Sony DVP-S525D Multiregion (Mania.com)
Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002
What They Say
Sony DVP-S525D Multiregion
Supplied by The DVD Shop
12 months RTB warranty
"Premium" mod pack installed and warranted by supplier ($180) included in price
by David Eddy
Well, finally the day came for me to get a DVD player. I've been looking at players for quite a while now, but budget and lack of perceived need prevented me from buying. With players finally nudging under AUD1000, and anime increasingly coming out on DVD, I decided it was time to buy. Narrowing down my choices, the unit's intended function as a master source for subtitling (as well as simply enjoying anime!) meant that a macrovision mod was mandatory. This eliminated the Pioneer 515 unit which I had originally intended to purchase. After a little browsing I settled on the Sony. I chose it mostly because it was reported that Sony players did 16:9 downconversion particularly well, all other features being equal.
The DVP-S525D has all the basic features one expects of a DVD player these days: 10-bit video DACs, 24-bit audio DACs, coax and optical digital outs, PAL/NTSC support, and so forth. The 525 adds an on-board AC-3 decoder with line-level outputs, component video outputs, two sets of S-video and RCA composite/line level stereo output jacks, and virtual surround sound processing for 2-speaker systems. The unit supports Dolby Digital (of course), DTS, and - because this is an Australian deck - MPEG multi-channel sound. It will play DVD, CD, and VCD disks - really, anything that has a 5" form factor except for white-book CDs (CD-Is). The remote control is functional without being particularly wonderful - it is not backlit at all - and the unit has the familiar Sony corporate design. It is a full-width, black component that blends well with my existing stereo gear.
The mod pack supplied and fitted by The DVD Shop adds automatic and manual region switching (for discs which spoof auto-detecting players, if such discs exist), switchable macrovision defeat, and switchable User Operation Prohibition defeat. (UOP is the thing which prevents you fast-forwarding over the FBI warnings etc.)
I got the unit home (together with a 3m S-video lead I knew I would need) and considered the problem of installation. The issue at hand was my television: It has only one video input, and using its S-video input defeats the normal composite input. If I had bought a player without macrovision defeat, I would have been well and truly screwed since I would have had no way of feeding or cable box... and any solution to this problem had to be simple enough to use that my wife wouldn't have a problem with it. Fortunately I had an SVHS deck I could press into service, so I grabbed my JVC HR-S5500AM and inserted it into the AV center. I set things up so that the existing video gear (cable box, VCR) fed into one input on the JVC using composite video, while the DVP-S525 fed into the JVC's other video input using S-video. The SVHS deck was then connected to my TV using the new S-video cable in parallel with the existing 3-way audio/video cable. I was afraid it wasn't all going to fit, but it did, and now I have a genuinely scary-looking rack of gear to the left of my TV... and a clutter of 7 remote controls to work it all with. Bah.
But enough: How well does the DVP-S525 work?
In a word, beautifully. I had to change the default TV setup (it came set up for 16:9 TV), and I took the chance to record my speaker setup in the appropriate section of the player setup menu. With that done, things worked wonderfully from the outset. I watched a number of anime DVDs (Tenchi in Tokyo, El Hazard Alternate World, Battle Athletes) and was extremely gratified by the resolution - both luminance and chroma - and lack of noise in the image. (In other words, the image was crisp and clear without a trace of over saturation or color bleed.)
The Sony player will overlay a number of on-screen displays if you ask it to: A full control menu, a bit-rate display, a bit-rate history display, or a layer position display. All of these are done with a translucent blue background which allows some of the background image to come through. Player prompts are clear if sometimes wordy, also done in a translucent blue background. Overall, this player has a very impressive GUI.
Chapter selection and menu selection was quick, although with one disk (Battle Athletes) the special features menu took a little while (3 seconds or so) to respond, resulting in momentary confusion. Most menus came up very quickly (less than 1 second), however, and based on other reports I have read I regard this as very good performance.
The remote control has buttons for direct access to select audio track, camera angle, subtitles, and time mode. Curiously the player seems to default to time-elapsed-in-chapter mode for the time display. The remote lacks a jog/shuttle control, and the resulting array of tape transport-style buttons used to control playback is initially confusing but easily learned and is now no problem.
Feeding the player some 16:9 disks (Shakespeare in Love, R1; Tomorrow Never Dies, R4) I saw no trace of any 16:9 downconversion artifacts reported for some other players. Shakespeare in Love, widely praised as a disk of almost reference quality, was absolutely gorgeous, with fine resolution and beautiful color.
Audio-wise, things seem to be very good. I only have a stereo system, not surround sound, so I can really only comment on the down-converted sound. I must say that I am very impressed with the sound quality after hearing reports of muddy stereo sound after downconversion in 1st and 2nd generation DVD players from other manufacturers. I can find no flaw with the sound, although my ears are not particularly trained. :-)
I briefly tested the player using some VCD's of Mamono Hunter - subtitled in Chinese :-( - and the Sony did an excellent job of playing them. Compared to DVDs the quality, both video and audio, was atrocious (of course), but compared to the quality of playback my PII 466 computer can manage, it was excellent, the image in particular much improved. As a CD player, all I can say is that it works. I used the second set of audio outputs on the back of the player to feed directly to my amp for when I use the Sony as a CD player. (The first set goes to the VCR used to switch signals.) I didn't have any CD-Rs in an appropriate format so was unable to find out whether it would cope with CD-R discs.
In summary, I am extremely impressed with my Sony DVP-S525D, and would recommend it to others.
A note on prices: A US$700 player may seem expensive to Americans for what is a budget player, but one should remember that (a) this deck has a US$125 mod pack in it, and (b) Australian video gear is quite a bit more expensive than equivalently-featured US gear.
Age Rating: All
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Other
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hardware Reviews