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DVD Player
Accessories
Integra DPS-8.3 SACD, DVD-Audio Player

Mike Levy

5 August 2003

Specifications

DPS-8.3 THX Ultra Universal Player
Supported formats: DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, DVD-R/RW, SACD (2- & 5.1-channel), CD, 24/96 CD, CD-R/RW, MP3
Decoders: Dolby Digital, DTS
Audio DAC: 24 bits/192kHz
Video DAC: 12 bits/108MHz
Outputs: 2 composite, 2 S-video, 2 component (1 RCA, 1 BNC), 3 digital audio (2 optical, 1 coaxial), 2 analog stereo audio, 5.1-channel analog audio, 12V trigger
Inputs: RS-232 controller, infrared input/output (for use with remote IR sensor)
Dimensions: 17 1/8" × 3 9/16" × 12 5/16" (W×H×D)
Weight: 11 lbs
Price: $1200
Manufacturer
Integra, division of Onkyo USA Corporation
18 Park Way
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07548
Telephone: (201) 785-2600
Fax: (201) 785-2650
www.integrahometheater.com



Integra, Onkyo’s high-end division, recently released a universal CD, SACD, DVD-Audio player called the DPS-8.3. It’s a well-built unit housed in an anodized black metal chassis with a thick black, brushed aluminum faceplate. The unit has a solid feel and sports outputs for almost every imaginable type of component: composite video, S-video, component video, BNC component video, IR-in IR-out, RS 232, optical and coaxial digital audio, 5.1 analog and stereo analog audio, a twelve volt trigger, and a special R1 control connector. I only wished for a DVI output.

After listening to a few DVD-Audio discs and SACDs, and comparing them to my treasured vault of vinyl, I realized I have been waiting over 20 years for this. In 1982, in what was then the Summer Consumer’s Electronics Show in Chicago, I had a chance to preview one of the first CD players. Barney Pisha and Bert White of Audio magazine brought it over with a few brand new Telarc CDs to try out. I had the same recordings in vinyl for comparison. Well, it was bad. As Neil Young would later say, “I heard a perfect echo die into an anonymous wall of digital sound.” And much worse. The flat images and the coarseness of the sound, made the CD unlistenable by comparison.

While the sound of the CD has improved greatly through the years, thanks to faster and better processors, with algorithms that fill in the gaps in the 44.1 kHz 16 bit recording system, it never caught up withvinyl. With ticks and pops and all, the good old 33 1/3 LP still sounded more like real music.

Engineers would spend hours at bars lamenting the loss of great sound to a digital system that was introduced too early. At parties for the industry we would talk about how high we should go. 48kHz professional recorders sounded much better, but still not like vinyl. New standards were proposed and forgotten because the CD was selling too well. Who would change a format just to please us nutty audiophiles? If the sound of the CD won’t satisfy our musical appetite, well then, let them eat vinyl.

It took the DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) to finally deliver a system that could compete with, and yes, mark my words, BEAT VINYL. In stereo, direct comparisons of the same recording in DVD-Audio, or SACD were at least as good as the vinyl, and often sounded more three dimensional, more open and more musical.

Auditions of SACD only players and DVD-Audio only players (they play everything except the other high resolution format) evidenced the promise of these formats. The only problem is that, as always, this industry has the machine gun aimed directly at its own feet. Format wars have slowed the introduction of every new format except the CD and the DVD. Look at the amazing success we have when we don’t confuse the consumer. But, here we go again! I hope these companies will just freely license both systems, and let the consumer decide.

While I did no direct comparisons to other high-resolution players, the sound from this player was as good as my memory of other SACD and DVD-Audio players I have tried. Its strength is in its ability to play both formats, and its mid high-end price. In stereo it just made my system disappear more, and the music had a refined smoothness, with detail that I can only describe as much closer to the real thing. It was like the difference between a movie in HD video or through a scaler from the DVD. The processor can make it close, but not with the same smoothness and detail. The more I listened to the high-resolution formats, the more I could tell when I was listening to a CD.

