Onkyo DV-SP800 SACD/DVD-Audio Player
How pleased am I that the trickle of combination SACD/DVD-Audio players has quickly reached a full flow? Visitors to my whiskey cellar (all right, my whiskey cabinet) may notice recently cracked seals on more than one of my special-occasion bottles of rare Wild Turkey. I've been on the soapbox about this issue. While no one needed a crystal ball to predict that the market would kick-start once Pioneer released their combi player, I still had my doubts. After all, this SACD/DVD-Audio format war started out as nasty as any of them. But then, I always took solace in precedent. Dolby and DTS didn't exactly exchange Christmas cards at first, either (and they still don't); now, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find applicable hardware that doesn't accommodate both formats. Deep down, I suppose I always knew that high-resolution combi players would ultimately be the norm, but I doubted that it would happen this quickly—and besides, it was more fun to do a bit of preaching.
So, while I crack on the manufacturers at times—it's part of my job, after all—I also give credit where it's due. If you ask me, Onkyo and everyone else who's been willing to cut through the partisan politics that have plagued this DVD-Audio/SACD situation from the start are to be commended. Combination players like Onkyo's DV-SP800 may be the final piece of the puzzle that guarantees high-resolution music's future.
As I've established, the DV-SP800 plays both DVD-Audio and SACD through dual sets of two-channel and 5.1-plus-channel analog outputs. The plus refers to an extra set of surround outputs, which (via a rear-panel switch) allow you to run a single set of surrounds or two sets of surrounds in parallel (not to be confused with four discrete rear channels). The DV-SP800 offers progressive scanning via its component outputs (switchable with interlaced) or interlaced via two S-video or two composite jacks. There's plenty of minor video bonuses, like the 16:9 compressed mode that lets you watch 4:3 DVD material on a 16:9 screen; it prevents your TV from assuming the image is anamorphic just because it's coming in progressive. As for compatibility, the DV-SP800 can play most any consumer audio or video format on a 5-inch disc, including CD, CD-R/-RW, MP3, videoCD, and DVD-R/-RW.
Picking up this unit, or peeking inside, reveals the DV-SP800's legitimate build and design quality. THX Ultra certification doesn't hurt, either. The digital-to-analog converters are 24-bit/192-kilohertz, and Onkyo has included their Direct-Digital Path circuitry, which routes signals to the shortest possible path for the digital outputs. Onkyo also gives you the option to disable all of the video circuitry to preserve signal integrity during audio-only applications. You can apply this to either the digital or the multichannel analog outputs. Bass management is aboard for DVD-Audio and SACD. There are large/small options for the center and surround speakers (the fronts are fixed on large), and turning on the sub routes all low-frequency material its way. You also get channel-level and delay settings, although the delay settings apply only to DVD-Audio.
For video, you get Analog Devices' NSV Precision Video 12-bit/108-megahertz digital-to-analog converters and 3:2-pulldown recognition. There's also a slew of video adjustments, the value of which depends on your setup and your opinion of such things. The film mode (which they call PureCinema) has four settings (auto 1, auto 2, on, and off), and they do make a difference. There are also various noise-reduction controls and fundamental video controls like sharpness, detail, hue, etc. Three separate memory settings save your preferences.