Toshiba SD-9200 Progressive-Scan DVD-Audio/Video Player
Right off the bat, the SD-9200 shows that it's in a different class. The striking but simple black front faceplate stands tall, with an extremely thin drawer that pops out quickly from the middle. This player just looks more elegant and feels considerably sturdier than nearly any other I've reviewed.
The elegant anterior appearance is mated with an otherwise plain-Jane posterior, although the addition of coaxial and optical digital outputs is welcome. Both will output PCM, Dolby Digital, and DTS signals to your external processor. The dual-purpose, remote-adjustable progressive/interlaced component video output is expected, but you won't get a picture until you configure the player correctly. Initially, you might want to set things up from the composite or y/c (S-video) output. While I'm disappointed that Toshiba didn't double up on these connectors, it's not a big loss. The most important outputs on this unit anyway are the 5.1-channel analog audio jacks. While there's also a regular two-channel audio output, the 5.1-channel connectors are the ones that transmit the internally decoded Dolby Digital and high-resolution DVD-Audio signals. The player does not internally decode DTS signals and won't read the high-resolution layer from Super Audio CDs (a competing format to DVD-Audio), although you can at least decode DTS externally. Nothing, though, shows the mark of a quality product like the detachable, grounded power cable. (We gearheads get excited by simple stuff.)
In addition to the 5.1-channel analog outputs, the back panel offers coaxial and optical digital outs, a component video out, and only one S-video and one composite video out.
There may not be many connections to confuse you, but Toshiba offers an idiot-resistant onscreen setup menu to help you configure them nonetheless. Menu items are clear and concise, and navigation with the remote control is intuitive and comfortable. First-time setup can be frustrating if you only use the component video output, like I did. This output must be set up for either progressive or interlaced signals from the user menu. If you don't have the output configured properly, you won't be able to see the menu. Fortunately, there's a progressive/interlaced button on the remote that will switch the output and get you back on track. This button can come in handy if you're connected to any one of the many widescreen displays that don't offer aspect-ratio control for progressive DVD signals. This way, when you need to change the screen format on the TV, you can switch to the interlaced output. Otherwise, you shouldn't ever need to use this button.
The only real ergonomic glitch— one that's apparently common to all current DVD-Audio players—turns up when you set the audio output. Obviously, I wanted to test the player's DVD-Audio capabilities, as well as its regular DVD functions, so I set the audio output to 5.1-channel analog. This disables the Dolby Digital (but not the DTS) output in favor of the multichannel analog output. The player, when connected to the Onkyo TX-DS989 receiver's 5.1-channel input, played DVD-Audio discs just fine. To play regular movies at this point, the SD-9200 would internally decode the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and transmit the signal through the 5.1-channel connection. This may not seem like a big deal, and it won't be one for those with only a Dolby Digital 5.1 processor. However, this setup bypasses all of an external processor's advanced capabilities, such as THX Surround EX and any movie-theater ambience synthesis that might be available (like the 70mm theater setting in most Yamaha processors). External processors usually can't (and shouldn't) add this type of processing to the 5.1-channel analog inputs, so the player must be reconfigured from its setup menu to output a digital bitstream whenever you change from DVD-Audio to DVD-Video discs. There's no way to easily automate this process. Note that this isn't exclusive to Toshiba: Both the Kenwood and Onkyo players reviewed in this issue exhibit the same drawback.