SMR logoOnkyo DV-S717 DVD-Video, Video-CD and CD-DA Player
The mid-level DVD market is competitive to say the least.  A machine has to be fully functional yet easy to use while providing top-notch video and audio performance.  Nigel Pond, no stranger to the upper echelons of DVD playback evaluates the Onkyo DV-S717, a worthy competitor for the likes of 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
Outputs:
Video
1 component video (Y-Cr-Cb) on RCA jacks;
1 S-Video (Y/C) on standard mini DIN
1 composite video on RCA jack
Audio (digital)
1 PCM/Dolby Digital/DTS on co-ax RCA jack
1 PCM/Dolby Digital/DTS on Toslink output
Audio (analogue)
1 stereo pair on RCA jacks
1 headphone output on " stereo jack
Suggested retail price: $900
Power supply (on unit reviewed):
120v AC, 60 Hz, non-detachable IEC power cord
Power consumption: 20 watts
Formats Supported:
DVD-V, CD-DA, Video CD, CD-RW (not CD-R)
Dimensions (W D H): 435mm 121mm 306mm
Manufacturer: Onkyo Corporation
US Distributor: Onkyo USA Corporation
Address:
200 Williams Drive
Ramsey, NJ 07446, USA
(All specifications as per manufacturer)

Onkyo DV-S717 - A Review

 

Introduction

Onkyo DV-S717     The Onkyo name does not seem to have the same level of recognition in the USA as it has in Europe and Japan.  Known mainly for its surround receivers, Onkyo has now branched out into the DVD player market.  The DV-S717 is aimed at the higher end of this market to compete with the likes of the Sony DVP-S7000 and DVP-S7700 and similar Pioneer players.

     Unlike my Theta DaViD transport, which I recently reviewed, the Onkyo is a DVD player having its own DAC and analogue output stage.  It is also billed by the manufacturer as an "audiophile-class&CD player" so they must have confidence in its audio only abilities, which I will put to the test.

 

Features

     The manual lists the following features: Audiophile-class DVD/Video CD/CD player; Component Video output (gold-plated); Dolby Digital Audio Output; 10-bit Video D/A Conversion; Optical & Coaxial digital audio output; complete front panel control; 4-power picture zoom; brushed aluminium front panel; DTS Bitstream Digital Out; 3D DNR function.

 

Onkyo DV-S717 componentsConstruction

     The Onkyo comes in standard "component black" and appears to be slightly taller than the most recent generation players from other manufacturers, but is the standard 17" width.  The front panel as described above, is brushed aluminium, is attractive and should fit in well with any system.

     As is my usual practice with any gear that comes my way, my own or review samples, I took the cover off and had a look around inside.   Like most manufacturers, Onkyo uses an OEM supplier for the disc transport and main MPEG board, in this case Toshiba, at least the main board is a Toshiba no manufacturers name is visible on the transport, so I assume it is a Toshiba to make for easier integration with the board.  The power supply and output boards appear to be made by Onkyo.  The power supply seems to be robust enough for equipment of this level.  The circuit boards appear to be well laid out and constructed.

 

Front and Back

Onkyo DV-S717 video outputs     The rear of the Onkyo has a "jack pack" which is fairly standard for this level of equipment: one set of component video outputs on RCA jacks (why do manufacturers of this level of equipment not use the more professional and secure BNC connectors?); an S-Video output on the standard 4 pin mini-DIN connector and a composite video output on a standard RCA jack.  Just a minor gripe here a second S-Video connection would have made connection into a second room set up much easier.  On the audio side there is one pair of analogue outputs, and one each of coaxial (RCA style) and Toslink digital outputs.  Full marks for the use of both digital connector formats, making system hook-up much easier and allowing the flexibility of the other digital output feeding a second room system or headphone system with a separate DAC.  Depending on the chosen audio configuration in the set-up Onkyo DV-S717 audio outputsmenus, the digital outputs will pass PCM only or PCM, Dolby Digital, or DTS bitstreams according to the source material.  All connectors are soldered directly to the output circuit board and they appear to be of reasonably high quality.  The power cord is not detachable, which   will not appeal to the "replacement audiophile power cord" junkies.

    The front panel offers, as billed, complete control and will allow the unit to be operated if the remote control is mislaid.  It also offers a jog/shuttle control (which is not replicated on the remote) and a headphone jack with its own level control.  Disc drawer operation is swift but on my sample was a little noisy.  The alphanumeric display is the almost standard shade of green, and can be dimmed to two levels or turned off from the remote or from a front panel button. I found the mixture of lower and upper case characters (e.g. "oPEn", "LoAd") a little tiresome after a while.

 

Remote Control

     I have to say that the remote control, while it contains all the necessary functions, is nothing to write home about and probably the weakest feature of the package.  For a start, it is a little larger than I would have expected.  Operationally, although the keys are grouped logically within colour coded backgrounds, the keys are all the same size and there is no back-lighting, making operation in the dark or near dark (the ideal DVD viewing conditions) almost impossible without a mini-Maglite or other flashlight handy.  That may not be important to those who will only use the supplied remote to programme a system remote like the RC2000, but in my view manufacturers should not make this assumption.  They really should make more of an effort with their supplied remotes, especially if, as in this case, that remote has no multi-component functionality of its own.  Usability is in my view essential for a remote control and this one does not cut it. OK, Ill step off my soapbox now!

