Sony DVP-NS755V Progressive-Scan DVD/SACD Player
Thanks to consumer interest, competition, and their fundamental coolness, high-resolution audio players are falling in price to a point where almost everyone can afford them. Sony's DVP-NS755V, for example, is only $250, and it features SACD capability and progressive scanning. A year ago, this player's predecessor excited us as an inexpensive progressive-scan DVD player. Now Sony ups the ante by adding SACD and keeping the price the same.
On the outside, there's little to distinguish this unit from any other DVD player. It's black, slim, and very light. The DVP-NS755V's back panel features one component, two composite, and two S-video outputs. You can switch the component output between interlaced and progressive via a three-way switch. The third position lets you choose between interlaced and progressive in the onscreen menu. For audio, there are twin stereo analog outputs, a six-channel analog output, and one coaxial and one optical digital output. Unlike most new DVD players, the Sony's front panel sports all of the control buttons you'll need should you lose the remote. Menu controls, all of the regular play functions, a jog/shuttle wheel, and a joystick let you navigate DVDs without ever touching the remote.
Not that the remote is bad. The main control buttons are about where your thumb rests when you hold it. The less-important buttons drift upwards, away from the prime thumb real estate. While the remote looks a little cluttered and isn't backlit, all of the buttons you need are in one place. Since the buttons are slightly different in shape, with some practice, you should be able to operate the remote in the dark.
The onscreen menu has all of the standard DVD-setup functions and a few more for SACD. The menu is most notable for a feature that not many SACD or DVD-Audio players have yet: bass management. You can choose speaker size, distance, and even the location of the rear channels through the setup menu. For those of you who have smaller speakers and don't have a processor with bass management, this is quite the useful feature. Thanks to its use of color and graphics, the menu is easy to use.
To check the DVP-NS755V's prowess as a DVD player, I ran it through my usual smattering of video tests. First up was the Video Essentials setup disc. This player didn't pass PLUGE, although players that do are getting far less common. This makes it slightly harder to set up your display but doesn't affect picture quality. Next up was a sweep pattern that, when viewed through a scope like the Philips PM5662 waveform monitor, shows if and by how much a DVD player rolls off higher-resolution material. In interlaced mode, the Sony was among the best DVD players I've seen in this respect. It was even a little better than our now-deceased reference DVD player, the Sony DVP-C650D. The response was slightly more rolled-off in progressive mode. This seems to be the norm, though, as the Sony measured about the same as most of the other progressive-scan DVD players we've tested recently. Under normal viewing conditions, the difference in resolution between the two modes wasn't noticeable. As far as visible resolution goes, when I tested the DVP-NS755V in progressive mode, it showed right out to the Avia test DVD's visible limits.
I have a few progressive-scan tests that I use all the time. The first is a DTS demo disc that has film trailers on it, and the Apollo 13 trailer has an incorrectly flagged 3:2 film sequence. This is where a player's processing comes into play. Players that only look at the 3:2 flags create an artifact known as combing, where it looks like a comb has scraped across the edges in the image (clever naming, isn't it?). Some players invisibly transition between film and video or across an incorrectly flagged sequence. The Sony displayed some minor artifacts in this trailer; but, unless you're looking for them, I doubt that you'd notice. In addition to the incorrect 3:2 sequence, the opening of the trailer features diagonal lines in a neon sign and a railing on the second floor of a hotel—all of this adds up to a very difficult scene for a DVD player to process. Even the best player will create some slightly noticeable artifacts. The Sony was about average. There was a small amount of stair-stepping artifacts (instead of a diagonal line, there are short, close-together horizontal lines that look like stairs when viewed from the side). Almost all new DVDs and most old ones don't have problems like those created in this torture test. As a lab test, though, it shows how a player will perform in a worst-case scenario.
For something a little more realistic, I tried a couple of movies. Chapter 10 of The Phantom Menace has diagonal lines in the guise of computer-made tank turrets. The Sony took a fraction of a second to pick up the 3:2 sequence; but, as soon as it did, everything looked smooth. This disc is also a useful tool for checking for the infamous chroma bug. Players with this problem—and the DVP-NS755V is one of them—have trouble with transitions between colors and create a duplicate edge between two strong solid colors. The Sony also demonstrated a slight banding effect with solid colors, but this effect was far less severe than it was with several players we've tested lately, including the Sony DVP-NS700P (November 2001). On closeups of the queen's handmaidens, for example, the solid-red cloth hats look like corduroy.
The last progressive-scan test is from the nonanamorphic version of Armageddon. Chapter 2 includes an angled shot of a building in which every line (window sills and so on) is diagonal. With players that don't do a good job of deinterlacing the picture, this building can be a mess of artifacts. The Sony did a remarkable job, creating a sharp, artifact-free image that ranks among the best I've seen with this test.
My final video test only concerns those of you who still have a 4:3 TV that doesn't have an anamorphic-squeeze mode. (If you are one of these people, the 20th century called. It wants its TV back.) If you set up your DVD player to output a 4:3 image, it will downconvert an anamorphic DVD's image to fit the 4:3 space. Using chapter 9 of Tomorrow Never Dies, you can see how well a player downconverts by watching for any stair-step or shimmering artifacts in the old English building. The Sony's image on this test had almost no noticeable artifacts, but the image was a bit softer than it was in 16:9 mode.
What is there to say about the DVP-NS755V's SACD performance? It sounds great. I tried out Telarc's multichannel release of Lang Lang performing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. He plays Rachmaninoff almost as well as the man himself. This recording is quite dynamic and very enjoyable. The Sony lacked some of the openness that I've heard on other SACD players, but the difference is very slight. Besides, those players cost upwards of 10 times what this Sony costs. I also played around with the Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith, Toto's IV, and Journey's Escape SACDs. They all sounded good, especially considering this player's diminutive price tag.
For $250, it's hard to go wrong with the DVP-NS755V. It's a solid progressive-scan DVD player. The addition of SACD capability, though, is what puts this player on the map. If you're going to spend $200 or so on a DVD player, adding a few more bucks for a player with SACD is a no-brainer. If a few more companies ante up with inexpensive players of their own (maybe with DVD-Audio, too?), who knows how low the prices will go. Until then, consider the DVP-NS755V a pretty safe bet.
• SACD capability and progressive scanning for $250