Yamaha is known to A/V buffs mostly for its receivers, but the company seems to have its hand in every product category, including plasma TVs, DLP and LCD front projectors, and now DVD recorders. Its $600 DRX-2 is a well-built machine boasting DVD+R/RW recording and a FireWire port for a camcorder connection.
The DRX-2's black case and overall design closely adheres to the traditional Yamaha look - without knowing it's a recorder, you might mistake it for one of the company's CD or DVD players. Only the most basic control buttons - like play, stop, fast forward/rewind, and record - are on its sparse front panel. Annoyingly, that record button lights up like Rudolph the Reindeer's nose when the DRX-2 is recording. A flip-up door on the front hides the FireWire port and an A/V input with composite- and S-video jacks.
Yamaha's remote control has a nice, compact design and fit comfortably in my hand. Its clean keypad layout also allowed me to quickly find any button I was looking for. The DRX-2's rear panel, meanwhile, holds all the ins and outs you'd expect on a recorder. I was surprised to see that it had a component-video input. If you're getting any funny ideas about copying DVDs with this, think again - the Yamaha won't accept signals from copy-protected discs (neither will any other DVD recorders, for that matter).
Setting up and using the Yamaha wasn't difficult once I blundered my way through its cryptic icon-based menu system. Unlike the Toshiba and LiteOn models, it offers no introductory screen to help you find your way around. The deck's six recording-quality presets provide between 1 and 6 hours of recording time per disc, with the M1, M2, and M2x modes (1, 2, and 2 1/2 hours, respectively) each delivering very good picture quality. The recordings I made of Buffy the Vampire Slayer using these modes were all clean and crisp. But recordings made at the M3, M4, and M6 modes looked soft and broke up into "macroblocks" on some scenes.
I did have one recording issue with the Yamaha. While the deck could record signals from my JVC MiniDV camcorder via its FireWire port, a lack of audio/video control (AV/C) functionality meant that I couldn't control camera playback with Yamaha's remote, which made camcorder transfers more awkward than I'm used to. But simply as a DVD player for watching movies, the Yamaha delivered clean, detailed images. I did notice a slight amount of edge enhancement, which was visible as a faint halo on the edges of objects. Otherwise, there's no reason this deck couldn't be the main DVD player in your system.
It might be on the pricey side for a deck without a built-in hard disk, but Yamaha's DRX-2 is a solid DVD recorder that combines very good video performance with the DVD+R/RW format's ease of use. (Unlike DVD-R/RW discs, DVD+RW discs don't need to be "finalized" to make them playable on standard DVD players.) If you're leaning toward the DVD+R/RW format and are interested in a basic recorder, make a point of checking it out.
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