When I look at the state of the union as it pertains to multi-channel audio, it's a rather frightful scene. Thanks to a continued format war between DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD), neither format has exploded in popularity. Instead, confused consumers seem to be following my father's advice: when in doubt, do nothing. Don't get me wrong, there is some fantastic multi-channel music out there.
Some of it is on DVD-Audio and some of it is on SACD. If you're dying to fill two shelves in your component rack, you're certainly entitled to invest in a separate player dedicated to each format. However, if you're like most people, you see the sense in purchasing one quality, universal player that will handle anything you feed it. The Onkyo DV-SP1000 is just such a player.
In every way, Onkyo's DV-SP1000 is a flagship, reference-quality DVD player. From its remarkable build quality and incredible heft (over 26 lbs.!) to its THX-Ultra certification, this DVD player screams quality at every turn. Several things stand out on this player, setting it apart from much of the competition. To name a few, we're given a HDMI digital output, dual i.Link (IEEE 1394) connections, an integrated video scaler and high-quality video and audio digital/analog converters (DACs). Trust me when I say this thing does it all. (OK, it doesn't make julienne fries, but I'm holding out for a firmware update.)
Unique Features - For starters, we have today's hottest acronym – HDMI. Short for High Definition Multimedia Interface, HDMI is a unique connection carrying both the digital video signal and the multichannel digital audio signal over one compact cable. Many new display devices feature a HDMI input for this will (arguably) provide the highest quality picture from your DVD player.
In order to take full advantage of its HDMI output, Onkyo's DV-SP1000 features the O-Plus FlexScaleTM video scaler. This scaler allows you to customize the video output resolution over HDMI. When using the HDMI output, a simple tap of the "Resolution" button on the remote will toggle the HDMI output between
480p, 576p, 720p and 1080i. For some, this feature alone is worth the price of admission.
Since this review already reads like alphabet soup, I see no reason to stop now. A welcome addition on the DV-SP1000 is the presence of two i.Link (IEEE 1394) digital audio outputs. i.Link is a high-speed, bi-directional format commonly used on computers and camcorders to transfer digital audio and video. On the DV-SP1000, i.Link can be used to connect to an i.Link-compatible receiver, such as Onkyo's TX-NR1000. This i.Link connection allows for the digital output of multi-channel audio from DVD-Audio, SACD and DVD-Video. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this functionality for this review, but I'm expecting to have a TX-NR1000 in-house by the time you read this, and I will talk more about this feature when Onkyo's much-anticipated flagship receiver makes its appearance.
On the video front, the DV-SP1000 makes use of new Analog Devices 216MHz/14-bit video DACs and Silicon Images deinterlacing with 3:2 pulldown conversion. The back panel actually features two sets of analog component video outputs, one interlaced and one progressive. The unit's front panel features a handy little button which, when pressed, completely disables the output video circuitry. This turns the DV-SP1000 into a pure audio player and removes any potential interference caused by the video circuitry. (It also has the side effect of turning unsuspecting users into foul-mouthed idiots. With no picture on the screen, I was swearing up and down for five minutes before noticing that little blue light on the front panel.)
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - While unpacking this monster, I thought Onkyo had maybe goofed and mistakenly sent me a receiver. This is one heavy DVD player! It probably feels heavier now than it would have three years ago, when most DVD players weren't one inch tall and weighing less than a pound. The DV-SP1000 is built like a tank, and that extends to the long, thick (and detachable) power cord as well as the large remote control.
Ah yes, the remote control. I'll just get right to the point – I love this remote. Oddly enough, the supplied remote is fairly large, rather heavy and sometimes awkward. But then again, so am I (smile). I love the balance and the extra weight towards the lower half where it's more apt to be held. I love the hard, jewel buttons. They have a great feel and just the right amount of snap. And then there's the backlighting. Though the button's a bit out-of-the-way, the light is just enough to see what you're doing without causing a distraction. The icing on the cake is that every button has a printed label (or abbreviation) so you know what you're pressing in the dark Like I said, I love this remote.
After connecting a Monster THX coaxial audio cable and BetterCables' DVI cable (with Ultralink's HDMI adapter), I plugged in the DV-SP1000 to get this show on the road. The unit greets you with its Initial Setup Menu and it asks you the most important questions regarding TV shape, on-screen language, etc. With the basic settings complete, I began to further explore the On-Screen Display (OSD) and its various menus.
To call the DV-SP1000 flexible is an under statement. While navigating the excellent OSD, I discovered that the unit will store three different setup memories for the interlaced output and another three for progressive. Parameters that can be adjusted include contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness, gamma and Y/C time correction. This essentially allows you to create different picture modes for different times of the day or different types of material. Also unique is the unit's "AV Synchronization" feature which allows you to adjust the audio delay (in milliseconds) on the multi-channel analog output. Three memories can be stored here as well. For adjusting the digital audio output, speaker size and distance delays are also adjustable. This is extraordinary flexibility.
Final Take - It's no surprise by now that I was very impressed with the DV-SP1000. When I gave it a few DVDs and audio discs to chew on, I had no doubt that my good impression would continue. It did. Watching The Chronicles of Riddick, the DV-SP1000 did an excellent job with a 480p signal to my BenQ PE7800 projector using the HDMI output. The many dark interior shots of Riddick rendered beautifully without any hint of coloration or video noise introduced by the player. Bumping the HDMI output resolution up to 1080i only further improved the picture, giving it added depth and a near-HD feel.
Several months ago, I took the advice of Big Cheese Clint Walker and picked up the DVD-Audio release of Dishwalla's Opaline. Good call, Clint. Although I certainly wouldn't call it the best multi-channel album out there, it's better than many, and the album's emotional, moving collage of songs is a treat for the ears in DVD-Audio. The DV-SP1000 handled Opaline beautifully. One of my favorite cuts is "Today, Tonight" and although its vocals are a bit forward, that's a fault of the recording, not the DV-SP1000. Using the analog multi-channel outputs, the Onkyo impeccably reproduced Dishwalla's sound, again with the transparency you want from a high-end source device.
As I said earlier, I eagerly await the arrival of Onyko's TX-NR1000 receiver so I can test this player's i.Link digital audio connection for SACD and DVD-Audio. That feature aside, I saw enough of the DV-SP1000 to know this is my new reference DVD player. This machine is easily the most versatile, well-built and high-performing DVD player to find its way onto my work bench. For what it's worth, I'm well aware that I just slobbered all over this machine. But check it out for yourself, and tell me if it doesn't get your mouth watering. Highly recommended.
Onkyo DV-SP1000 Universal DVD Player
Universal DVD-A/SACD Player
Scaler: 480p/576p/720p/1080i out
(1) HDMI Output
(2) Component Video Outputs (P/I)
(2) Optical/(2) Coaxial Digital Outputs
(2) i.Link Digital Outputs
192 kHz/24-bit Audio DACs
216 MHz/14-bit Video DACs
17 1/8" W x 4 13/16" H x 14 3/4" D
Weight: 26.7 lbs.