Best DVD player for the money?

As I continue to rebuild my aged HT system, it's time for a progressive-scan DVD player. I'm shocked, in the Best Buys of the world, how cheap DVD players are these days. Something tells me I can spend a lot more than $100 if I tried, so I'm wondering what I should be looking for, features-wise, and product-wise.

Note, this is a HT-only system, so music playback isn't a consideration.


You might try describing what your current setup is, what your goals are, and your budget. Without such information, all anyone can do is throw model names at you.

For instance: The Meridian 800 Reference Version 3 DVD player is one of the best, if not THE best, DVD players available. If you have the money. It runs about $19,000.
I didn't because I really was just looking for a general over-view/education of what to expect from a DVD player -- what features and capabilities separate a high-end interpretation of a player from a mass consumer-grade piece, and whether those differences are worth paying for, and where diminishing returns begin.

I'm right in the middle of re-building, so a lot of my setup is in flux. I'm using just a 30" HD tube widescreen, but that'll be a HD plasma down the road. I need to buy a new (probably used) processor, right now a Lexicon DC-1 seems like a good idea, but who knows. I'm driving my speakers with a couple of B&K amps (all used). Where audio is concerned, I've always subscribed to the approach, "why should I buy a brand-new Chevy when I can buy a two-year old Cadillac."

I'm not so sure I'll get off as easy with the DVD player -- I suspect they're changing, unlike solid state amps, all the time. On the other hand, there's that "diminishing returns" caveat. $500 seems to be the theme (so far) for each item (my most recent purchase, a used B&K three-channel amp, cost me about $500, and was over $1k new). I guess I need to figure out what I can buy for under $500 in a DVD player, verify whether there's viable options on the used market, then determine if it's worth going upscale, based on the answers to the first paragraph. LOL. You asked.
Toshiba 4900 for around $90. It really does sound great IMHO.
Cambridge Audio Azur 540,

They also now have afew more model which I am not sure about
All DVD's are standard definition and they must be scaled to HD resolutions. The absolute best DVD player is one that has digital video output via SDI. This allows you to have the exact 1's and 0's off the disc before any processing and encription. The only way you can do this is with a SDI modified DVD player, and JVB Digital has the best SDI mods at the best price (you can buy a player already modified by them, they can modify yours or they will sell you the SDI board for DIY) (the JVB Digital Video web site is: But, the only way you can read the SDI digital video information is with a special processor/scaler such as the DVDO iScan Ultra HD, Cinemateq SDI Picture optimizer plus, or the Key Digital HD Leeza (there may be a couple of others available - but please know all are expensive of $2,000+ USD). The best results with a SDI capable player and a SDI processor/scaler is to have a display device that accepts digital video as an input source.

To me the best-bang-for-the-buck is the Samsung 9xx series which outputs digital video via DVI/HDMI (the 1's and 0's off the disc are encripted with HDCP and some processing, but it still looks very good). The Samsung 9xx DVD player costs around $300 USD and you will need a display device that accepts DVI or HDMI and it must be HDCP capable. In my opinion, SDI video will only be 5-10% better than digital video via DVI/HDMI from the Samsung 9xx player. The Samsung 9xx DVD has a very decent scaler built-in. V, Inc. makes a good DVD player that has digital video output that looks very good as well and it is also fairly resonable.

I've recommended and installed many DVD players in my day, and I always make the client happy when we go to digital video. I've even gone so far as to do a side-by-side comparison of two DVD players feeding 2 inputs to their display device both being paused on the identical frame of the same movie in each player (I recommend one of the recent computer animated films) and we jump from one input to the other - it is no comparison that digital video always wins over 3 wire component every time. BTW - I own a Pioneer Elite DV-59 AVi and a Key Digital HD Leeza and this combo makes the best video picture of any player-processor/scaler on the market, including Meridian (and the Pioineer Elite DV-59Avi is a universal player for 2 channel and multi-channel audio as well which is also fantastic).
Not sure what ya want to blow on a player, but when I was searching for a great performing DVD player, with the extra added benefit of playing SACD's and DVD-A's (though not spectacular, much better than the CIrcuit CIty equivalent,) I ran across an almost brand-new Pioneer Elite DV-47ai. I think I paid about $600, and its absolutely flawless as far as video performance is concerned. A great player, and can be had for not alot now on the Agon.

My two cents.