 

Onkyo DV-S717 On-screen DisplaySet-up

     Set-up is a breeze with this DVD player.   The on-screen display is excellent and the graphics clear and colourful (though that Language icon in the top left does look like someone throwing up).  The set-up menus are well laid out and easy to follow, with options cascading down from the selected item, rather than being on a sub page, much better than those of first and second generation players.  The essential set up options are screen format (widescreen, letterbox and standard), audio output (analogue, PCM only or PCM/Dolby Digital/DTS bitstream) and black level and they are all easy to find and configure.

 

Performance

     I set the Onkyo up in my system exactly as my own Theta DaViD: S-Video connection to my Lexicon DC-1 (with v3 software now on board), RCA to RCA coaxial cables of various origins for digital audio to DC-1.   The DC-1 feeds my Sunfire Cinema Grand and Von Schweikert speakers for audio and Philips 16:9, 32" TV for video.  I ran a check with Joe Kanes 'Video Essentials' before settling down to watch some movies, to ensure that my video and audio sections were as correctly calibrated as I could get them by eye and ear.  I was happy to see that no significant changes were necessary from my Theta DaViD configuration.  As I mentioned above, one set up option is to display enhanced black level and that is the mode I used for calibration and subjective testing. I do not yet have a TV with component video inputs so I was not able to test the Onkyo using its component outputs.

     I used the demonstration sequences from 'Video Essentials' to begin my evaluation and the player performed well on most of them, particularly in the scenes with varied colour content the colours were bright and realistic with no 'Contact' DVDcolour bleed or variation, indicating that the video side of the MPEG decoder works pretty well.  One area where I did notice a little deficiency, however, is the rainy night sequence (I dont recognise which movie it is from) where the dark backgrounds seemed a little "mushy" and the contrasts a little ill defined.

     My favourite video demonstration pieces looked very good, with some qualifications - contrasts in dark scenes, (e.g. parts of 'G.I. Jane' and 'Armageddon') suffered from the slight mushiness I noted above, but this was a minor issue and not too detrimental to viewing pleasure.  The outdoor scenes of Savannah, Georgia from 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil', the daytime sequences from 'The Truman Show', and the Titanic trailer from the DTS demo DVD #3 were reproduced very crisply.  The player performed almost as well on fast action sequences, for example in 'Tomorrow Never Dies SE'.  I did notice some very minor digital artefacts in the backgrounds of a few scenes but they really were minor and you really had to be looking for them.  My 16:9 TV lets me enjoy the benefits of anamorphic video transfers and I thoroughly enjoyed them on the Onkyo 'Tomorrow Never Dies', 'Star Trek: First Contact', 'Apollo 13', 'Contact', 'Pleasantville', 'The Avengers' (remember Im talking about transfer quality, not movie quality), and 'The Negotiator' are all excellent examples of the format and all looked very good.

     There are two playback features that are worthy of note.  The forward scan is very smooth - much better than the first and most second generation players I have seen.  The digital zoom function, while anathema to most purists, 'Armageddon' DVDperforms well and I can see that there could be certain types of video material where it may be useful.  The effectiveness of the OSD also comes through when it is invoked during disc play, showing all the relevant information in a smooth font, much smoother than early versions from other manufacturers and it incorporates a relatively unobtrusive bitrate meter.  On the downside I could not discern what the 3D DNR function was supposed to be doing so I left it turned off and no matter how long I left the player turned on, I could not get the screen saver to activate.

     DVD-Video audio reproduction is also first rate.  'Starship Troopers', the DTS version of 'Daylight', 'Armageddon', 'Tomorrow Never Dies', 'Godzilla' and 'Contact' have some of the best DVD soundtracks around at the moment and the Onkyo extracted and pumped them out with no problem on both of its digital outputs (I switched to a Toslink connection for part of my listening, just to see how it performed).

     I also carried out some extensive listening on music only material.  I now have my favourite audio demo pieces recorded on CD-R and CD-RW so that I do not have to keep jumping up and down to change discs.  As with all DVD players with only a single laser pickup, the Onkyo would play only the CD-RW version and refused to recognise the CD-R.  I listened through my speakers using the DC-1 as preamplifier and with my Sennheiser HD-600 headphones in several configurations: the players own headphone jack; from digital output to an outboard DAC and on to my Headroom Cosmic headphone amplifier, and using the analogue outputs from the Onkyo to my headphone amp.  As with most headphone outputs, the built-in output sounded a little rough but would be adequate for occasional use.  'Contact' DVDThere was some difference between the other two connections.  I think that my outboard 24/96 DAC (an MSB Link) was superior in performance, even on 24/96 material from the Chesky demonstration disc, even though the Link was only receiving down-converted 24/48 digital audio, while the analogue outputs are fed by internal 24/96 DACs.  Having said that, the differences were not huge.  Applying the term "audiophile class" to this DVD player may be overstating the case slightly, but it is a very good performer on audio only material and would certainly qualify to do double duty as a CD and DVD transport in a medium high end system.  Indeed, while I was away on business for a week in February, I loaned the Onkyo unit to a friend of mine, who has just bought his first home theatre system, but does not yet own a DVD player.  He was very impressed with the video and audio performance and thought that, on the audio side, it out-performed all the CD players he had listened to in his medium budget price range.

     So in conclusion, this is a well put together package that can easily compete with other players in the price range.  It will be simple to integrate into any system and easy for most users to set up for optimum performance.  My only real reservation is the remote, but Onkyo is not alone in what I believe are deficiencies in this respect.  I have heard that this player is due to be updated this summer.  If they improve upon the basic package and do something about that remote, it will be up there with the leaders in the class.

 

1999.

 

Read Alan L. Maier'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 Nigel R. Pond; HTML SMR Home Theatre and Images Nigel R. Pond & 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/

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Last updated 22 April, 1999

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