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Demo results: 88+, 2900 and Rotel 1060

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by GavinH, Oct 20, 2003.

  1. GavinH

    GavinH
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    Hey all,

    at the weekend a friend and I went to our local SevenOaks to demo the above DVD players. We we both a little unsure whether we would be able note any real differences between the players, being unused to critically assessing picture quality and sound... however I will post our findings for general interest :)

    First of all, it's worth mentioning that I also wanted to demo the 757, but they didn't have any in...

    It's also worth noting the other equipment in the test: speakers were 3 M&K K7s, a pair of K4s and some M&K sub (not sure which one, but not the K9 or K10 I think). Amp was the Rotel 1055. TV was Loewe's new 32" model - although I am not sure exactly what that is...

    OK, I was attempting to test the 3 players in the following catagories, movie sound, picture quality and stereo sound. I started out with quite a few discs, but not wanting to overly confuse matters and leave myself with too much to think about, I used the following for my tests... For movie sound I used two scenes from Saving Private Ryan. 1st, the bit in the church at night with the candle, and the bombs going off subtely in the background, and a later scene where they are waiting for the tanks to come, and try to bait them in one direction. For picture quality, I used the scene from LOTR The Two Towers where Smeagol gets the rabits to eat :) Finally, for stereo sound I used track 8, Sand in my Shoes from Dido's new album.

    We started with the Rotel, which was not a player I was really considering, but they had it in and I thought it would be worth trying. Being the first player, I tried the other discs with this one, before narrowing it down to the above test set. The movie sound was impressive, although at this point I had not tried the others. The church scene was nice, the bomb dropping in the background was clear and atmospheric - that's the best way I can describe it. Again, the tank scene sounded really good - there's a bit where Hanks starts to give out orders, and the following dialog seemed to come from the right place. There is one bit where a small vehicle goes from right to left, and the sound panned well to reflect this.

    The picture quality also seemed "good" - although my current system at home is the old Sony all in one DAV-S300 on a rather cr4p TV :) Perhaps it was a little unfair to judge the Rotel at this point because as the testing went on, I think both my friend and I became better at "spotting" things.

    I moved onto stereo sound, and as mentioned above, at this stage I tried a few discs. After testing the stereo performance, the guy from SOs came back in and asked us what we thought... I said it was ok. We discussed that it would be a different sound to what I am used to with my stereo system (see profile thing at bottom)...

    We then moved onto the Denon. I moved the opposite way through the tests, so that although I had done all the tests on one DVD player, and then all of them on the next - at least one test would be side by side if you see what I mean...

    The stereo performance on the denon was a big improvement. There was "more" coming from the disc at the start of the track, and it was much easier to tell what was producing the base - and even pick out the rythm of the base guitar (I think so anyway:) At this point we were both pleased that we had spotted a clear difference :)

    I then moved on to PQ. The first thing that jumped out at me, and it was not something that I was looking for, was the 3 dimensionality of the picture. I don't know whether you know the scene from the Two Towers well, but there are quite a few layers right at the beginning. I think the denon made me think - "wow, nice, suddenly I have noticed the 3D quality of a DVD player". The denon also did a good job of picking out the texture on the Hobits tunics and cloaks. The Rotel had managed to do this, but the denon picked up the pattern of the weave, and not just the texture. My friend seemed to think the hair was delivered more clearly, but I must admit I was not looking specifically at that :)

    Movie Sound. I must say that I don't think the movie sound was as good with the denon. With the church scene, the sound just didn't seem as crisp, and the subtle bomb drops in the background didn't seem as atmospheric - you could here them ok, but with the rotel they seemed to be wrapped around us some how. It is worth noting though that the denon picked up an echo in this scene that made you sit up - something that none of the other two players produced. Again, with the Tank scene, the sound was good, but only as good as the rotel, maybe not quite as good. The particular bit that stood out with the rotel, the vehicle panning across was not delivered as well...

    It may be interesting to note that when I got home we did the same tests on my system... Clearly not fair in terms of pure DVD player capability, as the rest of the equipment changed - but for that particular bit in the film, the vehicle sound never moved from the centre speaker :)

    OK, onto the Arcam. Starting with the movie sound, it was impressive. Being side by side with the denon, it was better. It didn't pick up the echo in the church that the denon did, but the rest of that scene was better. Similar to the rotel, the bomb drops were more atmospheric, but the arcam picked up more of the bomb drops. (Note it is possible that 3rd time through, we were more used to listening for certain things... but it did honestly seem better).

    The tank scene - again, better. The talking after Hanks gave the orders was nice, and the vehicle moving across from right to left panned very well, and the sound from the vehicle took longer to fade out - it didn't stop as quickly. There was also one bit where two soldiers are sat on the deck, and one has a load of ammo over his shoulder. I can only say that the sound those bullets made jingling about was excellent - ultra clear, it was like they were right there in front of you!

