Universal Players: Video Quality?

I already have my 2 channel front end set up. What I am considering is upgrading my DVD player (old Camelot Tech, quite good by the way) with an universal player. This sits in a different room, home theatre set up Of course sound quality is important yes as I also want to experiment with mutli-channel music (though I am not convinced) but superior video quality is must as I use it for mostly watching DVDs. When I read reviews in audio mags they really don't comment on video quality at all, and when they do they compare it their brethen not the leading say Sony players (which of couse may suffer in audio quality). So in a long round about question, which universal players have superior video while maintaining audio quality? Esoteric vs Linn vs Bel Cant PL-1? Sim Audio?
Of the ones, I've used the Sim Orbiter has the best video and outstanding audio. (Note that I did not assess the video on the Linn 1.1, so that evaluation does not include it.) I slightly prefer the sound of the BelCanto PL-1A and would 'guess' that the PL-1 would give the Sim a run for the money.

BTW, picture on the Denon 5910 is outstanding as well but the audio is not in the class of the others. (Close but no cigar.)

Yes, just the passage of time has brought video to a higher caliber. Then, to what display? becomes of importance. Some display devices accept dvi and convert it back to analog.--You'll want to make sure your tv doesn't do this. Were I in this position I'd be looking at a modded by Tucker,Denon 3910 or 5910; also the Esoteric 50 S model.
As an owner of the Marantz DV9500 I can say it is the best picture they have produced in that series. I owned the 8300 and 8400 and the 9500 is much better but I would be inclined to say the Denon 5910 is better still. I expect to see a Marantz DV9600 and a Denon 5920 hit the shelves soon. Also take a look at the McIntosh MVP861 it has an outstanding picture quality.
I have had the Esoteric DV-50 (which I kept and the upgraded to the 's' status) and the Linn Unidisc 2.1 in my system (which at the time had the Linn Kisto pre/pro and fully active AV 51 system)

I love the Linn sound, or I wouldn't have all their speakers and amps, but the Esoteric was more accurate, particularly on bass. The upper end was slightly more liquid on the Linn, but the attack of the notes was lacking, and the bass was weak at best. NOW as for video, the Unidisc was more life like than the DV-50 (hadn't been upgraded yet, so I can't compare the 2.1 vs DV-50s) and definitely did reds better. In fact I would say color saturation was generally better on the Linn.

Ultimately the wife and I decided to keep the DV-50, and I do not regret it. MC Audio is a novelty in my mind, but still a great party trick, and once in a while, on the few disks that are recorded well in this format, a true treat.

I can tell you that the upgrade to the 's' status really did make a significant improvement in the video. I can not tell you how much is just from keeping the video in the digital domain (I use a Samsung DLP RPTV) over the better video board but there is a three dimensionality to images from the DV-50s via DVI out that is really impressive.

I would love to A-B the Linn 1.1, but don't want to pay that price for it.. I heard the Bel Canto Univ (I beleive the PL-1A) but it was in a system I didn't like so I won't coment on it (well, I will say it was at a store I HATE... seems the owner makes his own speakers, and voices every stereo to sound like his speakers, which to me are raspy as hell and intolerable but...).

FWIW I have had the DV-50s for a couple years, and still love it. the build quality is amazing, sound and picture are great.... I would love to have the EMM CDSD and DAC 6e, but let's face it, I bought a kitchen this year instead....
I have heard many times that one of the best universals for video quality in the Denon 2900, pretty reasonable priced also.
Check out www.hometheaterhifi.com. They rate the video performance of many DVD players. The Denon players consistently beat everybody. The Denon 5910 currently has the highest rating. Some of the results are suprising: some high-priced players may have great sound, but fail many of the video tests.
I bought a Denon DVD-3910 about 6 months ago, and have been very pleased with both the video and audio quality. "The Perfect Sound" magazine is also very high on the Denon 2910.
I like the Onkyo DV-SP1000 as one of the best universal under $5k. We sell the Denon 5910 and 3910 as well but I always show customers the Onkyo first as my personal preference and at a msrp of $2k it his hard to beat. I am so impatient when it comes to tracking the Denons (2-3 second delay in skipping tracks) and disc recognition times are deplorable. Video quality on the 5910 is on par with the SP1000.

My $0.02


I agree on the Denon seek time and disk recognition. My 2800 jams up when reading disks from my video camera.
Thanks everyone will investigate indeed. I beleive that the Bel Canto PL-1 has Faroudja DCDI processing but the PL1A doesn't.
FWIW I own a DV-50 now, and have tried the "S" version, the Denon 3910, the Integra DPS 10.5, the Simaudio Orbiter, the Lexicon RT-10, the Krell Showcase, and the Meridian G98 (it think it was the 98). The Krell I never tried the video on, but the audio was really good.

For video only, the Integra was the best stand alone solution. But ultimately I got rid of it because it had a severe lip sync problem that was random and intolerable. Even my wife couldn't stand it. Its audio was only very slightly better than the 3910 in my system.

The 3910's video was pretty good, but the 3910 and the 10.5 were the bottom of the bunch when it came to audio. I even went through the trouble of modding a 3910 for a serious amount of money and it still was not as good as the stock DV-50. That whole experience was an expensive mistake.

To get the video up to the Integra level that I got spoiled to, I got an iScan HD+ for a DV-50. With the external video processor, the video surpasses any stand alone unit in my set-up, plus I get significant picture controls over any input. Keep in mind many DVI players do not offer any picture control when using DVI. The same is true for displays.

