DVD Player Sugg. Retail: $2895.00 (CAN)
Receiver Sugg. Retail: $3594 (CAN)
Distributor: Lenbrook Industries Ltd.,
633 Granite Court, Pickering, ON L1W 3K1
(905) 83-6555 FAX 831-6936 Toll-Free (800) 263-4641
(Reprinted from the Spring 02 Audio Ideas Guide)
This company has recently announced a merger with Denon to form a larger, stronger company, based in Japan. However, the brand identities and distribution channels are to stay as they are for the time being.
Marantz is unique, as far as I know, in offering both SACD and DVD-A players, the DV-12S1 and the SA-12S1. Both play video DVDs, but unlike Pioneer’s Elite DV-47a neither will play both digital audio formats. Instead of a universal player, here we have not-quite-identical twins.
The DV-12S1 has, of course, full DVD and DTS decoding built in, along with MPEG for European users. It also offers progressive scan capability, something I’ll describe in more detail below. Digital Noise Reduction PRO is employed to reduce vieo noise and enhance pictures for various display devices, something I’ll also expand on.
The first thing I realized after pressing this player’s Setup button was a very familiar set of menus and sub-menus: the transport and menu system are standard Pioneer Elite, and the player is probably based on the DV-38a. As with VCRs, there are only a small number of the many manufacturers who actually make the guts of DVD players.
The SR8200 multichannel receiver is a 7-channel model featuring full THX certification, including a THX and Dolby Digital EX centre rear channel. It also features DTS-ES, and Dolby Pro Logic II, and is the first device in my experience to include SRS CS-5.1 Circle Surround. I’ll say more about all these technologies as we get into the performance aspects of the SR8200.
Amplification is available for 6 channels (no surprise), each 130 watts rms. There are also 7.1 RCA analog inputs, allowing for connection of the DV-12S1’s DVD-A/V outputs. However, I would wonder that anyone would put these two components together, given the amount of overkill in surround formats and redundancy of operation that they represent. You could save thousands of dollars with no sacrifice in audio or video quality by simplifying one of the components for maximum efficiency of operation; for example, if you must have DVD-A, by using a simpler receiver or processor/amp combo (you don’t need DACs because they’re all in the player); and if you just gotta go for all the THX, DTS, SRS, and Dolby aphabet soup features primarily for movie soundtracks, then a less featured DVD-Video player will do the trick, as long as it has progressive scan and the appropriate picture quality.
Getting back to the SR8200, we also find 192-kHz/24-Bit DACs in all channels (this the case with the DV-12S1, too). On the video side, it has a pair of component video inputs, and S and composite on all other inputs, of which there are 5, labelled TV, DVD, DSS, VCR1, and VCR2. Audio-only inputs include CD, Tape, and CD-R. This is a very complete receiver, something belied by its rather simple front panel.
The key is an elaborate touchscreen remote control with buttons below the screen, including a 4-way cursor with an OK (Enter) button at centre. Volume and channel up/down pairs flank the central control array. I have to say that the learning curve on this remote will frustrate some users at first. Basic operations are fairly simple, but setting up Macros and other complex operations will require careful reading of the manual (more than a dozen pages are completely devoted to this remote), and an ongoing step-by-step familiarization process. Here’s where a good dealer will be a big help.
Before tackling the receiver remote, I decided to spend some time
evaluating the picture and sound of the DV-12S1. Using the analog multichannel inputs freed me from having to do more than nominal setup on the receiver. Speakers were the Dahlquist QX system augmented by extra Aperion speakers.
The player’s remote control does not require an advanced degree in computer programming, and has logically arrayed buttons over its unusual length, the most used thumb-ready at bottom. Because it has a full complement of DACs, speaker setup is required, and I set all to Large; this is the extent of bass management provided. Level control is provided for all channels, as are delays, but access is menu-driven and inconvenient. I’d really like to see a DVD-A (or SACD) player that has direct volume and balance control from the remote, so you could use it with just a multichannel amplifier (of course, it would be even better were it a universal player, and yadda, yadda, yadda).
I connected the 12S1 to the SR8200 via its 6 analog outputs (the receiver will handle 8 analog channels) and coaxial digital. Later I found that most of my listening was through the discrete inputs, and then tried to spend more time exploring the many sonic options of the receiver, which wasn’t easy, nor all that rewarding, I might add. All these alphabet options are accompanied by DSP modes, all scrolled through using the large knob on the left side of the front panel. Who needs it?
Video was connected direct to our big-screen monitor via S and component cables. I have to admit that I didn’t test the video passthrough capability of the receiver, assuming it would be adequate for composite and S. My personal practice is to generally avoid any extra steps in a video path.
This being a receiver, I hooked our outdoor bowtie FM antenna up to it, and checked FM reception. It brought in 34 stations, a somewhat low number, and quite a few were plagued by multipath interference, and hosts from other frequencies were also heard; there was quite a bit of between-station junk. This is a pretty basic tuner chip, and doesn’t sound all that good. I’d use it only for occasional information listening.
Evaluation of the DV-12S1’s picture quality was next. I found the S picture very good, but there were enough motion artifacts, and colour twinklies to bother me on the big screen. Switching to component input completely eliminated such problems, which would’t be that bothersome on smaller screens. The component picture was rich and stable, with some limits in its greyscale rendering; I adjusted the TV’s blacks to be a little lighter to compensate, as well as bringing down the colour to get a more natural look.
Like Pioneer players, the 12S1 offers automatic progressive scan output when anamorphic discs are played, and a few of these showed the real excellence of this player. The progressive picture is very good, and has a captivating film-like quality. Well transferred flicks look really good on this player, for example, The Thomas Crown Affair. Video noise can be adjusted in a variety of ways, but I left it at default settings and found that it operated unobtrusively and well. I would advise any buyer of this player to use it with component inputs on a monitor to get the full potential of its picture quality capability.
The sound quality of this system was great, as long as the DSP modes were ignored, and as I said earlier, I did most of my listening through the DVD player’s superb DACs. All types of discs sounded great, but as I accumulate more and more SACDs, I miss this playback capacity (and this format definitely is winning the low-grade guerilla war in terms of quality and quantity of releases; more on this elsewhere); DVD-As and DADs sounded great through the receiver and the Dahlquist QX speakers.
As far as the sound of the receiver is concerned, it all depends on what surround sound modes you select; my choice was mostly none. There’s lots of clean power all around, and if you need rear centre channel fill, it’s there. In cases where the surround speakers are at the sides, this can be a real bonus.
In general, I have to admit that the whole notion of extra channels escapes me, as do all the THX and other processing. I’m the guy who’d buy the DV-12S1 and run it right into a 5-channel level control to a 5-channel amplifier. The SR8200, while a very good sounding receiver, just has too many gadgets, gizmos, and other distractions for me.
But it was the remote control that saved me. The 2 buttons on the side are crucial, since they allow you to scroll through all the different screens that address its complex functions. You can then use the touchscreen to turn off all the useless features, and engage what really makes music and movies sound better. It also turns both DVD player and receiver on and off right out of the box. And most of the time, the receiver will automatically select the active input and the correct sound mode.
So you don’t really have to fight your way through the surround and DSP formats
That said, if having Circle Surround turns your crank, and THX, etcetera increase the rotation, check out this receiver.