reputable manufacturers to sort out any bugs in their chipsets.

    If someone can demonstrate to me that they can consistently and reliably hear differences between 'decent' players (using a digital link to an external surround processor) in an unsighted test, then I'll certainly reconsider my opinion.


    Gav
     
  10. Couch Potato

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    If you go to page 6 of that thread and the 2 posts by Nic, they should give you the info you need.

    Steve
     
  11. gavan

    gavan
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    Yes, I read them. Maybe I should have phrased myself better the first time when I said:

    "A DD or DTS signal will sound the same regardless of where it's coming from - it is literally a computer data stream. "

    I'm fully aware that coax/TOSlink does not offer the sort of sophistication that a SCSI or IDE bus does for data transfer.

    However, the inherent data structure of the DD/DTS signal *is not* like a PCM bitstream where one could at least make a case that timing errors will affect the overall sound quality. The audio is carried in the form of compressed packets of data which are reassembled into an audio stream for each of the channels by the surround sound decoder. The decoder completely reclocks the audio as part of the reconstruction process.

    I'm making the point that the type of signal makeup of DD/DTS is much more akin to a 'genuine' data stream whereas a PCM bitstream is a quantised representation of a realtime audio stream. The DD/DTS is *much* more resistant to the sort of problems which it is claimed can make one CD transport sound better than another.

    Short of the DVD player being so badly designed that it doesn't reliably transfer the DD/DTS data from the DVD through the TOSlink interface, you aren't going to notice subtle differences between players.

    It doesn't take a nobel prizewinning engineer or thousands of pounds worth of components per unit to make a player capable of doing the job of sending approx 768kbps of DD/DTS data through a serial interface properly - hence I'm unconvinced that 'reputable player x' is going to sound much different from 'reputable player y' when it comes to playing DD and DTS soundtracks through an external decoder over an S/PDIF interface.


    Gav
     
  12. Kane D Williams

    Kane D Williams
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    I gather, from what I have read from a few sources on this forum and AVS, that the reson DD/DTS can sound different coming digitally from different DVD players is that along with the DD/DTS datastreams is clock information and this is where the problems can arrise?

    Cheers Kane
     
  13. Arthur.S

    Arthur.S
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    Gavan,
    This is really the same old argument all over again. Apart from my rebuttal ( that's a nice word isn't it?) of the 'placebo effect'. I can give you another 'for instance'. My first ever DVD player was an American Panasonic A-110. As pleased as I was with the sound for movies via DD/DTS. It stank for music compared to my Pioneer (Approx £350 CD player). This was via the Digital optical connection. I never bothered using it for music ever after. My next DVD player was a Panasonic RV60. Again in direct comparison to the Pioneer CD player, it wasn't quite as 'musical'. BUT, it was much closer (again via optical) than the A-110. Close enough for me to pass my CD player on to my daughter. If the RV60 had been no better than the A-110, believe me, my CD player would still be sitting in my rack!
    I've owned 4 different DVD players now, & IMHO there's no doubt that DVD players do have different characteristics. I believe you'll find that there are blind reviews carried out, especially by the American mags.
     
  14. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    I can argue the technical stuff till the cows come home. It's what I do for a living. It is old stuff here now, if you are unconvinced by the technical arguement just use your ears and demo the equipment. There are huge differences there for all to hear. Ever wondered why people upgrade?
     
  15. gavan

    gavan
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    I've never heard of someone upgrading a DVD player because the DD/DTS through a digital connector to an external processor sounds better with the new player ..... which is essentially what the poster starting the thread postulated.

    I've upgraded my DVD player myself - to get better picture quality and more features (better media compatibility, superior regionfree ability, no macrovision) but certainly not because I thought the sound through the digital out was going to be any better.


    Gav
     
  16. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Really? :( Why do you think people buy Tags?
     
  17. hermand

    hermand
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    My take on this is that if you read Nic's posts in detail, the crux of the matter is what the signal is reclocked against. Nic tells us that the signal is reclocked against the clock from the transport, which is derived from the jittery S/PDIF signal. Of course it could - in theory - be reclocked locally in the decoder, but then you would get into lip-synching problems if there is any discrepancy between the clocks of the decoder and the transport - and of course this is not a problem you would have to worry about in your computer network analogy.

    (Nic - please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this - this is my interpretation of the conclusions from the notorious best digital connection thread)

    Anyone got a sense of deja vu?:)

    Cheers

    Herman
     
  18. gavan

    gavan
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    Image? Styling? Better picture quality? Better _onboard_ digital surround decoding?

    I repeat, I've never heard of anyone saying 'I must upgrade my player so that my surround sound through my external docoder will sound better'.

    I've never seen any evidence to show me that a competently designed DVD player will sound any different when using an external processor than any other competently designed player would using that same processor.



    Gav
     
  19. gavan

    gavan
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    If a player is so badly designed that it puts out such a grossly out of spec signal through the S/PDIF port that the external surround processor on the other end is incapable of correctly receiving and decompressing it, then of course sound quality consequences are going to ensue.

    What I haven't seen is any evidence to suggest that the aforementioned _really_ bad S/PDIF outputs are common on players to the extent where different brand name players are going to sound subtly better or worse than each other.

    I can well believe that some of the dirt cheap far eastern designs could cut corners to the extent where errors occurred in their digital outputs leading to possible problems at the decompression stage ... it seems very unlikely the mainstream 'respected' manufacturers would design and produce players which actually produced such unreliable data streams.


    As for the jitter issue - has anyone actually determined what level of jitter will cause DD/DTS decoders to fail to decode and decompress the signal? Can we simply measure the jitter level on an S/PDIF output of a player and determine that this player will sound 'OK' if it is below the magic threashold? If two given players were below that threshold, would they both sound exactly the same on the DD/DTS output or would people _still_ be insisting that one (usually the more 'hi end' super-expensive one) sounded 'better' over a link to a surround processor?