    PQ. I can't say that this was better or worse than the denon. Equally as good at picking out the texture on the hobits clothes, still managed to get the pattern of the weave, and good with the hair. I might say that the 3 dimensionality was better than the denon - but this time I was looking for it... the denon showed it to me itself...

    Stereo Sound. Hands down the best. First of all, my friend and I had the amp at the same volume level - but this seemed louder - there was more coming from the disc. As I was sat there listening to the track start - I was wondering if he was noticing this as being better. When I stopped it, we were both laughing, becuase the arcam was clearly superior in this area. Hard to describe it exactly, but more sounds emerged from the disc, there's a bit near the start where things are happening in the background, and these were much clearer with the arcam. The base instruments were easier to listen to, and it just seemed like there was "more sound".

    Obviously I had read the reviews about these players, and was aware that the arcam was supposed to be the best. However my friend doesn't read Hi-Fi magazines or reviews, and had no prior opinions. He was 100% sure that the arcam's sound was a big step up from the denon, which in turn was better than the rotel.

    OK, conclusions.

    Firstly, this was the first time that I tested DVD players, and especially - PQ. So, my testing may have changed towards the end as I got slightly better at it, and more accustomed to looking/listening for things.

    I only used a small test set. For example, I tried a scene from gladiator on the rotel and denon, and failed to spot any difference in PQ.

    Ranking:
    For Movie Sound: Arcam > Rotel > Denon
    For Picture Quality: Arcam/Denon > Rotel
    For Stereo Sound: Arcam >> Denon > Rotel

    Obviously there is the price of the machines to consider :) But from my experience the Arcam was the best - definitely. Is it worth the extra money? Not sure - but as this will be the only source for stereo sound in the living room - perhaps yes.

    Ooops - should have mentioned earlier, all pictures were interlaced, PAL.

    Of course these are only my views :) If anyone has similar testing experience with DVD players around this price I would like to hear them. Also, if anyone has tips for things to look for when testing movie sound and picture quality, I would like to know them :-0

    Finally before I go - does anyone know if the quality of Region 1 discs is better than other regions. The guy in SOs suggested that the quality (the copy etc) of a region 1 disc is better than other regions. I don't know about this so don't dispute it - can anyone confirm this?

    Cheers for reading,

    Gav
     
  2. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Sounds like you had a good day out. What signal type were you using from DVD to TV. rgb, S-video, composite, component?

    Gordon
     
  3. StevenH

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    Hello all,

    I was the guy "who doesn¡¦t read hifi mags" who went to test the system with Gav at the weekend and I would like to add a few of my comments to the above.

    Arcam

    The Arcam rocked, the stereo sound was awesome ! and you could hear background sounds like the door being shut at the beginning of the dido track that were missed by the Rotel and Denon. The picture quality was the one that I struggled with. And I agree with Gav in that you could see the fibres and a lot of detail in the hobbits clothes/hair but when we got home and checked the same on the Sony I could not tell the difference, although the hair on smeagol was crisper on the 3 systems tested than the Sony. The Arcam in my eyes was a lot better than the Denon on movie sound. The echo given on the denon was only on the first big bomb going off but the Arcam kept it going subtly through the entire scene. One final comment on movie sound was the bullets being thrown around by the soldier at the bridge scene in Pricate Ryan, amazing, I could feel how sharp each bullet was as they rattled around.

    Denon

    The Denon was massive, when we first sat down in the demo room it was almost as big as the Rotel Amp !! I was a little unhappy with the fact that the guy in seven oaks could not set the player up correctly for the picture quality (it was very bright and he could not figure out why) so in the end he turned the brightness down on the TV ƒ¼ so I will not comment on this. Stereo sound impressed me compared to the Rotel tested before it and you could noticeably pick out the separation between the bass notes on the guitar. Although it did not pick up the door shutting at the beginning of the track like the Arcam. Movie sound was ok but the first bomb made a ridiculously loud echo and the rest seemed quiet. Bridge scene was good and I agree with Gav in that the little tank sounded good (not as good as the Rotel).

    Rotel

    Aaah the first player that was tested, I was aware of the price of the 3 machines on show and was expecting this one to either struggle or be exactly the same as the others, I was surprised, with the Rotel being the first up and my first experience with a player this expensive non existent I could instantly hear the sharpness of the voices and the quality of the picture with the soldiers huddles around a candle talking was great ! but after listening to the other 2 and thinking back the Rotel struggled with movie sound and stereo sound but once again I could not tell the difference in picture quality between this one and the other 2.

    Conclusion

    The Arcam was the winner hands down, I loved the stereo sound so much I wanted to listen to the Dido track again !! movie sound on the church bomb scene blew me away and picture quality looked very much the same between the 2 (unfair test for the Denon)
     
  4. rags

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    For stereo sound how did you hook up the players to the amp ? ie were you using the onboard dacs or the amps ?
     
  5. GavinH

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    Gordon: oops, did not check with the guy from SOs what signal type we were using... I will find out and let everyone know.

