iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






DVDigest: April 2003

April ended under the Panasonic's slogan "DVD-Audio for everyone!". This is how we can describe the marketing step of the company which recently launched a budged 5-Disc DVD-Audio Changer - DVD-F85S. 

Sporting a video-out and WMA/MP3/JPEG support, this model is going to become the hit of the season since its recommended retail price is only $149. Unfortunately, the quality of the converters used can't be high enough at such price. But you can forget about this disadvantage in case of DVD movies and audio discs played with a high-quality AV receiver digitally connected to the player because the decoding functions will be fulfilled by the amplifier's DAC. 

As to other companies, we have budget-level Pioneer DV-360 and Toshiba SD-330E (that replaces the previous SD-220) coming onto the market. 


Speaking about the AV receivers, I should mention Kenwood which announced a new model in the sub-$500 range. It features the THX Select specification and has the THX Surround decoder VR-7070. The new-comer is expected in Europe on May 23. 

The multichannel sound formats have finally reached the digital satellite television. Swedish Radio (SR) teamed up with NSAB, a satellite operator, have carried out the test broadcasting in DTS 24/96 mode (1.5 Mbit/s bitrate). The 24-hour FTA (free-to-air) broadcasting covered Europe, Scandinavia and the Russian central area with the Sirius 2 satellite (5° East) using both Nordic and European beams. Before the only attractive variant was a satellite position of the Astra 19.2°, which broadcasted latest movies in the Dolby Digital 5.1 format. The only downside was the German dubbing. 

Sharp announced new 37" LCD-TFT TV sets of the Aquos Custom series with Genuine Lacquer, Leather, or Wood Front Cabinets. 



Front cabinets Model Color Price Beginning of sales
Lacquer LC-37U5-B black $10000 May 22
LC-37U5-R red
Leather LC-37L5-B black
LC-37L5-T brown
Wood LC-37W5-C cherry $9300
LC-37W5-K oak

The maximum resolution is 1366x768 pixels, at the aspect ratio of 16:9. The VGA panel supports such technologies as Black TFT and Advanced Super View which ensure the viewing angle of 170 degrees. The screen contrast is 800:1, brightness - 450 candles per square meter. 

Sony announced a new version of the Playstation 2 - SCPH-50000. It features video-outs supporting the progressive scanning, the new firmware version of the DVD player - v3.00, and DVD+-RW playback. According to the manufacturer, the cooler's noise level is lowered by 25%. 

The console has component, VGA and composite video-outs, as well as an optical audio-out for an external AV receiver. Its dimensions are 301x182x78 mm at the weight of 2 kg. The SCPH-10420 remote control sells separately. 

In Japan this console will hit the stores on May 15 at the recommended retail price of $220, the remote control is priced at $20. 

Barco announced two new high-quality projectors of the SLM series - Models G10 and R10. Both projectors are equipped with three DLP chips from Texas Instruments and ensure the brightness of 10,000 lm. 

The picture-in-picture function shows 4 video sources on the screen. The Ethernet controller supports remote control and diagnostics. 


Model G10 R10
Brightness 10,000 lm
Contrast standard 500:1 800:1
High Contrast mode 1000:1 1600:1
recommended resolution 1024x768 1280x1024
brightness uniformity 90%
lamp power 2200 W
Lamp service life 750 hrs
Cooler's noise level <56 dB
Power consumption 2750 W
Weight 45 kg

Onkyo extended its line of 6.1-channel AV receivers with three new models - entry-level TX-SA501, TX-SA601 and flagship TX-SA701. 

Model Cost Beginning of sales
TX-SA501 $380 May 26
TX-SA601 $630  May 20
TX-SA701 $850 May 2

The TX-SA701 has the following multi-channel decoders: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital EX, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, THX Surround EX, MPEG2 AAC, Dolby HeadPhone, DTS Neo:6, Dolby Prologic II. This solution complies with the THX SELECT specification. Two 32-bit DSP chips control signal decoding and sound processing. The audio section incorporates the 24bit 192kHz DAC and supports the VLSC technology (vector linear shaping circuitry). 

This model also features the Cinema Filter system. It's used when the front speakers and central channel are placed behind the screen, and it determines the appropriate sound delay. 

The video section utilizes the signal conversion scheme from the composite and S-Video inputs to the component one. 

The TX-SA601 is less powerful, it doesn't support the THX Select certification and has fewer connectors for external devices. 

The TX-SA501 lacks for the VLSC technology and the scheme of conversion of the video signal into the component one. Decoding is fulfilled out with the 24bit DSP chip, and the audio section incorporates the DAC supporting 24 bits 96 kHz. 


Model TX-SA701 TX-SA601 TX-SA501
Power 100 W x 6 85 W x 6 65 W x 6
170 W x 2 165 W x 2 125 W x 2
Frequency range 10 Hz - 100 kHz
SNR 106 dB 106 dB 100 dB
inputs component 2
digital D4 2
S-Video 5 4
composite 5 4
coaxial 1
optical 3 2
analog, 2 channels 7 1
analog 5.1 1
outputs component 1
digital D4 1
S-Video 3 2
composite 3 2
coaxial 1 -
optical 1
analog, 2 channels 3
pre-out 8 7 -
headphones 1
power consumption 460 W 420 W 360 W
dimensions 435 x 175 x 432 mm 435 x 150 x 376 mm
weight 13 kg 12 kg 9.8 kg

Now a bit of information on the competing formats DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD. According to NPDTechWorld, the market-research organization, about 1% of DVD players sold last year supported playback of one of the new formats. But at present most manufacturers stake exactly on them. Thus, half of Sony's stationary players and cinema sets support the SACD format; Panasonic offers 10 out of 12 home theater sets and 4 out of 6 players compatible with the DVD-Audio format. But this confrontation differs from the battle between VHS and Betacam because of so called universal players compatible with both formats. They are now offered by several companies: Denon, Marantz, Pioneer and Yamaha. Teac has recently joined them with its feature-laden DV-30 supporting all company's propriatery technologies. 

The disadvantage of both formats is too many cables when the player and amplifier are connected; far not everyone can afford the i.Link connection. 

The strong point of the SACD format is the support of hybrid discs which can be played in usual CD players though with the quality is inferior. 

At present the market offers ~600 SACD and ~480 DVD-Audio discs. Most SACD records were produced by Sony Music (including Columbia, Legacy and Epic). Universal keeps on remaking old hits (for example, Police and Peter Gabriel), and making new records from Roots, Wallflowers and Shaggy in the SACD format. Warner Music (Warner, Electra, Atlantic and Rhino) actively promotes the DVD-Audio format. EMI is currently dealing with both formats.

Alexey Kobtsev (alexeykobtsev@ixbt.com)

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