HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



January
2009

Reviewed by
Kevin East

 


TEAC
DR-H300 DVD Receiver

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: DR-H300

Price: $399.99 USD
Dimensions: 8.5"W x 4.38"H x 14.25D"
Weight: 10 pounds

Warranty: One year parts and labor


Features
  • Two-channel RMS output power: 50Wpc into 6 ohms (manufacturer rated)
  • Supports DVD-Video, DVD+R/+RW, SVCD, VCD, CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA, Picture CD, DivX
  • Video outputs: HDMI 1.0, component video, S-video, composite video
  • Audio outputs: digital coaxial, digital optical, analog audio, subwoofer
  • Audio inputs: RCA, mini-jack, USB
  • AM/FM tuner
  • Remote control

If you were even half an audiophile in the 1960s, you know that TEAC, makers of state-of-the-art reel-to-reel tape recorders whose breathtaking fidelity was then held in awe, was a revered brand. I lived in a co-op in Berkeley in the late ’60s, and one of my housemates, Phil Yee, was a fanatic audiophile. Whenever he bought an LP, the first things he did were to wash off the manufacturing oils and use his TEAC deck to commit his new record to reel-to-reel tape -- "So I can have that like-new sound after the turntable and stylus have done their damage." Phil had great gear: tubed McIntosh amp and preamp, AR speakers, a Thorens turntable with an exotic cartridge -- awesome sound for what was, essentially, a dorm room.

Now, 40 years later, TEAC is again invading dorm rooms, this time with the DR-H300 DVD receiver ($399.99).

Attributes

The DR-H300 is a nifty bit of electronic engineering. TEAC has squeezed an amplifier, preamplifier, radio -- i.e., a receiver -- and a DVD player into a little box all of 8.5"W x 4.38"H x 14.25"D and weighing ten pounds dripping wet. (Okay, not really wet. In fact, it’s a bad idea to put water anywhere in or on an electronic component, much less submerge it. I say this only because this is a ’net publication, and everything written on the ’net, regardless of pedigree, is taken literally. I don’t want the SoundStage! Network to get needlessly flamed on a hundred thousand blogs because some moron decided I’d told him to dunk his new receiver in the bathtub.)

The front panel is neatly arranged, with a volume pot in the upper right corner of an anodized aluminum panel. Just below that are the DVD player’s basic controls: the tray Open/Close switch and the forward/back station Tuning buttons. Below these is the Function switch, consecutive presses of which cycle through the choice of sources: DVD player, radio, and any ancillary equipment (there are USB and two auxiliary inputs). To the right of that are two dual-function buttons: the first does double duty as a Play/Pause toggle for the disc player and as a Stereo/Mono switch for the radio; next to that is the Scan button, which scans radio stations, or stops the play of whatever disc is in the tray.

Below the display LED and DVD tray are, from left to right: the Standby/On switch, two 1/8" stereo mini-jack receptacles for headphones (Phones) and an external input (Aux 2 In), a USB input, a Repeat button, up and down tuning buttons to access preset radio stations, and a button labeled Program/Memory, for programming radio-station presets or track sequencing/USB playback.

The DR-H300’s rear panel is neatly and logically arrayed. The power cord, speaker terminals, and subwoofer output are at the upper left. At the center are the auxiliary in and line out, which can also be used together as a tape loop. At the right top are the 75-ohm FM and AM antenna connections. The FM antenna is one of the newer sorts, with dedicated plug and receptacle -- if FM is your gig, there’s no way to upgrade with, say, an electronic antenna. At the bottom right are the video out options: RCA composite, HDMI, S-video, and component video. Snugly in the center are two digital audio outs, coaxial and optical. The HDMI version is 1.0, which supports most of what you’d want such a small system to do. Later releases of HDMI add the enhanced audio capabilities of DVD-Audio and SACD, which would be wasted on what is essentially a stereo receiver.

All functions of the receiver, DVD player, and radio are available on the remote control. Not only are all of the DR-H300’s front-panel switches and functions replicated there, but, as you might expect, many of the receiver’s functions can be accessed only via the remote, such as: DVD camera angles, picture zoom, slow-motion playback, engage S-bass boost. There’s also a numeric keypad. The bloody thing even has a clock and on/off timer -- an alarm clock, for all of you living in dorm rooms.

Installation

The DR-H300 is tailored for smaller venues, and what better small venue Chez Ancienne than our master bedroom suite, where a converted armoire holds a 27" Philips CRT flat-screen TV, a Sony receiver, and an Onkyo DV-S555 DVD player? Installing the DR-H300 and speakers couldn’t have been easier. TEAC shipped the DR-H300 with a pair of its own LS-255BK speakers. I used the two 4m (over 12’) tinned speaker leads that come with the LS-H255Ks to connect the speakers to the receiver, and the DR-H300’s component-video outputs to connect it to my TV. (If my TV had had an HDMI input, I would have chosen the digital solution over the analog.) I connected the Energy Take Classic subwoofer to the DR-H300’s subwoofer output.