My findings with the DV-50S were mixed. The audio was great as would be expected. Here’s is where it gets convoluted - I have a Sharp XV-Z10000U DLP projector, and when I used the DVI from the DV-50S to the Projector, it passed all of the test screens with flying colors. I was very pleased. But, to me there was something missing and I couldn't figure it out until I was watching Shrek 2 with my kids. When I toggled between DVI and Component on this one scene I could see that Shrek had significant facial stubble when using component (this is good detail), but much of that stubble was missing when I used DVI. It was washed out and did not show the detail. I messed with whatever settings I could, but I could not fix it. I was very bummed. It may be because the scaler in the Sharp is not that good because I see big differences when I feed it different resolutions. I just cannot explain it, but I saw it.

That is when I got out of the "S" and back into a standard DV-50 and got the iScan. Now I have the great audio AND even better video than what the 10.5 delivered. And surprisingly, I am using the component connection between the player and processor which is not ideal due to extra d/a-a/d conversion.

For audio, the Simaudio was very nice. To me even a little better than the DV-50, but it has no channel level controls for its multi-channel output. Since I use different speakers and amplifiers all around, I need to set the output volume/level of each channel to balance the sound for mc-music. My pre/pro only has a multi-channel pass-through, so it couldn’t do it. This is an important feature that anyone who wants to explore multi-channel needs to be aware of. I was surprise to learn how many players could not set these levels because most use the same Pioneer platform. Ultimately I kept the venerable DV-50…still. There is a reason this player is used as comparison to many other players…it is just a very solid all around performer.

Also, the Meridian was incredible for two channel, and it is just a transport! It was probably the best sound in my system, but I wanted a universal. The Lexicon and the Krell sounded very similar, and both were very good. But, again the Krell is not a universal, and I didn't try the
HDMI output, and the lexicon was not quite up to the DV-50 level on audio, but it is close. The RT-10's video by itself is horrible too…in my system, but then again I did not use the iScan with it.

So for me, the DV-50/iScan HD+ has given me satisfaction for both audio and video together. If I had to step down a bit, a close second that I would not hesitate to try is a Lexicon RT-10 with the iScan. The Lexicons are going for $1600 on Agon (a bargain), and you could get one modded with an SDI output at JVB digital and be truly set.

This is the longest post I have ever written…sorry, but I toiled through this experience. I am really happy it’s over. It gets very old real fast. Ultimately, only you can judge what sounds right, and what is worth the money, time, and effort. It is all very system dependent, but this was my personal experience. Good Luck.
I've had a few universal players and currently use an APL modified McIntosh MVP861. The stock player is "essentially" a McIntosh re-engineered Denon with a hot-rodded power supply in a nice case. The video on the player is fantastic! Easily better than the Denon 3910 (which had strange macroblocking issues).

The sound quality of the stock MVP861 is just hideous. Dark, closed in, undynamic, etc. Terrible!

I took my MVP861 to APL HiFi who has a very popular and highly regarded modification service for the Denon 2900, 3910 and other universal players. I begged them for help!

Fortunately APL was able to help.

Most high end modification services focus on re-building the stock (cheap) power supplies but in the case of the McIntosh APL said it was an awesome power supply - and they doubt that they could improve it.

What APL did do to improve the sound was to parallel the DACS and add a DSP Clock. Not an expensive modification.

I must report, the sound of the revised McIntosh is way, way, way, better than I ever expected. Even Alex at APL was blown away saying that the MVP861 sounded somewhere in-between his modified Denon 3910 and Esoteric UX-1.
Good stuff on this post. I too use an older Camelot Tech, Roundtable MKIII for both DVD and CD playback in my media room. CD audio sounds awesome, with no outboard DAC inline, and the video quality, running component as Roundtable lacks DVI/HDMI outputs, is very solid, detailed and filmlike. My display is a front projector single chip DLP with Faroudja processing 720p native res. I have a separate stereo system in another room with Camelot Morganna used as Transport with a BelCanto DAC inline. I don't listen to much music in my theater room until I get one that can play DVD-Audio and SACD. My concern is getting into an HDMI player to tide me over until HD DVD/ BlueRay shakes down. I'd heard the Denon 2910-3910 are nice inexpensive options. And what about a current model ARCAM Universal player with DVI/HDMI outs? Also reasonable and very well-reviewed?? Anyone seen it?

DBLD: What make is a dv-50?

The DV-50 is made by Esoteric. Does the Arcam play both DVD-A and SACD? I thought it only did one one these formats.

My experience with the Esoteric is just the opposite. I had the DV-50, and had it upgraded, and found the picture to have a much more detailed display via DVI, almost adding a three dimensionality to the picture on the 61" Samsung DLP RPTV.

Arcam only does DVD-A not SACD. Thanks Dbld for yur "long" input, very much appreciated I think others do too. Please keep it coming!

I used to used a iScan with an old Pioneer DVD player and video improved: but with my current Camelot (same one used by Bob, it doesn't: the internal scaler in Camelot I think is from iscan. But some Universals should be using Faroudja's DCDI chip so your observations are both helpful and perplexing. For example I expected the Lexicon to do much better..hmmm. I guess you just have to try them one by one even for video.
Ken, I too was disappointed, but like I said, it might have just been some sort of "capatability" issue. I still ended up with the DV-50 though.

Henryhk, I think you might be confusing de-interlacing with scaling. De-interlacing take an interlaced signal (like 480i) and makes it progressive (480p) while scaling will change the resolution (like 480p and change it to 720p).
Do you think SACD has a future or is it going by the wayside. I've only bought a few matrixed audio DVDs, my car has a 7.1 system in it. It's a Bose so it's not good sounding but I like the redention. That's what making me interested in Audio matrix decoding in a new DVD player.
Everyone I speak to in the business (audio/HT retail) says that Sony has abandoned SACD or is about to. Nevertheless, I still buy them because with a good universal I can enjoy them as well as DVD-A and normal CD.