HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



February
2005

Reviewed by
Wes Marshall

 


Integra
DPC-8.5 Universal Audio/Video Player

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: DPC-8.5

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

Features

  • DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW

Features (cont'd)
  • 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

Like many of you, I’ve 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.

It doesn’t 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 they’re a division of a huge corporation; in this case, Onkyo. Integra’s flagship player, the DPS-10.5, includes most of what’s on my laundry list, but no carousel. I don’t spend every second that I’m 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. Integra’s 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 I’d have my solution.

Bigger than you expect

The package arrived in good shape, a testament to Integra’s 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. It’s 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 I’m 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-8.5’s 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 I’d 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-8.5’s 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 component outputs.

There’s 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, you’re guided through the normal setup routine of choosing speaker size. The crossover is fixed, presumably at 80Hz, though it’s 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 locks.

Performance

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 ocean’s 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 Rodriguez’s 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 opera’s Spring section was incredibly accurate, the audio soundstage had superb depth, and Barbara Bonney’s soprano was rendered exactly right.

Part of the reason for the DPC-8.5’s existence is to play SACDs and DVD-As. My pick for classical disc of 2004 was pianist Stephen Hough and conductor Andrew Litton’s set of the Rachmaninov piano concertos [Hyperion SACDA667501/2]. I compared the DPC-8.5 playing the SACD layer through the Bel Canto PRePro’s 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 Integra’s resolving power. During "If I Were a Bell," there are moments when Davis or John Coltrane don’t aim their bells straight at the microphone. During those moments, the sounds of their horns actually bloom out into Rudy van Gelder’s living room. The effect is subtler with Davis’s Harmon mute, which makes those particular moments a better test of resolution, but either player provides a great example of SACD’s superior resolution. Switching back to the CD layer again brought lush sound. Cymbals were slightly muted, Davis’s Harmon mute a little less spitty.

We were up for a party, so I loaded up about 50 hours’ worth of MP3s (don’t 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 doesn’t 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. That’s no fun. If I want to hear tracks repeated, I’ll listen to the radio.

Comparisons

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 Ayre’s DVI output made a huge difference in favor of the Ayre, but the DPC-8.5 doesn’t have a DVI out. Then again, the Ayre can’t 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.

Bottom line

$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. I’d call that a winner.

Review System
Speakers - ATC SMC 50A (mains), Sonance Symphony (surrounds), KEF Model 100 (center), Sunfire True Subwoofer Signature
Processors - Lexicon MC-1, Bel Canto PRePro
Power Amplifier - B&K Video 5
Sources - 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 Wire
Projectors - Runco Cinema 750, Epson Cinema 500, InFocus ScreenPlay 7205
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Integra
18 Park Way
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
Phone: (800) 225-1946

Website: www.integrahometheater.com

 


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