Performance

The only component simpler to use than the DR-H300 is a DVD player. I turned the TEAC on, opened its drawer, popped in a DVD, and hit Play on the remote. The picture quality was as crisp as that from my Onkyo DVD player. However, I found that it paid to set up the audio on the DVD. Ratatouille has two choices, Dolby Digital Surround EX and Dolby Digital 2.0. I first played the movie in 2.0 stereo. The joy of Ratatouille is its story and animation; the sound is excellent, but not the raison d’Ítre for watching. So, with the exception of the action scenes (e.g., the escape from the sewer in chapter 5), a panoramic sound experience is more a plus than an essential. Choosing the Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack did little other than engage the subwoofer, which added depth to chapter 5 and small doses of the same elsewhere, and, in the absence of a center channel, leaned on the L/R speakers to fill in the dialogue, which they managed very well. Configuration limitations aside, the sound quality was excellent and fully engaging. Watching Ratatouille in stereo, I didn’t get the feeling that the sound was even remotely compromising my experience of the film.

There’s a notion that a compact, multifunction unit such as the DR-H300 won’t be able to deliver the picture quality of a dedicated DVD player -- e.g., the Onkyo DV-S555 in our bedroom -- simply because the former’s video circuits must share a fairly cramped space with a lot of other stuff, including that baseline bugaboo of many audiophiles and videophiles: a power supply. However, using the TEAC’s component-video connections, I found the picture quality every bit as clean, crisp, and sharp as through the Onkyo’s component outputs. Although this bedroom system lacks digital inputs and outputs, I suspect that hooking up the DR-H300 via HDMI to a plasma or LCD monitor would have yielded similar results.

The radio’s 40 presets were more than adequate to cover the stations we listen to: a local classical station, NPR, the Pacifica outlet (which offers the best jazz in this market), and the Washington Nationals games. The reception was clean and clear. If you’re too lazy to hunt for the FM stations in your area, press Scan -- the DR-H300 will stop at every captured signal and assign it a sequential preset button. I tried pulling in some remote stations in the Shenandoah foothills more than 50 miles to the west, such as WINC out of Winchester, Virginia, and succeeded when I forced the signal into mono.

I used my daughter’s iPod Nano to test the front-panel auxiliary input (Aux 2). The sound was excellent, although the limitations of lossily compressed tracks were clearly evident. Not so with Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends (Columbia/Legacy CK 66003), however -- Art Garfunkel’s majestic harmonies on "America" soared effortlessly, unfettered by a compression algorithm designed to trick the human ear. In fact, simply because the electronics are more advanced -- CDs and their dedicated players still use the three-decades-old "Red Book" specification -- I routinely recommend DVD players over CD players for CD playback. It’s pretty difficult to screw up zeros and ones, and even the least sophisticated DVD player will do an excellent job of CD playback. The DR-H300 is no exception. I played Bookends over both the LS-H255Ks and the Energy Take Classic speakers we normally use, and found that any significant differences were plainly attributable to the speakers.

Summary

You can hit the nearest big-box store and bring home a respectable receiver and DVD player for a total of $300-$400. For the same money, you can also get a standard-sized DVD receiver. Or you can bring home the TEAC DR-H300, which will give you not only the basics, but has features, especially its digital input/output options, that you’ll pay a lot more for in another receiver. Further, this little jewel takes up almost no space, throws off almost no heat, and goes from box to boogie in almost no time. What you sacrifice is another 3.0 channels of sound (the center and surround speakers), and flexibility: when one thing breaks, the rest of it breaks, too. If, say, the DVD section craps out, you have to get it fixed in order for the unit to function as anything other than a stereo audio receiver. However, if you’re strapped for space -- e.g., stuck in a dorm room -- the DR-H300 receiver, along with TEAC’s LS-255BK or other speakers, will satisfy your needs for a DVD player, a two-channel CD audio system, an iPod playback device, and an alarm clock. I can think of no other single device on today’s market as versatile or packaged as discreetly as the TEAC DR-H300. It’s the ideal one-box solution to address the need for video playback as well as high- and low-end audio playback.

College students, take note: Put TEAC’s DR-H300 on your short list. Mate this little wonder with a pair of bookshelf speakers to create a compact music-and-video system that’s ideal for dorm rooms everywhere.

Review System
Speakers - Energy Take Classic (mains and subwoofer), TEAC LS-255BK (mains)
Cables - RadioShack 14AWG, terminated with banana plugs
Display device - Philips 27PT6441/37 27" flat-screen TV
 

Manufacturer contact information:

TEAC America, Inc.
7733 Telegraph Rd.
Montebello, CA 90640
Phone: (323) 726-0303
Fax: (323) 727-7656

Website: www.teac.com


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