Sure, DVD players are a dime a dozen these days. And even at the cheapest of prices, you can expect perks that were reserved for high-end players just a couple of years ago, like a progressive-scan component-video output. Amazing. But what if you want to spin more than one disc? For example, you're hunkering down to watch the first few seasons of The Sopranos, or maybe a Rocky marathon. Or maybe you like to mix it up, following Rocky with "best of" CD collections fromthe '70s and '80s. Then you need a DVD changer like the Sony DVP-NC685V.
In a world increasingly populated by thin, silver players, this one is black, substantial, and as traditional in appearance as it gets. Besides the expected transport and disc-selection controls, there's a Progressive button to step through four modes designed to optimize progressive-scan video playback depending on whether the program originated as video or film. The king-size front drawer opens to reveal a carousel that can hold five discs on its platter. Besides DVDs and CDs, the changer can play high-resolution stereo or multichannel Super Audio CDs (SACDs), a nice audio bonus. Other buttons select SACD options, and a Surround button selects various spatial-processing modes, like TV Virtual Surround for two-speaker playback.
The supplied remote control is standard issue and not particularly easy to use. My biggest complaint is that the cursor controls are placed so close to the bottom of the handset that it's tough to use them while holding the remote with the same hand. Try it, and you'll see what I mean. Around back, the changer has the standard complement of inputs and outputs, including the six-channel analog audio output you'll need for multichannel SACDs. Of course, the same output provides decoded Dolby Digital or DTS audio from DVDs and stereo audio from regular CDs. Rather than use one of the digital audio outputs for these and let my receiver do the heavy lifting of decoding and digital-to-analog conversion, I mainly used the analog output for this report, plus a component-video connection to my TV.
The onscreen setup menu was easy to use. I selected the correct "sizes" for my speakers and balanced the channel levels. You can set both of these independently for SACD and DVD playback, but - as usual - speaker-distance compensation doesn't apply to SACD. There's also a variety of picture controls, but you're probably better off adjusting things like brightness, contrast, and hue on your TV, not the DVD player.
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