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April
2006

Reviewed by
Anthony Di Marco
REVIEWERS' CHOICE


Integra
DPS-10.5
Universal Audio/Video Player

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: DPS-10.5

Price: $2500 USD
Dimensions: 17.13"W x 3.56"H x 12.31"D
Weight: 26.7 pounds

Warranty: Three years parts and labor

Features

  • Multichannel playback of DVD-Audio and SACD
  • Built-in DTS and Dolby Digital decoding
  • HDMI and i.Link digital outputs
  • Progressive-scan output
  • Built-in Oplus FlexScale high-definition video scaler

Features (cont'd)
  • Silicon Image Sil 504 progressive video processing
  • Analog Devices NSV 14-bit/216MHz video DAC
  • Direct digital audio path
  • Vector Linear Shaping Circuit
  • Veridic progressive scan for HD images
  • Wolfson 24-bit/192kHz audio DACs on all channels
  • Toroidal transformer
  • Independent power supplies for audio and video
  • Rigid aluminum chassis, solid brass feet
  • Machined BNC-type connections for progressive video output
  • Fully programmable learning remote control with full backlighting

We all know that quality parts and good construction contribute to good-sounding audio gear. However, it also takes skill and time to make that same black box easy and enjoyable to use. But when it comes to designing components that perform well and are a pleasure to use, I’m amazed at how many companies still miss the mark.

Ergonomics -- the design and arrangement of things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely -- affects everything from light switches in your home to an automobile’s control layout. The key is to make these products intuitive to operate. The use of an ergonomically well-designed product or device should be transparent to the user. Over the long term, a product counterintuitive in its operation can cause user fatigue.

I’ve owned many Onkyo products, including an Integra DX-7500, which was my reference CD player for a number of years. In addition to great build quality and performance, all of my Onkyo and Integra components featured first-class ergonomics. I never needed to think about what switch to press -- controls were placed and operated where and as I expected them. Onkyo’s Integra DPS-10.5 universal player ($2500) continues this trend.

Intuitive

The Integra DPS-10.5 has a classy, well-finished appearance. Its solid chassis and clean appearance convey the impression of a machine designed to be reliable and easy to use. The front panel is simple: a central disc tray flanked by transport buttons on the right and a dime-sized Power button on the far left. Between the silver-colored Power button and the tray are two smaller buttons, for disabling the video circuit and directing an external video source (such as a TiVo or cable box) through the DPS-10.5’s video processor.

The DPS-10.5’s hefty chassis is well-constructed of aluminum and steel and braced with perpendicular steel beams. The player weighs 27 pounds. Four brass feet isolate the sensitive electronics and disc-reading mechanism from vibrations. Inside, every inch has been made to count. The large, custom-made, potted toroidal transformer that feeds the DPS-10.5’s linear power supply sits to the front left of the chassis, while the audio and video circuit boards are neatly arranged beside and atop one another. Everything is secured with screws instead of cheaper mechanical pins, and the cover fits tightly atop the chassis via channel-and-groove construction and seven large Allen screws.

The rear panel of the Integra DPS-10.5 is full of connections. Audio facilities include 7.1-channel outputs (configurable via a switch), a dedicated output for two-channel audio, sets of coaxial and TosLink outputs for digital audio, and FireWire (IEEE1394) connections for Pioneer’s i.Link audio interface. The DPS-10.5’s video hookups include BNC connectors for progressive video output, RCA interlaced component and composite outputs, and HDMI. There are also inputs for taking advantage of the DPS-10.5’s powerful progressive and HD upconversion processing, a 12V trigger, and Onkyo’s proprietary R1 remote interface. Audiophiles who have the urge to switch out power cords can do so via a standard IEC socket.

