The Setup: DVD Players

The concept of "plug and play" is a starry-eyed consumer-electronics fantasy. In my experience, almost all home entertainment devices - at least the kinds covered in this magazine - need some sort of setup to achieve optimum performance. Heck, even my first childhood record player had to have the volume adjusted. And if the AC plug wasn't oriented the right way, I'd get a shock from the player's metal casing (which might explain a lot about my adulthood).

Well, DVD players are no exception. More than once, I've hooked up a player to an audio/video receiver, switched the receiver's source selector to "DVD," loaded a movie, and . . . no sound. But don't waste more than a femtosecond worrying about player setup because problems like that are almost always easy to fix. The bottom line is that DVD players are relatively simple to install - no tools required! - yet offer a number of ways to maximize picture and sound quality.

Basic Training: DVD + TV You can't realize a DVD player's full potential without connecting it to an A/V receiver and a multichannel speaker setup (more on that later). But the reality is that many people buy players to hook them up directly to their TVs, so that's what I'm going to talk about first. This is obviously the easiest type of setup, but you'll find that most of what follows applies to more advanced installations as well.

Locate your player in an area that's well ventilated, easy to get to, stable, and level (remember, the player is reading a rapidly spinning optical disc). Your viewing position should be in a direct line of sight with the player to ensure that its remote control will work properly. Having to get up every time you want to access a disc menu or do anything else with the player is no fun. The player also has to be close enough to the TV for the interconnect cables to reach (the cables supplied with a DVD player are usually only about 3 feet long).

Most Common Connections