Philips DVD793C 5-Disc Changer/Player Reviewed

Philips DVD793C 5-Disc Changer/Player Reviewed

Philips is still one of the top producers of drive transports and this is one of the reasons their players are so solid. This five disc changer offered progressive output and excellent CD sound

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When I installed my first multi-disc changer in my Army barracks room about 15 years ago, many of my friends questioned why I needed so many discs on hand at a time. Certainly I was able to get up and change a disc after listening to it, but loading a number of audio discs into the changer effectively gave me hours of uninterrupted music, not to mention having cool features like playing discs and songs in random order.

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My sales pitch to my fellow soldiers must have worked, because within a few months, over half the platoon had added disc changers to their stereo systems, too. This led to one guy exclusively keeping five Metallica CDs loaded in his changer for a never-ending Metallica concert while a couple of others dueled it out with marathon sessions of Latin salsa performances. In hindsight, I regretted hyping disc changers to my buddies, and looked forward to going out in the field for peace and quiet.

Since serving my country, my interest in consumer electronics has grown. During this time, compact disc technology that was all the rage in the '80s--was replaced by an equally exciting media: digital versatile discs, pioneered by Philips and Sony in 1995. So when the new Philips DVD793C 5-disc changer arrived for review, I savored the thought of seeing what it had to offer.

Unique Features - First and foremost, the DVD793C is a progressive scan player with 3:2 pull-down conversion and a 5-disc changer. Progressive scan technology doubles the vertical resolution of images providing a much sharper picture. By connecting the DVD793C to a progressive scan compatible television or monitor using the component jacks, a superior picture with enhanced color becomes highly noticeable.

Although nobody with a disc changer really wants to move from their sofa, there are times when a trip to the machine to replace discs is inevitable. A function called Play Exchange makes the task easier by allowing you to change discs while one is playing. Up to four discs can be swapped during a Play Ex-change. Once discs are loaded, a resume feature will pick up where you left off on each disc. For instance if you switch from listening to a CD to viewing a DVD, when you return to music mode the DVD793C will automatically continue from the point you had stopped listening to the CD.

While searching forward or backward, it's often tough to get a good idea of what you're watching because the picture is so choppy. Philips has added what they call smooth scan to the DVD793C. Smooth scan offers playback frame by frame through DVD chapters for a clearer search. Likewise, the zoom function benefits from a jitter-free picture when watching freeze frame images or slow frame advances.

Because some DVD discs contain scenes not suitable for children, a comprehensive parental control is included. Up to 80 discs can have individual scenes or the entire movie rated by a parent from a general audience score of 1 to a mature audience rating of 8. When in use, higher rated scenes will not be played unless an alternative scene is available on the disc or a 4-digit code is entered.

This feature is available on most DVD changers, but it's usually not this far-reaching.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - To keep the price down for thrifty consumers, this changer doesn't have an onboard Dolby Digital or DTS decoder. But that shouldn't stop anyone from connecting the DVD793C to a Dolby-ready receiver and surround sound speaker system. My install called for THX certified Monster Cable component and digital audio interconnects to join the Philips changer with a NAD L70 DVD/receiver to acquire Dolby Digital and DTS capability. A switch on the rear panel of the unit is selectable for either S-video or component/progressive scan depending on the application. I switched from the factory S-video setting to component output and pushed forward with my evaluation in near record time.

Read more on page 2

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Philips built the DVD793C pretty well. The construction is solid and the fit and finish are quite good. The faceplate has a large display window center mounted above the disc tray. This window shows multiple actions that the player is capable of during playback. I really liked the bright display in all lighting conditions; however some may be easily distracted from watching a movie in low lighting. Buttons on the front panel are basic, neat and concise. They control only basic operations, with advanced features being accessed by the remote.

Philips uses a remote control nearly identical to many Yamaha players. It's fairly small and compact with a logical grouping of buttons. The top of the controller has a numerical keypad, the center has directional arrows and on the bottom are buttons for more advanced features. Just as with many Yamaha remote controls, the device feels good in your hand, but is too lightweight for my liking.

The button labeling on the remote is rather small and hard to read, especially in darkened rooms, because the buttons are not backlit. I'm sure DVD enthusiasts that like holding the remote in their hand for long periods of time may prefer a smaller controller such as this one, but it didn't seem to get the job done very easily, and its light weight seemed toy-like.

Final Take - For this price point, the DVD793C does a fine job. I loaded up five discs and went to town playing everything from DVD video discs to computer generated MP3 music CD-Rs. I was even able to play DVD-Audio titles which are not advertised as being supported.

My subjective interpretation of the video output of the Philips changer came after some meaningful testing. During my time with the DVD793C, I was able to detect some interlaced artifacts that are inherent in all 3:2 pull-down fields, especially from flag reading. The end result is a slight jitter when objects are in motion. Most DVDs appeared fine, but during slow moving action such as submarine scenes in U-571, the problem is noticeable.

It is also clear in U-571 that black levels appeared adequately dark. Color saturation overall was bright without affecting white levels detrimentally. Testing the DVD793C using a direct view television gave me a chance to see how it performs anamorphic down conversion. By taking a widescreen DVD and playing it on a standard 4:3 display, some players have tendencies to show straight edges as jagged. This wasn't the case with the Philips changer as images were reasonably sharp and clear. But for my taste, I preferred viewing DVDs in all their
glory on my 65-inch Mitsubishi HDTV.

Disc changers that I've experienced with in the past had trays that were quite noisy, but the Philips unit is surprisingly silent. Its fluid motion and quiet operation added to my keenness for the build quality. But every manufacturer has limited numbers of blemished players that hit the market to some degree. I was disappointed to see the obscure warranty method Philips uses for quality assurance. Where a one-year warranty is normally standard on DVD players, with some companies offering multi-year contracts, Philips only puts forward a 90-day free exchange with a pro-rated style of warranty extending to the first year of ownership. This may open a new line of disposable DVD products in years to come. Taking into consideration the super low cost of the Philips DVD793C, coupled with the array of features it offers, some will be swayed from single disc players to a much more useful 5-disc changer. I know I have always preferred the convenience of multi-disc players, except when my Army buddies wanted to serenade me with their favorite music collections.

5-Disc Changer
Progressive Scan
DVD-Video, VCD, SVCD, DVD+RW, CD,
CD-R/RW, MP3
192 kHz / 24-bit audio D/A converter
Component video, S-video and composite outputs
Coaxial and optical digital outputs
16.9" W x 4.65" H x 16.2" D
12.6 lbs.
90-day free exchange,
1-year reduced-cost exchange warranty
MSRP $179

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