Ever since "universal" DVD players first appeared, I've waited patiently for prices to come down and for the flood of Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio titles initially promised to arrive. Well, the flood never came - I've got Yes's Fragile on DVD-Audio and Miles Davis's Kind of Blue on SACD, but I'm still waiting on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and plenty of other stuff. But if Samsung's DVD-HD841 is any indication, at least the prices of universal players have come tumbling down.
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 17 x 2 x 10 inches
• DVI output with high-def upconversion
At $250, the HD841 is the kind of player I've been hankering for. In addition to DVD-Audio and SACD playback, it features a DVI (Digital Visual Interface) jack and built-in scaling circuitry to bump standard 480i (interlaced) video up to high-def 1080i, 720p (progressive-scan), and other resolutions. But if your HDTV doesn't have a DVI input, have no fear: the player also delivers high-quality 480p signals via its component-video output. And besides MP3/WMA and JPEG photo file playback, it plays two of the three "families" of recordable DVD. Simply put, there's precious little it can't play.
For such a Swiss army knife of a machine, the HD841 certainly looks humble. The front panel has an appealing stripped-down look, featuring only a disc tray, LED window, and basic controls like play, stop, and skip/search forward and reverse.
The Samsung's remote is big and fairly packed with buttons, including controls to change a TV's channel and volume, an aspect ratio selection key called EZ View, and a special adjustment to switch the video format of the DVI output - a feature you normally find buried in setup menus.There's no backlighting, but important controls like those for disc playback are in the middle where they're easy to find.
SETUP To connect the Samsung to my TV, I used a set of component-video cables and the supplied DVI cable. For the audio side, I ran cables from both the player's coaxial digital jack and its six-channel analog output to inputs on my preamp/processor. (The six-channel output is the only way to access the high-resolution surround sound mixes on SACDs and DVD-Audio discs.) For my video setup, I selected the P-Scan & DVI output option from the setup menu, which enabled the DVI output and sent a 480p signal to the component-video jacks. I then toggled the remote's DVI Select button until I came to the 1,024 x 768-pixel option - an exact match for my plasma TV.
Audio setup was easy thanks to the Anthem AVM 30 preamp I was using, which offers full bass management for analog signals entering its multichannel input. I simply selected the "large" option for all speaker positions in the DVD player's setup menu and then let the AVM 30 handle the bass routing.
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