Alan L. Maier is no stranger to mid-priced DVD-Video players. Will the latest region 1 machine from Japanese manufacturer Onkyo impress him or is it just another run-of-the mill offering? Perhaps there is a new kid on the block to rival Panasonic, Sony and Pioneer.
Many thanks go to Miss. Sue Morgan for her help and for providing the review sample.
Onkyo DV-S717 DVD-Video Player Specifications Dimensions: 17"W × 4¾"H × 12"D
Weight: 10 pounds
DTS compatible: Yes
Digital outputs: Optical × 1, coaxial × 1
Component video output: Yes × 1
S video output: Yes × 1
Built-in AC-3 decoder: No
Video DAC: 10 bit
Audio DAC: 96kHz sampling/24-bit
Audio S/N ratio: 106dB
Suggested retail price: $900
Audio THD: 0.005%
Supplied accessories: Remote, batteries ("AA" × 2), S-Video cable, composite video/audio cable, Onkyo system link (RI) cable.
Onkyo USA Corporation
200, Williams Drive,
Ramsey, NJ 07446.
Voice: 201 825 7950
(All specifications as per manufacturer)
Onkyo DV-S717 DVD-Video Player
Every time a new consumer product reaches the market two changes occur. With each successive generation, product performance improves while the cost slides downward. Classic examples have been the Compact Disc and more recently the MiniDisc recording format now the DVD-Video format has become affordable to virtually everybody. The market currently has plenty of DVD players at the $300 and below price point. What? You want more than the newest example of technology at the lowest possible price? Read on!
The Onkyo DV-D717 enters into the market as a feature laden DVD player which bridges a gap between entry level players and high-end videophile offerings that are out of the grasp of most consumers.
Fresh out of the box I gained a positive impression of the Onkyo. While not a particularly heavy unit, the chassis has a solid feel and features a brushed aluminum face. The front panel is larger than most DVD players, resulting in less crowding of small buttons and controls. Instead, generous size buttons provide cursor control of menu operation and a "Cinema Scan" knob/ring control set can be used for search and manual frame advance. The green fluorescent display can be dimmed or blanked out.
All the features are here a DTS® bitstream digital output, both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs (PCM and Dolby Digital®), a set of component video outputs as well as the common S-Video output plus a headphone jack with level control upon the front panel. A 3-disc start memory option allows startup at a user-selected point for future return to a video. The user can program a 28-step menu based title and chapter memory as well as select random play. Both entire disc, single chapter, single title and A-B repeat are offered in addition to direct title/chapter and time access. To complete a full list of adjustable parameters we have two levels of video noise reduction dubbed 3D DNR, three levels of video zoom and an extensive and intuitive menu system which is divided into five sections.
Lets take a look into the extensive menu options. Up first is "languages", which selects the language for on screen, disc menu, audio and subtitle defaults. The next setup menu is "video" which offers the selection of TV screen viewing shape as well as a black level enhancement option. Naturally, audio has a menu with several choices including digital output format (analog, bitstream and PCM), dynamic range limiting, karaoke vocal on/off for suitable DVD discs plus an extended audio features narration option. Naturally a user-friendly DVD player will allow you to adjust the on screen displays themselves, and that area is covered by the "display" menu.
The OSD enable/disable option is followed by an OSD color selection that provides a choice of either gray or blue background. An extended subtitle features option is provided for extras such as closed captioning, and a screen saver is available which enables a floating Onkyo DVD logo to move around the screen after a prolonged period of paused video.
Lastly, an "operation" menu offers several settings to tailor the player to your needs. Freeze-frame handling can be either frame or automatic digital freeze, a parental lock setting section comes up next followed by remote command confirmation beep, end of title stop and lastly PBC enable for Video CD playback.
Upon power-up an Onkyo DVD logo is displayed switching to the selected OSD color option after twenty seconds. Loading drawer operation is much smoother than a typical affordable CD or DVD player is a nice touch. Typical time needed for disc identification runs six seconds for an audio CD and eight seconds for a DVD disc, after which point the player is ready for action. On screen alpha and icon prompts for unit control modes are pleasingly small a major plus for a large screen set! Once ready to go, operation is smooth and free of any nagging quirks. In my experience with several DVD players I have come to detest any player that wants to "argue" with me and here we got along just fine& if I pressed a non-operational button the player either did nothing or briefly displayed the universal "no" symbol.