    Gav
     
  20. hermand

    hermand
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    I don't think anyone is claiming that jitter causes the DD/DTS decoding to fail.

    Jitter is an analogue qunatity in the digital signal, so it is not really relevant to talk about a threshold where it will/will not work.

    As I said before the problem is that the reclocking takes place against the clock signal in the S/PDIF which is subject to jitter. Therefore when reclocking the DD/DTS signal this translates into jitter in the PCM. If there is jitter in the clock signal you are using for reclocking, how can there not be jitter in the decompressed PCM?

    Cheers

    Herman
     
  21. andypandy

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    I just have to say I totally agree with gavan's comments.

    those upgrading their DVD players purely because of the sound have more money than sense and are just crazy people.

    Oops , I suppose if they had money they would buy a top class amp and that would fix it - so they must be crazy !
     
  22. alanrob

    alanrob
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    Have any of you guys seen/heared a Tag DVD32R going????
    Now, I have no idea why it is better than the Arcam DV88 when both are conected to the digital input's on my Tag Av32R, but they are.

    I have a good pair of ears that have listened to good Hi-Fi my whole life. I know what sounds bad and what sounds better than I've already got. Trust me when I say that all DVD's and CD's take on a whole new life when played on the Dvd32R. Again, I don't know why, but they do!

    You can't comment on a piece of kit you haven't heard and to say that someone who upgrades purely for sound reasons when it comes to a DVD player is mad is very poor form. Have you never upgraded say your speakers for sound reasons? Aren't they just the same too??

    If you don't want to spend the money then that's fine by me, but to write on here that you can't imagine why some people spend vast amounts of money on a DVD player that they connect digitally to their processor just to get better sound sounds like sour grapes to me!

    How much have you spent on a car then? Lots of money probably. Aren't they all just the same? Four wheels and an engine to power it.
     
  23. Guest

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    Do any double-blind tests of DVD player audio exist? It would seem just about the easiest test to perform. 2 players playing the same disc going into the same amp, switching between the different inputs with the remote.

    Not exactly rocket science. And if the audiophile side of the debate is correct the difference should be vast and immediate.

    Surely somebody's done it and published the results?
     
  24. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    I have:(

    We have two views here.

    One group who are trying to argue that there are no differences from (wrong) technical information

    and

    A second group who have listened to players and heard the differences

    I repeat what I said earlier, go and listen. Comment from experience. I currently have a Tag DVD32R and a Toshiba 9000 hooked up to my AV processor. Many consider the Tosh to be one of the best sound / pictures available. It is masacared by the Tag. Cheap chinese players, please....... Same levels (0.1db), same DVD, same cables. I like many are only interested in the quality of sound and picture. This is what I buy a DVD player for, anything else is a bonus.

    No difference. Really? Am I being wound up again?
     
  25. alanrob

    alanrob
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    Thanks for being the voice of reason once again Nic.

    Do as the man says. Go and hear the difference for yourself.
     
  26. Peter Webb

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    Hearing is definitely believing!.My Toshiba SD900e player sounds
    noticably more solid and coherent than any of my previous players
    (Toshiba 3107 R1,Sony 505 HK all region) through my perenial Yamaha 3090amp.
    Reminds me of the 'reversing the figure of eight mains lead' debate that raged with CD players(Philips/Marantz), and the improvement in sound quality that many heard,myself included,
    when the detachable cable was inserted the 'correct 'way round.
     
  27. Arthur.S

    Arthur.S
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    This definitely sounds like one for HC's Mr May to address.
     
  28. Kane D Williams

    Kane D Williams
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    Peter

    In reference to your comment about turning the figure of eight cable the "correct" way round, I assume you mean to the way, which creates the weakest magnetic field in the transformer, as recommended by Russ Andrews and others, for purer sound quality? Well, when I got my Yello power cables (IEC) from RA, I found a sticker which would be damaged if the plug is opened to switch the wires around (if needed) and states that opening the plug voids the warranty! How can Mr Andrews suggest this course of action, but make it so the warranty is broken if you do?

    Cheers Kane
     
  29. Peter Webb

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    Kane
    Don't know anything about the Russ Andrews cables or recommendations,only stating my own experience with the detachable reversable mains cables that come with many CD and now DVD players.These are not the IEC type but the small two socket female plug (similar to shaver cables) that are inserted in to the two pin AC mains input sockets of the player.IEC plugs can be inserted one way only,the small two pin type can be turned 180 degrees so the live /neutral wires are reversed.
    I've no technical knowlrdge as to why one way sounds better than the other, but as i said in my previous post re the Digital outputs of DVD players 'hearing is believing'.

    :)
     
  30. gavan

    gavan
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    Hi Herman,

    can you provide more information to support your claim that the _reconstruction_ of the data depends on the 'clock signal in the S/PDIF'? Sounds a bit unlikely to me since theres actually a variable in the datastream of the DD signal to specify the sample rate of the 'source'.

    I did a bit of checking around and found a technical document at:

    http://www.atsc.org/standards/a_52a.pdf

    See page 121 for details of the 'bit_rate_code' flag.

    Also, Given that the decompressed bitstream is stuffed into an output buffer (diagram page 51), description page 54:

    6.1.13 PCM Output Buffer
    Typical decoders will provide PCM output samples at the PCM sampling rate. Since blocks of
    samples result from the decoding process, an output buffer is typically required. This Standard
    does not specify or describe output buffering in any further detail.

    .. I think it unlikely that any sort of jitter which may or may not be present in the input signal is going to make its way to the DACs.


    Gav
     

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