DPC-8.5 Universal Audio/Video Player
|Like many of you,
Ive recently been in the market for a universal disc player. My list of requirements
seems reasonable. I want a great picture from DVDs and the ability to play any type of
sound they might carry. I want stellar sound from CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio, along with
flexible bass-management and distance settings for the latter two formats. Dolby Digital
and DTS with full onboard adjustments would be nice, in case I someday decide to go with a
multichannel preamp instead of a processor. Progressive scan is an absolute, but upscaling
and an HDMI output are important, too. Multiple digital and analog audio as well as
component outputs are vital so that I can send video signals straight to my projector and
audio signals to my recorders, servers, and processors. For parties, I want it to play MP3
and WMA files burned onto CD-Rs, and to be able to randomly play those files and CDs. The
machine should be able to play any recordable medium from CD-R to DVD+/-R/RW/RAM. A five-
or six-disc carousel would be nice. Upsampling of CD playback would be icing on the cake.
Price: $700 USD
Dimensions: 17.13"W x 5.19"H x 17.19"D
Weight: 16.1 pounds
Warranty: Three years parts and labor
- DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW
- Dolby Digital and DTS decoders
- Six-disc carousel
- 5.1-channel analog outputs
- Progressive-scan video
- Wolfson 24-bit/192kHz audio DACs
- 12-bit/108MHz video DACs
- BNC and RCA component-video connections
- Bidirectional RS-232 port for interface with Crestron, AMX,
and Xantech home-automation systems
It doesnt exist.
The closest I could find was the Integra DPC-8.5 ($700
USD), which comes pretty darn close. Integra is in a position similar to those of Lexus or
Acura -- they use high-end parts and designs, but have tremendous resources available
because theyre a division of a huge corporation; in this case, Onkyo. Integras
flagship player, the DPS-10.5, includes most of whats on my laundry list, but no
carousel. I dont spend every second that Im listening to music with my head
stuck between the speakers. I like to have my favorite tunes playing all over the house,
and nothing works better than packing a CD-R with some of my favorite MP3s and letting it
run in the background. Integras second-best DVD player, the DPC-8.5, has a six-disc
carousel that can give me more than 60 hours of random play. Now, if it would just live up
to greatness as a CD and DVD player, maybe Id have my solution.
Bigger than you expect
The package arrived in good shape, a testament to
Integras use of decent boxes and extra padding. The DPC-8.5 weighs a healthy 16
pounds, due mostly to its stout metal construction and generous shielding. At 5", the
player is also substantially taller than most DVD changers. And I guess Integra had to fit
those six discs somewhere -- the DPC-8.5 is almost 18" deep.
The remote control is small but nicely designed, with two
dimples on the back that make for easy gripping. Its not backlit, but the buttons
are easy to use by touch. Integra gives you a substantial power cord and enough
interconnects to get you going until you can buy some better ones. A quick perusal of the
front panel revealed a nice feature -- a light that illuminates the disc tray when it
opens. Finally, I can see which discs Im changing.
The buttons on the front panel are nicely laid out and
sufficiently varied in size and shape to make them easy to use in the dark. The
front-panel display, which can be dimmed, has room for lots of information and can be
easily read from across the room. Around back, the DPC-8.5s outputs comprise two
component-video, a 5.1-channel analog, a downmix two-channel analog, and both optical and
coaxial digital. An HDMI output was the only conspicuously missing item that Id had
on my wish list. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the well-written, 68-page
manual seems actually to have been written by a native speaker of English.
Setup and installation
All connections were
straightforward and took only minutes to accomplish. I used the DPC-8.5s 5.1-channel
outputs for SACD and DVD-A, its coaxial digital output for DVD and CD, and the downmix for
my second zone. For video, I connected the Integra directly to the projector using the
Theres nothing complicated about the setup. You start
by selecting the shape of your TV and whether you want to use interlaced or progressive
scan. Then comes the audio. You decide whether you want your analog outputs to deliver
5.1- or 2.0-channel playback. If you want 5.1, youre guided through the normal setup
routine of choosing speaker size. The crossover is fixed, presumably at 80Hz, though
its not specified. The speaker distance can be set in 1 increments up to
30, though these settings have no effect on SACD or DVD-Audio playback. Finally, you
can set the speaker outputs in increments of 1dB over a 12dB range.
The Integra DPC-8.5 offers several customizable
configurations that might be more important to others than to me. There are six onscreen
language options, four color choices for the OSD, three colors for the background, a
screen saver for those of you with CRT or plasma displays, and a full set of parental
After a quick setup with the THX programs at the end of Finding Nemo, I plunged right into the
film for a test of color saturation, ability to handle fast movement, and sonic fidelity.
The DPC-8.5 handled everything perfectly. The oceans rich, cobalt blues looked
gorgeous, and all the darting around was accomplished without artifacts. The sounds in the
famous fishbowl sequence shook the room. Everything on the Integra seemed to be working,
so I started throwing the tough stuff at it.