    Rags: again, I did not ask that, although I was not aware that you could choose between players dacs and the amps dacs... again I will find out and let you know.

    Gav
     
  6. GavinH

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    Signal type: we were using RGB Scart.
    Stereo sound: we were using the dvd player onboard dacs

    Incidently, will a different signal type promote more variation between the players, or will all of the players either improve/degrade by a similar ammount?

    Anyone got suggestions for other players I should consider? Can anyone suggest particular dvds/scenes that are useful for testing pq and movie sound? The guy in SO suggested that it is useful to have a couple of scenes that you are really familiar with... At the moment I think perhaps my test set, although useful, is a little limited. For example, the pq test didn't include any fast motion - would it be a good idea to consider this, or is that more of a display quality?

    I have heard a few people mention some standard disks - what do these aim to test and where can you get them from?

    Ta,

    Gav
     
  7. Stevie S

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    There's a demo sticky under the DVD Talk forums heading. When I was testing stuff recently I used Gladiator - opening scene to check out sound, one of the gladiatorial scenes - with the tigers, etc. - to see the effect with some difficult, hard, bright, sharp images; I am not certain (haven't listened to the commentary), but I think Scott also used the dropped-frame technique on these scenes to increase the impression of speed and confusion.

    Also used Toy Story 2 opening sequence. I think it's useful to try out animated as well as live action (especially if you have children!), as it seems to me that animation requires different things of a system.

    And a scene from Seven (breaking into the apartment to discover Sloth tied to his bed) to try out shadowy, indistinct images.

    But I am no expert, these comments all come with IMHO, YMMV and FWIW riders. But I will say I was very impressed by the 2900's performance with all these demo scenes... using component to an NEC 42VP4 plasma.

    Stevie
     
  8. Craig Sowerby

    Craig Sowerby
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    Hi Gavin,

    Just so you know, the subwoofer was the M&K V850 and Loewe
    was the Mimo32" we were using the Audioquest X scart and chord
    chameleon2 analogue interconnects.

    I hope the demonstration was helpful for you,

    Best regards,
     
  9. GavinH

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    Hi Craig,

    Cheers for the extra info.

    Yep, the demo was really useful. At some point I think I will have a look at a pioneer 757... I won't make my mind up yet but to be honest I am in the arcams corner at the moment. The stereo performance of the arcam made a big impression, and at the moment, stereo performance of the DVD player is important... so the pioneer will need to be really good to change my mind.

    It will be interesting to see/hear the effect of different amps.

    Thanks,

    Gavin
     
  10. Klop

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    Hi Gavin,

    What amp/receiver are you considering for your home cinema system?

    Will you maybe also be going for an Arcam? Maybe the new AVR300 that is coming out soon…
     
  11. StevenH

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    Demo was great Craig, I think me and Gavin are planning on trying to get in next week some time to demo amps. Did you figure out what the problem with the Denon was ?
     
  12. Craig Sowerby

    Craig Sowerby
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    Hi,

    I am going to look at it today, will let you the outcome.
     
  13. StevenH

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    Good luck,
     
  14. GavinH

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    Klop,

    I will consider the AVR200, and I have been alerted to the coming of the new AVR300... I don't know exactly when it will arrive, but I have plenty of time to put the AV system together...

    There are other amps to consider also: pioneer seem to have a strong range at the moment. The Rotel 1055 has always sounded good to me - although I am yet to compare it directly with another amp. Denon have the 2803 and the 3803 (I think those are the model names), and it might be worth having a look at the str-va555es...

    Gav
     
  15. Dimmy

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    Gavin - did you not listen to any SACD/DVD-A discs on the Denon 2900?

    However good the arcam sounds with stereo CDs, it can't compare with the quality of SACD or DVD-A discs that've been well produced, might be worth checking out.
     
  16. GavinH

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    Dimmy, I think your right, it's worth considering SACD/DVD-A. I didn't acutally listen to any SACD/DVD-A discs - in fact I have not yet heard an example of either... which is probably why I didn't check it out :)

    I have a while to choose the DVD player, so I will try SACD and DVD-A before I make the purchase.

    Like most people, my music collection is mainly CDs. So although getting a universal player may allow me use higher quality discs, it may also mean that its performance on the majority of my collection is compramised :-( Decisions, decisions, decisions... :-0
     
  17. Dimmy

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    Gavin - judging that you already own an Arcam CD72, I'd definitely suggest keeping it for CD spinning duties as I imagine it'd comfortably outperform the DV88+.

    If you can, get hold of an SACD Title you own on CD and know rather well (or a DVD-A disc) and give it a spin at your Hi-Fi dealer's store. You'll be amazed at the improvement - I certainately was :).
     
  18. mjn

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    i demoed DVD-A on an arcam dv89, (i think it was) at the weekend, and it blows SACD away. I've heard SACD numerous times, i've got a SACd player aswell and don't think it offers anything over standard CD, other than multi-channel capability.
     

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