Toshiba SD-9200 Progressive-Scan DVD-Audio/Video Player Page 2
Ergonomics aside, this player performs well. A menu setting allows the user to view full PLUGE patterns, making accurate monitor adjustments easy. Why you'd ever turn this feature off is beyond me. You can also output an enhanced (aka 0-IRE) black level from any interlaced video output, but this may not be worth the trouble if your display's DVD input doesn't have a dedicated brightness adjustment. When everything is set correctly, both the interlaced and progressive outputs look excellent. The player comes with edge enhancement turned on, making the image appear noticeably sharper and more defined than that from the Sony DVP-S9000ES player (February 2001). This enhancement can also add some ringing, ghosting, or other artifacts to fine details in the image and, in the end, is best left off. Even so, resolution is outstanding, and colors are bright and vivid.
For those who have 4:3 displays, the SD-9200 downconverts anamorphic images adequately. Slow, vertical pans make the conversion more noticeable and slightly choppier than with, say, the Sony player. The rest of the image from the Toshiba, though, seems to be a hair sharper. The resulting question is, do you want a softer picture overall or a sharper one with some artifacts? As I've said before, your best bet is to get a 16:9 display or a 4:3 display with a 16:9 mode and circumvent the downconversion.
For those with a 16:9 HDTV or other progressive-ready display (e.g., one that will accept a 480p image at the component input), the picture is awesome. The player quickly picks up on the 3:2 frame sequence of film-originated material and compensates for it accordingly. There's a complete lack of motion artifacts or aliasing. The image is better than that from any line doubler I've seen.
Audio is equally satisfying. A quick listen to the two-channel analog outputs indicated that the player's internal digital-to-analog converter, which includes HDCD decoding, is of excellent quality. Compared, again, with the Sony player, the SD-9200 offers more high-frequency detail from regular CD recordings, although with a hint of grain or edginess. Bass notes weren't quite as defined, but they had good presence and impact. Most differences were subtle, at best, and won't likely be an issue for anyone using the digital or DVD-Audio output.
Comparing the DVD-Audio output with, well, anything is an exercise in frustration. Even if you could find two similar recordings (one regular CD, one DVD-Audio), it's impossible to know whether or not the recording levels are identical. Volume significantly affects preference. Comparing the DVD-Audio track with the Dolby Digital track on the same disc probably makes more sense, given the multichannel attributes, but the same obstacles would be present. Regardless, I did my best to play a fair amount of regular CDs, DVD-Audio titles, and Dolby Digital 5.1 music tracks of those DVD-Audio titles. While I doubted that I would notice much of a difference, in the end I found myself definitely wanting more. The 5.1-channel presentation of the DVD-Audio tracks had significantly more air, or presence, or whatever audiophilic word you want to use. I didn't necessarily notice any more nuance in dynamics, although that's one characteristic the system offers. That may have more to do with the recordings I had on hand, though. Strings and horns had more detail and character, and ambience was just more, well, ambient. While I hate the cliché, I can't help but say that you just felt that much closer to actually being at the live recording. If nothing else, it was more fun than either the two-channel CDs or 5.1-channel Dolby Digital tracks.
I enter into these high-resolution multichannel-audio demonstrations extremely skeptically. The lack of simple, accurate comparisons makes any supposed improvement seem impossible to confirm. Playing with the actual format, however, is a different story and one that left me wanting more. I really like almost everything about this DVD player, save the apparently inherent ergonomic exception and the lack of SACD capability. The SD-9200's performance and build quality, particularly, put it at the top of its class.
• DVD-Audio and progressive-scan video outputs
• Incredibly solid and slick feel
• Outstanding performance