I put the DPC-8.5 in progressive mode so its brains would
have to do all the heavy lifting, then fed it several music DVDs to check how it handled
video-based material and music. Del Castillo:
Live features the fleet fingers of the Castillo brothers moving impossibly fast
over the fingerboards as director Robert Rodriguezs camera darts all over the stage.
Not only did the DPC-8.5 communicate the sound with impact and rhythm, the picture
captured the burnished colors Rodriguez was shooting for. On Les Boréades, the gorgeous rendition of
colors onstage during the operas Spring section was incredibly accurate, the audio
soundstage had superb depth, and Barbara Bonneys soprano was rendered exactly right.
Part of the reason for the DPC-8.5s existence is to
play SACDs and DVD-As. My pick for classical disc of 2004 was pianist Stephen Hough and
conductor Andrew Littons set of the Rachmaninov piano concertos [Hyperion
SACDA667501/2]. I compared the DPC-8.5 playing the SACD layer through the Bel Canto PRePros 5.1 analog inputs, then tried
playing the CD layer through the stereo analog inputs. Playing the SACD layer, the DPC-8.5
sounded lush and transparent, with a touch more clarity and significantly more steel from
the piano than I heard from the CD layer. What surprised me was how good the Integra
sounded as a pure CD player. While its sound tended to be more lush than absolutely pure,
it honored the music without causing any listener fatigue.
Switching to jazz, the SACD of Relaxin with the
Miles Davis Quintet [Prestige PRSA-7129-6] gave a great example of the
Integras resolving power. During "If I Were a Bell," there are moments
when Davis or John Coltrane dont aim their bells straight at the microphone. During
those moments, the sounds of their horns actually bloom out into Rudy van Gelders
living room. The effect is subtler with Daviss Harmon mute, which makes those
particular moments a better test of resolution, but either player provides a great example
of SACDs superior resolution. Switching back to the CD layer again brought lush
sound. Cymbals were slightly muted, Daviss Harmon mute a little less spitty.
We were up for a party, so I loaded up about 50 hours
worth of MP3s (dont worry, I own the originals) of bossa nova, Miles Davis, Frank
Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and dozens of my other favorites, all burned onto CD-Rs, and hit
Random. The DPC-8.5 sounded beautiful and played flawlessly -- and then I noticed a
king-sized problem. On this player, Random play is truly random. On most other
players, when you hit Random, it doesnt play a track a second time until it has
cycled through all of the rest of the tracks. Not here. You might hear the same track
repeated 20 minutes after it was first played, and then hear it again an hour later.
Thats no fun. If I want to hear tracks repeated, Ill listen to the radio.
I had three DVD players and a CD player around for
comparisons. The Ayre DX-7 is vastly more expensive at $5950 -- you could buy eight
DPC-8.5s and still have money left over for the complete works of Alfred Hitchcock -- and
is a transport only. Nonetheless, comparing the two DVD players using their progressive
outputs showed the Integra to be a phenomenal performer for the money. The Ayre was more
film-like and easier on the eyes, but the difference was not night-and-day. Using the
Ayres DVI output made a huge difference in favor of the Ayre, but the DPC-8.5
doesnt have a DVI out. Then again, the Ayre cant play SACDs or DVD-As.
Comparing the playback abilities of the Integra DPC-8.5 to
those of the Panasonic DMR-E60S turned the tables. Now it was the Integra that had the
more film-like picture. Vertigo's
lush greens had more realistic depth through the DPC-8.5; through the Panasonic, they
seemed to lie flat on the screen surface. Playing straight CDs, the Integra had a smooth,
forgiving, mid-hall sound compared to the more up-front sound of the Tascam CD-RW4U CD
recorder. The differences were slight.
$700 is plenty to pay these days for a DVD player, but the
DPC-8.5 offers a lot. The DVD section produces an excellent picture with stirring sound.
Fans of SACD and DVD-Audio get a first-rate player. The CD section sounds better than you
could have gotten just a few years ago for that same $700. It plays MP3s with excellent
clarity. You can load up six discs at a time. And it all comes in an attractive,
easy-to-use package. Id call that a winner.
|Speakers - ATC SMC 50A
(mains), Sonance Symphony (surrounds), KEF Model 100 (center), Sunfire True Subwoofer
- Lexicon MC-1, Bel Canto PRePro
|Power Amplifier - B&K
- Pioneer DV-434, Sony DVP-NC685V DVD players; Panasonic DMR-E60S, DMR-E55S DVD recorders;
JVC HM-DH40000U D-VHS recorder; Rega P-25 turntable, Rega Super Elys cartridge, Musical
Fidelity XLPS phono stage; Tascam CD-RW4U CD recorder; Philips DSR6000 DVR
|Cables - Canare, Straight
- Runco Cinema 750, Epson Cinema 500, InFocus ScreenPlay 7205