If - even a year ago - you told me that Tesco would be the place to buy the best-ever DVD bargain in the UK, I would have raised an eyebrow and guessed that you'd been at the elderberry wine. For, up until the release of the Wharfedale
DVD-750 sold exclusively through 400 Tesco outlets, our only experience of worthy 'house brand' models invariably involved exclusives from companies such as Tandy, with roots in electronics and home entertainment. But Wharfedale is a major brand with a long history, and it is not Tesco's house brand. On the other hand, the player is restricted to Tesco, which - by definition - makes it a 'house product'.
Please: don't allow audiophilic snobbery to keep you from investigating this absolute gift of a player; such thinking probably kept a few of you from checking out the late, lamented Tandy LX-5 PRO. If anything, it's an absolute blessing if you've been putting off the purchase of a DVD player as you wait for a universal model which also handles SACD and DVD-A. (Don't hold your breath.) To suggest that the DVD-750 is only good for marking time until you find a 'proper' player which suits you would be to do it a grave disservice. The DVD-750 isn't just a near-giveaway at £179.99 - it's a magnificent player by standards. And yet there's a tendency to regard it as of worth only to non-enthusiasts who want a cheap ticket into DVD.
How wrong that is...
You will, quite naturally, be suspicious because conditioning has led all of us to believe that you only get what you pay for, and the price of the DVD-750 falls firmly in the 'entry level' category. Think again: Americans can now buy DVD players for under $200, or £130, and I paid £180 for a Pioneer deck in the USA in January 1999. If anything, £179.99 is about as deserved a price norm as first-time buyers in this country should pay. It just took the buying might of Tesco and the cleverness of Wharfedale to make it a reality.
Why? Because Wharfedale owns what is said to be the largest DVD manufacturing plant in China, where labour costs are lower. And yet the player houses a Sanyo-made transport, LSI Logic integrated circuits from the USA and Analogue Devices D/A circuits. Please, no angry letters about Third World exploitation. Having been to China, I suspect that the company's employees are more than ecstatic not to be working for the Commies. The cleverness and savings are in Wharfedale's design, careful sourcing on the part of the company's components buyer and the sheer might of Tesco.
What they've put inside this 430x94x308mm (HWD) unit is simply astonishing. Aside from the lack of DTS, the DVD-750 is so packed with goodies that it embarrasses dearer models. The player uses a universal switch-mode power supply so you can operate it on mains from 100-240V and 50/60Hz. It comes with a comprehensive remote control AND it avoids the cost-cutting seen on most other players which fail to duplicate all but the basic transport buttons on the fascia. The DVD-750's front panel, in addition to the centrally-positioned tray above the clear display, contains all of the transport keys up-down-left-right cursors surrounding the enter button, menu key, set-up, title and return. At last, here's a player you can still operate with ease if the remote goes walkies.
To the above the remote adds the complete array of commands expected of all DVD players: numeric keypad, title, subtitle, angle select, audio select, all transport and menu keys and a couple of luxuries not found on all players. The zoom command is a useful way of homing in on a small detail, as it magnifies a portion of the screen, and the direction keys let you change the area being magnified. (Use your imagination.) The TV System button toggles between NTSC and PAL, while MPX can turn off vocals for karaoke usage or (when playing a CD) will toggle between left-channel-only, right-channel-only or both channels. Apparently this is useful for sing-a-long purposes...
Read more about the DVD-750 on Page 2.