Image quality is the most important factor of any DVD player and I could not find fault. Using the video excerpts found on Chapter 15, Track 7 (montage of images) from 'Video Essentials' as a sample of an excellent video source, I found color rendition and in particular color shading was dead-on. Edges were razor sharp and refreshingly lacking of video artifacts in both wide and full screen modes. I particularly noted an absence of video artifacts when viewing finely detailed and sharply contrasting objects, remaining crisp and clean. While viewing 007 'Tomorrow Never Dies' I stopped taking notes and kept watching, occasionally reminding myself I had a review to write!
I could not help but play with the extras such as video zoom, which allows 3 levels of zoom with the ability to move about the screen with the cursor controls. Freeze was particularly clean as well. I did not note a significant change in video quality or noise level when using the 3D DNR video noise reduction feature at best slightly noisy background scenes were a bit smoother at the enhanced setting, and there was no degrading of the signal. The Cinema Scan knob/ring set on the front is handy as it allows precise searching. The outer ring offers 2×, 8× and 30× access in each direction, however I did tend to "trip it up" a bit on occasion when rotating it rapidly. The remote provides buttons for the same operation of both the scan and the added feature of the inner knob frame by frame slow motion. Here the remote steps from 1/8, ¼, ½ and back again whilst the knob on the front panel gives bi-directional step by step access.
Also I tried the DV-S717 as an audio CD player using the analog outputs. Sound quality was on a par with a respectable $300-$400 street price audio CD player. Sound character leaned toward pleasing and smooth with a somewhat airy character, which is typical of the level of CD player I feel this unit compares with. I did note an occasional noise present when the player identified the disc format this did not occur all the time but I did remember to keep the volume at a reasonable level when inserting a disc. When driving an outboard DAC as found in the Lexicon DC-1 used in my system, input was muted by the DC-1 while it selected the input format. I should note that I never had an occurrence of audio dropouts that seem to plague some DVD players. As for home theater use I am pleased to report that I could not detect a degrading of separation or bass level as I switched from a digital 2-channel matrix Dolby Surround feed (delivered by Dolby Digital) and an analog ouput down-mix feed while in Dolby Pro-Logic mode.
The remote control is a mixed bag. On one hand the layout is good and easy to navigate, primarily due to the mostly white background with yellow and purple added to combine grouped buttons together. While the white label is just fine for normal and low-light conditions you are still in a jam in the dark due to the keys all being the same size. If only the play and stop buttons stood out in size, had tips to feel or glowed in the dark I would have been much happier. As it is a separate remote is a must for basic operation when viewing in a dark room. A shame as this player has too much going for it to have a blemish.
I have found the Onkyo DV-S717 to indeed fill the gap between lower cost DVD players and the high-end. At the end of my extended period of living with the DV-S717 I returned to my own DVD player, a Sony DVP-S300 which was a respectable point of entry into the DVD format and exactly the genre of player the 717 is intended to be a step above. The Onkyo was clearly the superior DVD player hands down, offering significantly cleaner video, color rendition and shading, and in particular the Sony handled sharply contrasting images poorly by comparison.
So it looks like there is much more to offer than simply a lot of extras tacked onto an otherwise typical DVD player. No DVD player can make 'Blues Brothers 2000' enjoyable, but at least its not the players fault! Yes I do take issue with the remote control in a dark room Onkyo should have taken steps to address this. Still, overall the Onkyo DV-S717 is a solid performer and a serious contender in the ever-growing DVD marketplace.
Read Nigel Pond's review of the Onkyo DV-S717, also on-line at SMR A/V Magazine
More information about Onkyo products can be found upon the offical Onkyo web site
Text © Alan L. Maier; HTML © SMR Home Theatre and Images © Alan L. Maier & SMR Home Theatre cannot be reproduced without permission. Dolby Digital is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation and DTS is a registered trademark of Digital Theater Systems. The images on this page are digitally watermarked: Digimarc http://www.digimarc.com/
Last updated 16 April, 1999
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