The DPS-10.5’s excellent ergonomics are continued in the well-designed remote control. This is the sort of remote you’d expect to accompany a high-end receiver. More than 60 perfectly placed buttons populate the Integra RC-562DV remote’s aluminum façade. Backlighting is also included, though I seldom needed it. The lozenge-shaped translucent buttons are logically spaced and sized; moving my fingers around the remote -- even in the dark -- was a cinch. And unlike most token remotes included with DVD players, the RC-562DV includes preprogrammed codes and a learning function for other audio/video devices. I was able to program into the Integra remote the commands for my TiVo, Linar Model 10 integrated multichannel amplifier, and television remote controls.

Hookup took five minutes and included sending an S-video cable from my TiVo to the DPS-10.5’s video input, component video to my Mitsubishi monitor, and 5.1 channels of audio to my Linar Model 10. Later in the review period, when I used a Rotel RSP-1068 surround-sound processor’s internal DTS and Dolby Digital decoding instead of the Integra’s, I heard very little difference between them.

The DPS-10.5’s menu system is the best I’ve used. Good-looking, easy-to-read hierarchical menus quickly take the user through all manners of set up. I encountered no problems.

Visual

According to my wife, Santa couldn’t fit the HDMI-equipped DLP monitor down my chimney this year, so I was forced to evaluate the Integra DPS-10.5 via its progressive component-video output. Multichannel and two-channel audio were evaluated with the video disabled.

The Integra’s pictures were outstanding. George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead is a very enjoyable follow-up to the horrormeister’s beloved Night of the Living Dead series. It’s also a great visual reference. In chapter 3, for instance, deep blacks and grays contrast beautifully against the film’s abundant reds and bursts of colorful fireworks. The DPS-10.5’s 14-bit/216MHz Analog Devices video processors rendered transitions between individual elements, such as the hard edges of the zombie-mobile, Dead Reckoning, and Riley’s boyish good looks, without the high-frequency shimmer of the video noise associated with less-capable processing.

I use chapter 4 of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to judge how well a DVD player deals with depth of field and skin tones. The scene is breathtaking when playback is up to snuff. However, quantization noise can cause the image to collapse into an amorphous heap of overly soft elements. Through the Integra, Kate Brewster’s beautiful complexion popped out from the screen, and the colorful, out-of-focus background revealed a startling degree of detail.

As I rifled through my son’s favorite animated films, the DPS-10.5’s ability to reach deep into an image continued to impress me. Chapter 17 of The Incredibles, "Missile Lock," would be exciting even on a 13" screen, but the Integra created a more tangible visual experience that heightened the tension. Lesser machines would have produced a flatter, shallower image while concealing small details such as the bubbling ocean surf. The same eye-popping depth of field seen in T3 created an ocean that appeared to swallow up Elastigirl’s small jet.

One of the DSP-10.5’s coolest features is the option of converting an external video signal into 480p or HD resolutions. I didn’t think I’d see a huge difference through my standard-definition 480p monitor, but I was wrong. The DPS-10.5 dramatically improved my TiVo’s slightly noisy, washed-out image. Although some compression noise remained, the sharpness and color saturation of the TiVo’s output exhibited some notable improvements. Compression artifacts were no longer distracting, and the image had added depth and brightness.

Aural

In most DVD players, sound quality is an afterthought, but what I heard during chapter 37 of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, "The Battle of Pelennor Fields," was the first hint that a more sophisticated sound lurked behind the Integra DPS-10.5’s handsome face. The detail and smoothness I’d already noted in images was also evident in the sound. This scene’s dense sound design makes the charge of the oliphants feel real, and they came through the Integra without congesting or smearing the soundstage. Dynamic bursts of bass energy harmonically coexisted with the desperate swell of Howard Shore’s immense orchestral score. No doubt the DPS-10.5’s well-engineered linear power supply and high-quality output stage had a lot to do with such an open, exciting sound.

The smoothness and dynamics carried over to both two-channel and multichannel music. Overall, the DPS-10.5’s sonic signature leaned toward a laid-back, ever-so-slightly warm quality. There was no artificial warmth or sweetness, but rather a powerful, agile sound with excellent bass, high-frequency extension, and midrange definition.