Jon BRown
I agree with Dmenagh. I use a pioneer DV-59avi with a sanyo plv-z2 lcd projector. Outstanding in picture and audio. I had read a review recently on a stand off between the pioneer, ayre and a couple others. The pioneer was the cheapest out off the bunch and performed on par with the 8000.00 Ayre, which i believe is based on a pioneer transport. The ayre is regarded as probably the best player on the planet.
As I have a serviceable DVD player now (just a mass-fi Sony), I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off waiting for HD functionality to come out in force?
Waiting for the next best thing is always something to do, but if you have a need now you should make the decision. Having visited all the trade shows this year (CES, CEDIA, etc.) I don't see HD DVD happening for 1-2+ years for the hardware, and then there is the whole issue of software HD DVD's and availability -- I doubt these will be available in force for 2-4 years. FYI -- the Hollywood studios are making the most money they've ever made with current standard definition DVD's so why would they change to HD DVD's?
I just bought a Denon DVD 1600 used on Videogon, and the video quality is stunning. It has gotten the second highest rating on the Home Theater DVD shootout.
The audio is also exceptionally good, but being a DVD Audio player, it doesn't have a digital out for sound. You have to use six separate ICs to your Pre Pro.

You still sort of left us in the dark as to what exactly you are looking for when it comes to what you want in a DVD Player.

Like for example, what kind of system will this player be used with???? I ask this very question because I don't want to make a recommendation and then it turns out to be the wrong one after the fact. I don't want to recommend a cheap mass market player when in fact you're going to be putting together an all assault expensive system. On the other hand, I don't want you to overspend on a DVD Player when you are in fact going to put together a budget system either.

For example, if you are going to do a budget system, then a $90.00-to-$300.00 player makes better sense. On the other hand, if you are going to put together an expensive system, then you should probably spend a considerable amount of money on the DVD Player (I'm going to say $1,000.00 and up), especially if you are going to be using a HDTV display like a plasma TV or a DLP or LCoS display to take advantage of the capabililties that a $1,000.00+ player tends to offers.

My picks would be the following:

For a budget player ($90.00-to-$300.00):

(01). Toshiba SD-4900
(02). Toshiba SD-4960
(03). Denon DVD-1910
(04). Samsung DVD-HD931


For an expensive player ($1,000.00 and up)

(01). Denon DVD-5900
(02). Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi
(03). Any Arcam Model (DV78, DV79, FMJ-DV27 (or its replacement..... the FMJ-DV29))
(04). Meridian 800 Reference (and THIS baby will run you about $16K)

Hope I helped you a little bit........


The germ of thinking about upgrading my consumer-grade Sony DVD player comes from my recent purchase of an HD 30" wide-screen TV with HDMI inputs, etc. My Sony DVD player doesn't have progressive scan, for starters (though it does have an optical digital out).

Now, I view the new TV as a 2-3 year stop-gap necessitated by the death of my old 4:3 tv -- it will ultimately become our bedroom TV when HD plasma tvs drop in price in a few years. I'll wait.

I'm actively working on upgrading other items. What's set now is I'm driving five NHT VS-2s with B&K 200w amps (based on recent purchases).

So my upgrade path now looks like this:

1. I need a sub.

2. I have to upgrade my old Fosgate pro logic processor (a Lexicon DC-1 v4 sounds like the way to go but I need to look at the whole DVI/HDMI variable) -- right now, I can't even take advantage of the optical digital outs of both my satellite box or my consumer-grade dvd player.

3. I need a better DVD player.

4. HD/Tivo satellite tuner -- maybe a year off -- the TIVO variable has that price way up there right now.

That order isn't fixed -- finances and used item opportunities will drive that game-plan along, but I'm thinking the sub is going to be next (since my Fosgate does work and I do have a DVD player). But, concurrently, I need to start thinking about what I want in a DVD player and what I want in a processor.

I really don't want to spend more than $500 - $750 on any one thing in the chain, and going pre-owned wherever I can will go a long way. Going used with the amplification was easy, the speakers, too, and I'm confident the sub will be that way, too. I'm worried I won't get off so easy where the processor and DVD player are concerned -- have to learn more about the HDMI/DVI issue.
The optical outputs are crap anyway. Get soemthing with coax! If ya want a good player for your price range, I would tend to agree with my associates here - Toshiba, Denon, Pioneer Elite (used) are all good choices for you. I would suggest that if you were planning on using the player for multi-channel high-rez playback, i.e, SACD, the Pioners tend to be a bit edgy and bright, in my own personal experience.