Onkyo DV-SP800 SACD/DVD-Audio Player Page 2
A key test disc was Chesky's excellent Swing Live, which—record companies take note—is available in both SACD and DVD-Audio versions. The sonic differences between formats pale in comparison to the sonic differences that result from engineering skill from disc to disc in either format. Both formats can sound great; both can sound bad. Since the same master is at the root of both Swing Live versions, I was able to do some interesting A/B format comparisons—more for the similarities than the differences. You'll have to listen harder than you might think, but characteristics (subtle as some of them may be) do obviously materialize. I ultimately found the SACD version to be more open and airy, while the DVD-Audio version was slightly more dynamic and immediate. The beauty is, I could actually do this comparison on the same player.
The DV-SP800 handled almost all of the DVD-Audio and SACD I threw its way excellently. Of course, "The Generals" (from the Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith SACD) got a run, and it was as big and powerful as ever. As a good player does, the DV-SP800 did nothing to mask the good or the bad in a particular track. The DVD-Audio rendition of Mozart's Symphony KV 504 and Concerto KV 503 was as beautiful as always, with massive space and tangible separation. Stone Temple Pilots' Core DVD-Audio sounded as dicey as ever. With only 16 bits and 44.1 kHz of master recording to work with, there isn't much that DVD-Audio can do for this album, and the DV-SP800 made that perfectly clear—exactly as it should.
As with straight two-channel, I must forgo in-depth analysis of the DV-SP800's movie sound reproduction. Same idea—you'll almost always get quality Dolby Digital and DTS at this price (your preamp does most of the work these days, anyway). Picture quality is another story, but the DV-SP800's performance in this area was certainly up to and, in some cases, above par. The player's resolution was outstanding—probably the best I've seen from a player anywhere around this price. Our scope revealed no evidence of high-end rolloff. Processing was only an issue with improperly flagged material, like our old DTS sampler. Here, the DV-SP800 had some noticeable trouble with tearing and motion anomalies in the auto 1 film mode. Things definitely improved when I switched over to the auto 2 mode. With properly flagged material, which most is these days, the DV-SP800's 3:2 recognition was quick and virtually error-free. Long pans of large buildings, American flags flapping in the breeze, and many other indicators of good video processing generally came off without a hitch. The Onkyo also did a good job of downconverting anamorphic material to letterboxed.
Don't assume that I like this player just because it's of the combination variety. After all, there's a couple of combi players out there that do a clear disservice to both formats. I like this player first and foremost because it sounded good with most everything I played on it (and yes, I like that you can play most everything on it), but also because its picture quality is rock-solid and it has plenty of features and quality internal components. Competition is already getting stiff—and will only get stiffer—in this first crop of high-resolution combination players. From what I've seen and heard so far, the DV-SP800 won't have to take a backseat to anyone.
• Plays DVD-Audio, SACD, and most everything else
• Plenty of secondary tricks
• Rock-solid audio and video performance