Philips DVD-962SA Reviewed

Philips DVD-962SA Reviewed

The Dutch are known for a lot of things. Being tall, for one. Amsterdam for another. Philips, one of the largest corporations in the world, calls the Netherlands home. And into your home they hope you bring their new DVD-9622A DVD player.

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Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to review some great DVD players. I have written the word Faroudja so many times, you would think I wrote their advertising copy. In any case, the filtering of this excellent de-interlacing technology down to relatively inexpensive players has allowed for a significant leap forward in stable, artifact-free picture quality. Philips was one of the first manufacturers to bring out a player with this chipset in the Q50, and the follow-up is now in the form of the DVD-962SA, which also adds multi-channel SACD playback to its repertoire.

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Unique Features
This is a single-disc player, only available in silver, and measures 16.93 x 3.45 x 9.72 inches. It has a large front panel with large white LED letters, which I found refreshing in a day when itty-bitty displays seem to be all too common. Although an inability to see displays often brings people to see me for my real job, I still prefer it when a manufacturer adds good ergonomics to their priority list. When a disc is first inserted, or audio modes changed, the front panel display shows the type of audio on the disc and the number of channels, a feature that I really liked, and that I have not seen on any other player. The front panel is clean with the tray underneath the display, the power switch and logo panel on the left third, and basic player controls on the right third. Interestingly enough, the round "jog dial" is not a dial at all, but consists of play/rewind/if functions. There is a also an audio direct button that turns off the video section to decrease interference during audio playback, although I have yet to find a player where such a feature made a discernable difference. The back panel held some pleasant surprises. Philips' 962 has S-Video, composite, coaxial and digital audio outs (in itself a nice touch), six-channel audio outs for SACD and, interestingly enough, has two sets of component outs, one for interlaced video and one for progressive. This is a Godsend to those who have high definition televisions that lock into "full" mode when fed a 480p signal, not allowing scaling (stretch mode) for 4:3 programming. For programming that requires scaling, the 962's interlaced component outs can be used, which is a feature found on few players.

The remote of the 962 is silver with a dark grey lower half; it fits nicely into the palm of your hand, but has buttons that glow in the dark rather than being backlit. The only buttons that glow are the main transport controls. The menu, navigation and playback buttons are raised and of different size making it fairly easy to use.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The setup menus of the 962 carry on the strange cryptographic symbols I saw on the 985, but they are fairly easy to use. Overall, basic setup of this player was fairly easy. The Faroudja chipset does not have the companion enhancer chip, in itself no great loss, so although there are various controls for picture adjustment, there is no enhancement adjustment. This is the same reason why the Faroudja logo is not on the front of the player, as both chips are required for this, but the DCDi logo is present. DCDi is the proprietary Faroudja technology that reduces "jaggies" on diagonal lines for video based DVDs, allowing for a smoother picture.

Read more about the DVD-962SA on Page 2.
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Associated equipment was B&W Nautilus 804 fronts, 805 rears,
HTM2 center channel, REL Strata III subwoofer, Classé CAV-150
amplifier, Sunfire Theater Grand II processor, and Pioneer Elite 520
television.

Final Take
The main reason why we requested to review this Philips player was the
surprisingly good picture quality of the DVDR985 DVD recorder I
reviewed in our August/September 2002 issue. I figured a $500 player
with a similar but better video section might acquit itself well. I was
quite right. The Faroudja chip delivers the now expected rock solid
de-interlacing, and the picture quality was excellent with slightly
better clarity and black level than the Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 I
have as my reference, but it also displayed just a bit more grain. The
similarities were enough that it took several A-B comparisons after
calibration to really pick out the differences. In fact, as an aside, I
did take a quick look the interlaced output picture of the 962, and the
quality of this was also very good. I was actually surprised at how
good it made the line doubler on my Pioneer Elite 520 look. To say the
962 acquitted itself well might be an understatement; the video
performance of this player was absolutely fabulous.

The redbook CD performance of the Philips 962 was fairly good. The
soundstage was not huge, and in fact a bit more closed in width than
the DACs in my Sunfire processor, but sound-stage depth was pretty
good. The vocals were a bit more forward and direct, clarity of
midrange was good, and a little bit of edginess in the highs was
present. Bass response was quite good, but there seemed to be just a
hint of muddiness in the lower midrange/upper bass. Even though the
soundstage was a bit constricted, the sound was clean, and I preferred
listening to CDs through the Philips rather than using it as a
transport with the Sunfire. Overall, a nice performance from a $500
machine.

SACD performance is something that Philips appears quite proud of,
as they even sent along a couple of SACDs with the player. The 962 once
again does not display the soundstage of an SACD player like the
Marantz 8300, but bass response is excellent. The traits of clean
midrange, slightly sibilant highs, and the hint of muddiness in the
upper bass were again present but, as I mentioned above, the sound was
pleasing and excellent for this price range. These characteristics were
present in both two channel and multi-channel SACD. Multi-channel SACD
expanded the soundstage just as it is supposed to, and the only trait
that I disliked was that bit of edginess to the highs. I am very
sensitive to this trait though; it fatigues me more than the average
person, and the 962 was not seriously fatiguing, but the sibilance was
present. One of the nice features was the sound mode button on the
remote, which allowed for almost instantaneous switching between two
channel and multi-channel modes on SACD.

It is easy for us in the home theater reviewing world to throw around prices, as so
many great products come to us for review. Those in the real world need
to know how to spend their hard earned money, and every once in awhile
something comes along which just deserves an unqualified
recommendation. The 962's picture quality is nothing short of class
leading, and I recommend it highly not only in the $500 price class,
but in just about any price class below mega-buck reference level. Its
SACD and CD performance is very good for its price class, and good
overall and with a video quality that brings you so close to reference
level, the audio section is an excellent bonus. A player like this
shows how good progressive player technology has become, and how close
we are to maximizing the DVD format.

Suggested Retail Price
$599.00

Additional Resources
• Read more source component reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a receiver to pair with this source.
• See more about the audiophile world at AudiophileReview.com.
• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.

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