The drawer sticks a bit but picture and sound are excellent. Sorry no remote. The owners manual can be found online. Has power cord. Analog audio outputs: two pairs of stereo outputs (RCA)
Digital audio outputs: coaxial and TosLink
Gold-plated RCA connectors
Auto switching of aspect ratio
Supported sampling rates: 48kHz/24 bit (TosLink), 96kHz/24 bit (coaxial)
Formats supported: DVD-Video, CD, CD-V, SVCD, CD-R, CD-RW
HDCD and MP3 decoding
Upgradable (modular architecture)
If you're like me, your DVD player is your newest component. And, like me, you've probably never even considered that it could stand improvement. After all, it plays music and shows pictures -- how much difference could there be?
Well, come to think of it, there is one area of DVD player performance I've always wanted to change. Although they are touted as "universal" players, capable of playing CDs and DVDs, I've never heard CD performance from a DVD player that was as good as that of a dedicated CD player.
So when I heard that Arcam was claiming unusually good CD playback performance from their first-ever DVD player, I simply had to check it out for myself. But what I wasn't prepared for was noticing the difference in picture quality and sound quality from the moment I plugged the unit into my television. Holy cow -- what had I been watching if this was so much better?
Facts are better than dreams
Arcam is not the best-known name in audio/video equipment in the US, but it has been around in the UK for over two decades. Founded by John Dawson when he was a student at Cambridge, Arcam developed somewhat of a reputation as a high-end company that produced solidly engineered products for affordable prices. During the '80s, marques such as Linn and Naim garnered a great deal of press for furthering the cause of British hi-fi, but up until about a decade ago, few business observers paid much attention to Arcam. Then an interesting thing happened: Arcam began selling more standalone CD players in the UK than the Japanese did. And soon their integrated amplifiers and power amplifiers were doing the same. Tiny Arcam had battled Japan, Inc. to a standstill.
In those days, Arcam had only spotty representation in the US, and only a handful of audio salons carried the brand. That situation has changed, however. Audiophile Systems, a nationwide distributor of high-quality electronics, took over Arcam's distribution just as Arcam redesigned its entire line. The first products to benefit from new engineering were the CD players, which offered a single transport/chassis into which three different digital-to-analog converters could be inserted. All three models garnered praise in the US audio press, especially the $1800 "Ring DAC," which shared D/A conversion technology with dCS's hideously expensive professional models.
For the DV88 DVD player, Arcam decided to design their own platform rather than license some other firm's DVD player and attempt to improve it, which is what smaller firms usually do. As a result, the DV88 has more in common with high-end CD players than with your run-of-the-mill DVD player. The DV88 incorporates many innovative features, such as its use of two power supplies -- a switch-mode supply for the digital electronics and a separate linear supply for the analog circuitry. Its transformer is a toroidal type that generates only a low-level magnetic field. Separate Wolfson WM8716 audio DACs are used for each channel. Each DAC's mono differential output has its own separately regulated power supply. Arcam has taken great care to reduce the high levels of jitter that infest most DVD players. The DV88 uses two asynchronous audio and video clocks derived from separate oscillators, which ensures excellent jitter performance. (Nearly all DVD players derive the audio clock from the video oscillator and, not so coincidentally, nearly all of them manifest poor jitter.)
The DV88's SP/DIF digital output uses a high-bandwidth coupling transformer to provide the external decoder the cleanest signal possible in the event that the player is used as a digital transport. The video signal path uses the best quality video op-amps instead of transistors, with the benefit of superior bandwidth and lower distortion. The DV88 supports all the major video-connection standards. The player is designed to play back regular DVD-Video discs and CDs as well as CD-R and CD-RW discs. It will also play back HDCD- and MP3-encoded CDs. The DV88's modular multi-board construction and flash programmable memory allow Arcam dealers to upgrade the unit. Two upgrades are planned: the ability to output progressive scan (which is available now for $600) and DVD-Audio playback capability (due sometime this year, price to be determined).
Flat and flexible truths are beat out by every hammer...
Connecting the DV88 is a snap. It has four video outputs: component video, RGB, composite and S-video. As the Arcam's handbook points out, if your TV doesn't support any of these, it's time to buy a new television. The player also has TosLink and coax digital outputs, as well as two sets of analog outputs.
Once you get the DV88 connected, you need to configure it -- a step that's a tad unusual (you won't run into with any other player I know of), but worth the initial effort, as it allows you to establish your own default settings. When you first turn on the DV88, you see a deep-blue screen with the words DVD Video and Arcam -- this is the screen the player always shows when it isn't receiving a signal. You can then establish defaults for subtitle, audio, parental controls, on-screen displays, TV format (4:3 letterbox, 4:3 pan and scan, 16:9), black level and digital output (bitstream or stereo PCM).