Oppo DV-981HD Upconverting DVD Player
Back in the days before the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats arrived to tempt intrepid, deep-pocketed movie fans, someone shopping for a standard DVD player was well-advised to check out "upconverting" models - players capable of generating 720p, 1080i, or even 1080p video signals from the standard 480i signal encoded on DVDs. Even with recent high-def disc developments, upconverting players still remain a viable force in the marketplace. Though they can't quite make a silk purse from a sow's ear - upconverted standard-def signals never look as good as real high-definition - a player that does a good job of upscaling DVDs can make them look worthy of displaying on your new HDTV.
One such model that's received a bit of buzz is the Oppo DV-981HD upconverting DVD player. Although this machine doesn't play high-def discs, it can handle just about any other media that you throw at it, from regular CDs and DVDs to multichannel Super Audio CDs and DVD-Audio discs. Remember those?
Other disc types the DV-981HD supports include Kodak Picture CDs, discs loaded with DivX video and Windows Media Audio (WMA) files, and HDCD-encoded CDs. That last item is something of an audio curiosity: a method of mastering CD audio that's supposed to allow for extended dynamic range on discs. Back in the mid-'90s, audiophiles shelled out big bucks for HDCD-compatible hardware; here it's thrown in almost as an afterthought! The player can also be easily modified to Region 0 status (one that will play all discs regardless of region code) through a few simple button pushes on its remote control - do a search on one of the Web A/V forums to get the gory details.
On the video side, the Oppo can deliver 480p, 720p, 1080i, or 1080p output from its HDMI jack. Deinterlacing is courtesy of the Faroudja/Genesis DCDi (Directional Correlation Deinterlacing) system, and the chip also provides True Life video processing to help flesh out details in upconverted pictures. Oddly, Oppo chose not to provide a component-video output, so you'll need an HDTV with an HDMI input (or an HDCP-compliant DVI input with an adapter) to take advantage of all the image processing. Both composite- and S-video jacks can be found on the back panel, alongside coaxial and optical digital and six-channel analog audio outputs.