|DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 17 x 3 3/4 x 16 inches
MANUFACTURER Sony Electronics, www.sonystyle.com, 800-222-7669
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• Plays DVD-Video, SACD, and other formats
• Full Dolby Digital and DTS decoding
• Bass management for DVD and SACD
• outputs component-video (switchable interlaced or progressive-scan); 2 composite- and 2 S-video; coaxial and optical digital audio; six-channel and 2 stereo analog audio
With all due respect to the venerable CD, I began my listening session by popping in the six-channel SACD version of Shania Twain's Up! The catchy title tune features Twain's honey-sweet vocals in the front left/right channels along with guitars, piano, synthesizer, drums, and bass guitar. Guitars, piano, and synthesizer also appear in the surround channels, with just a dash of reverberated vocals. The taut kick drum and bass guitar get the "subwoofer" channel all to themselves, which creates a rock-solid foundation. In the center channel there's only a touch of reverberated vocals and the piano track, but the mix makes great use of spatial cues, adding to the song but not drawing attention to itself.
Overall sound quality on the Sony player was first-rate, with the kind of clarity that you'd expect from a pop recording on SACD. The synthesizer and guitars in particular really jumped out of the surround speakers with terrific punch and aggressive energy, without ever sounding harsh.
Moving on to DVD, I loaded Confessions of a Dangerous Mind into the tray. A film based on the memoirs of game-show host Chuck Barris, who created such cultural beacons as The Dating Game and The Gong Show, might not seem inviting, but it explores the intriguing possibility that he moonlighted as a CIA assassin.
Toward the end of the film, as Barris laments that he has polluted TV - and also murdered 33 human beings - his mechanical typewriter pounds out his confession. Every detail of the crooked letters and the texture of his typing paper was visible. Beams of sunlight filter through the cigarette smoke in his room, and that hazy atmosphere looked real. The Dolby Digital soundtrack was also convincing and very clean. Check out the bell tolling as Barris flees from church with his new bride.
At $250, the Sony DVP-NC685V isn't the cheapest player out there, but it's still a bargain. It not only holds a handful of CDs or DVDs, but it offers the welcome wrinkle of SACD playback, too. So while it might look like your old CD changer, it plays an entirely new generation of discs. Sometimes things do change for the better.
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