Paul Simon’s musical, The Capeman, may have been a theatrical failure, but the accompanying album is a very enjoyable collection of well-recorded music. Songs from the Capeman [CD, Warner Bros. 46814-2] contains everything from the show, from the beautiful a cappella crooning of "Adios Hermanos" to the shimmering, musically upbeat finale, "Trailways Bus." The recording is full of high-frequency information that sets the music against a refreshing, airy backdrop, and it can become fatiguing if the playback device has a harsh or brittle signature of its own. Equally important is getting the midrange and bass right; otherwise, the brisk, lithe character of each tune will be rendered ploddingly, the music’s passion sucked away. The Integra DPS-10.5 did a great job of conveying the music’s every detail while creating a compelling listening environment. The sound wasn’t as intoxicating as, say, Simaudio’s Moon Orbiter universal player, but close enough to make me question the benefits of spending the extra $3500 for the Orbiter.

My multichannel reference recordings -- Seal’s Seal IV [DVD-Audio, Warner Bros. 47947-9] and Kodo’s Mondo Head [SACD, Red Ink/Sony 56111] -- continued to prove that Integra’s development team didn’t cut any corners in the DPS-10.5’s audio section. Seal’s seductive voice demonstrated the same spine-tingling quality I’ve experienced with pricier players, while the concussive slam and flowing harmonics of the Japanese Wadaiko drums were just as palpable and exciting.

Comparison

So many DVD players have passed through my home that their individual traits are beginning to blur together. Luckily, the Integra DPS-10.5’s well-rounded personality allowed it to distance itself from the crowd.

The DPS-10.5 struck the perfect balance among performance, usability, and cost. Although products such as the more-than-twice-as-expensive Esoteric DV-50S and Simaudio Moon Orbiter (both $6000) offer somewhat better build quality and sound, they aren’t as ergonomic. Nor does either eclipse the DPS-10.5’s video performance. Audio/videophiles might think that a remote control or menu system matters little to performance, but such qualities are part of a product’s value, not to mention the buyer’s long-term satisfaction with it.

The Marantz DV-9500 ($2000) offers a lot of nice features, including high-quality HDAM audio circuits on all six output channels and HD upconversion (the option of upconverting an external video source is unique to the Integra). The Marantz’s video performance is excellent, with even less high-frequency grain than the Integra. But its lightweight construction and unremarkable remote control make the Marantz feel cheaper than the Integra. Both Marantz and Integra offer class-leading three-year parts and labor warranties.

What distinguishes these players’ sonic personalities are their midrange and dynamic abilities. The Integra sounds ruler-flat across the entire audioband, while the Marantz infuses a bit of tube-like warmth and bloom to the midrange and midbass. This warmth comes at the price of dynamics. If you listen to jazz, choose the Marantz. If the symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner are your thing, then the Integra’s bracing dynamics should put a smile on your face.

The whole package

Onkyo’s Integra DPS-10.5 combines unique and useful features, exceptional ergonomics, robust build quality, and superb audio and video performance, all on a seemingly bug-free platform. $2500 is a lot of money to spend on a universal player, but the Integra DPS-10.5 easily justifies its cost by giving the user not only a killer playback device, but one that is also a genuine pleasure to use.

Review System
Speakers - Thiel CS2.4 (mains), MCS1 (center), PowerPoint (surrounds), SS2 (subwoofer)
Amplifiers - Linar Model 10, Rotel RMB-1077
Processor - Rotel RSP-1068
Sources - Marantz DV-9500 DVD player, Vincent SDV-3 DVD player
Cables - Analysis Plus, Stereovox
Monitor - Mitsubishi WT-46809 rear-projection widescreen monitor with Duvetyne modification and full ISF calibration
Power Conditioners - Balanced Power Technologies BP-10.5 Signature Plus, API Power Wedge Ultra 115
 

Manufacturer contact information:

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

Website: www.integrahometheater.com


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