Functionality

All user-controlled functions operated well, including time delay, and speaker level setting. Setup is made easy with a choice of speaker size, distance from listener, and level for up to all 7.1 speaker outputs.

While rarely important, there was one error in setup. You cannot shutdown the center channel speaker in High Resolution DVD-audio without shutting down the rear speakers. The component video outputs are switchable for either progressive or interlaced output. The unit has two front channel outputs, and can be switched from two to four rear channels.

Listening

The sonic differences were most apparent when I had the luxury of comparing vinyl to CD and SACD or High Resolution DVD-Audio.

The first disc I listened to was Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. This is not a well-recorded album and the wonderful music on it never quite sounded real. The vinyl was not transferred very well, and the CD sounds coarse and flat. The SACD took a leap forward in three-dimensionality and stage presence without changing the music’s basic tonality. It presents a seamless three-dimensional image and the vocals and instruments are smooth, not coarse. The individual instruments are round, with space around them, while on CD they sound like flat cardboard cutouts of themselves. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands stops sounding like an old recoding, and creates a physical presence strong enough to make you feel the emotion in the words.

Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto’s Girl From Ipanema is a vivid comparison. The Original Master Recording on CD is so well transferred that it gives a good sense of depth, and images widely and clearly. Voices and instruments are clear and full-bodied and the female vocal on the right side is wide of the right speaker, but when you play the vinyl or the SACD, the images move. The stage becomes wider and deeper, and all of the voices and instruments are more full-bodied and retain a greater depth and three-dimensionality. One other difference also rang through. While listening with a group of middle-aged friends, my son asked me to take the SACD off. He complained about a high frequency ringing through his head. He could not hear it on the CD. We could all hear the tape hiss on both versions, but only 19-year-old ears could hear the high frequency ringing on the SACD. Something hypersonic must have slipped through into the SACD. It only happened on this recording. Other SACDs evidenced no such problem.

Jazz at the Pawnshop is a recording I have on vinyl and on SACD. The SACD is in 5.1, and places you in the space. There is something cozy and personal about music in a small club, and this recording has preserved it well. The walls, tables, chairs, and waiters with glasses tinkling place you there. It sounds great, and yet, I believe it could sound better. The sonic images of the audience could have been placed more realistically. This is not a weakness of the system, but of a 20-year-old recording. It is well worth owning anyway because it can magically transport the listener to a smoky Scandinavian club 20 years ago.

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is the most interesting of the new 5.1 SACD releases. Pink Floyd had pioneered multi-channel concert sound. The sound surrounded the audience in concert, and thus would be a perfect match for the new multi-channel SACD system. The new mix did not disappoint. It is very much like the concert in a good smaller venue. I have just one warning, though. If you, like I, had experienced the Floyd in concert, do not, I repeat, do not try to recreate the volume of the live concert unless you know that all of your speakers are up to it. This recording is best on a system with full frequency response at all channels, and plenty of infrasonics. (subwoofers). During any Floyd concert I went to, you couldn’t hear a Boeing 747 taking off over the concert hall—or anything else for that matter. The SACD, when played just really loud, sounds awesome. It has clarity and motion into depth in all dimensions. It moves the listener with incredible dynamics and inner detail, and is over much too soon.

Video Performance

The player tested at the higher levels of quality on static test patterns. Detail went out to the limits of the system. The color bars were accurately displayed, and the levels closely matched the standard. The player is essentially the same as the Onkyo DV-SP800 tested by Secrets of Home Theater. Their full motion tests rated the video quality only 49 on a scale of 100.

Conclusion

This is a product that brings the industry one step closer to the dream audio source. The new high-resolution formats bring the industry to a new level. I hope a digital output for SACD and DVD audio such as the IEEE 1394 standard will soon be included. Until then, this player certainly merits much listening.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascendo

 

 

 

Integra DPS-8.3 SACD, DVD-Audio Player