Yesterday I received the most recent edition of Sound and Image which, as usual, contains a number of my articles. Amongst others it has my rave review of the Harman Kardon DVD 30 DVD video/audio player. I like this player very much. So much I bought the review unit.
But, I find long term use reveals weaknesses in my review methodology. It would be nice to use each piece of equipment in a leisurely way for a couple of months, but then the throughput of work would be a tiny fraction of what it is and the living I make, such as it is, would tip over into true pauperhood. So I go for the main game: checking the things it is supposed to do, with an emphasis on those things that separate it from the pack.
In this case, my focus was on the DVD 30’s sub-$1,000 price and real, honest-to-goodness ability to properly process DVD Audio surround tracks. This it does superbly, providing real bass management (complete with a somewhat adjustable crossover frequency) and real time alignment). Since the few other DVD Audio players on the market that provide both these essential capabilities cost at least twice as much, you can see why I was impressed.
However daily use has revealed two problems. One is minor, and is to do with the programming of the unit. It seems that it does not always check the disc identifier when you switch it on. So let’s say you’re playing a CD one evening and decide, half way through, it’s time to go to bed. Being lazy, rather than pressing Stop twice and then putting the unit in standby, you just put it straight into standby. Next morning, you decide you’re in the mood for something different. So you start up the unit by pressing the Open button, change to a different CD, and press Play. The unit starts playing the CD at the point (ie. the time from the beginning of the disc) it was up to the previous night on the other CD. In other words, it doesn’t recognise that the CD is different and reset its counters accordingly.
Far more important is the sound quality of CDs from the analogue output. Something is wrong with it. When you play back CDs using the analogue outputs, every 17 to 19 seconds it produces a short noise, like a digital hiccup (ie. it seems to skip a few samples or something, producing this noise). This noise is quite loud enough to be clearly audible on most CDs. Yet it does not do this if you feed out the PCM signal to an external decoder.
I’ve asked the distributor about this, but there has been no reply yet. If anyone else has experienced this, I’d be interested in hearing from you.
As an aside, when I was recently reviewing new all-digital Sony STR-DA5000ES home theatre receiver, I failed to notice a useful feature: the composite video input signal is converted and made available on both the S-Video and component video outputs, and the S-Video input signal is likewise made available on component video. Saves a lot of TV input switching. This feature is becoming increasingly wide-spread, now also available in models from Onkyo and Yamaha.