Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 DVD-audio/video player Page 3
Set up properly as described above, the Kenwood produced an excellent picture with either a progressive or interlaced output (the latter, of course, is dependent on the scaler employed, assuming a progressive-capable video display). Whether I was watching a live-action film such as High Fidelity or a dynamite transfer of an animated film such as Shrek, I had no reservations about its standalone performance.
I have consistently found the differences among good DVD players to be subtle, though a little more obvious in progressive-scan machines. The Sage chip in the Kenwood did an outstanding job of eliminating deinterlacing artifacts. Three of the most telling
tests I have found are the ship railings in several scenes from Titanic, the fluttering flag and the white line zipping past along the side of the road in Video Essentials' “Montage of Images,” and throughout the “Making of” documentary in the two-disc release of Pearl Harbor. The Kenwood handled all of these smoothly. The Pearl Harbor piece, in particular, appears to have a lot of 3:2 cadence-breaking edits, which makes a deinterlacer's job far more challenging. The Sage deinterlacer handled them like a champ.
Another artifact that has been much discussed, even obsessed over, in recent months is the so-called Chroma Bug. With some DVDs, this artifact (which originates in some MPEG decoders) causes smeared, jagged edges in large areas of color, even with stationary objects. The most celebrated example of this is Toy Story, specifically in certain bright red objects, and most obviously in the title and the lid of the Tinker Toy can (chapter 4). I've found that the visibility of this phenomenon varies widely with different players and combinations of player and display. While not a deinterlacing artifact, it is often more prominent with progressive than with interlaced players. Its significance is subject to dispute—some observers rarely see it, others see it all the time. With the Kenwood, it was insignificant on the two displays I used to look for it—the Fujitsu PDS5002U-S plasma and the Sony VPL-VW11HT LCD projector (review in progress)—using three different, vividly colored films: Toy Story, The Road to El Dorado, and Bring It On (check the bright red cheerleader uniforms).
Apart from such readily observable differences, however, I've typically found it necessary to compare a DVD player under test with others of known quality to come to any meaningful conclusions about how it will operate with real-world program material. I still had the superb, high-resolution Madrigal MP-9 CRT projector and Snell & Wilcox G2 Interpolator Gold scaler in-house during the early part of the Kenwood review period, so I performed a number of such comparisons on that setup. Because the S&W does not accept progressive inputs, these face-offs were limited to the players' interlaced component outputs. Stacked up against the Pioneer DV-38A, the differences were small. With the Kenwood's video controls set to Normal, it had a subtle trace of grain (noise) that the Pioneer did not have. With the Kenwood on Soft, the Pioneer had a hair more depth. The Kenwood looked clearly less crisp in this mode, but with some films this was preferable: a very subtle loss of detail was offset by the DV-5700's smooth, creamy, but not truly “soft” or fuzzy picture. And compared with the much more expensive Meridian 596, the Kenwood came up a little short in 3-dimensionality—but most observers would, I suspect, find the differences small in comparison to the fourfold difference in price.
Judging from my observations using both the SharpVision XV-Z9000U DLP and the Fujitsu PDS5002U-S 50-inch plasma (both reviewed in this issue), the point at which the Kenwood's variable enhancement appeared excessive came at a lower setting with fixed-pixel displays than with CRTs. Compared with the Pioneer DV-38A, with both players in progressive mode, horizontal edges on test patterns were sharper on the Pioneer (mid and high Sharpness controls both set at their midpoints), but vertical details were slightly crisper on the Kenwood (User mode, DCDi on, Enhancement set to +1). At this setting, the Kenwood's high-frequency emphasis was just barely visible on the luminance sweep. The Kenwood showed a slight amount of chroma delay (some of which may well have originated outside the player) but provides no control to adjust for it. The Pioneer has such a control, but its steps were slightly too coarse to completely cancel out the emphasis.
With real program material (i.e., not test patterns) and the Sharp projector (still in progressive mode), Enhancement settings of +2 or higher on the Kenwood produced a slightly unnatural, edgy-looking image. But in Soft or User mode (Enhancement at +1), the DV-5700, while superior only in its lack of deinterlacing artifacts, was definitely competitive in all other respects with the more expensive, single-play Pioneer. Which player will look more detailed to you will depend largely on how carefully you set the Kenwood's Enhancement control—and your video display's Sharpness control. It takes some care to bring out the Kenwood's best without producing ringing or artificial-looking edges.
The Music Goes Round and Round
I had no complaints about the sound of the Kenwood in Dolby Digital or DTS from its digital output in Review System 1 (before the Revel speakers were moved to System 2). But for sound-only material, I did the bulk of my listening through System 2. You could argue that the Outlaw 1050 receiver is not as high in resolution as the electronics currently resident in System 1, and I wouldn't disagree. But the Outlaw has a 5.1-channel analog bypass mode and the Proceed AVP does not; the Outlaw allowed me to test the full range of the Kenwood's sound capabilities.