Has anyone heard the Arcam DV89 DVD Audio/Video player?

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Nick V, May 15, 2003.

  1. Nick V

    Nick V Second Unit

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    I have become more and more interested in the audio side of this obsession as of late, and I don't think that my Panny RP-91 is really cutting it. In the near future I hope to purchase a Sony 555-ES SACD changer, and I am looking to upgrade my DVD-Audio playback.

    The video aspect of the player isn't that big of an issue to me as of yet, since I am currently using a 27" Panasonic tv (crap). I'll be purchasing an RPTV once HDMI and IEEE1394 are standard features on the new sets in the next couple years, so it would be nice if the player has a good video section.

    I'm basically wondering if anyone has heard this machine, and if it will significantly outperform my Panasonic RP-91?

    Nick
     
  2. Nick V

    Nick V Second Unit

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    btw, here's a link to the Arcam DV89 if anyone wants to check it out. It mentions the DAC's that are used and everything, but I don't know much about which ones are good or not so good, so that would also be great to know.

    Thanks,
    Nick
     
  3. DanaA

    DanaA Screenwriter

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    I don't know if this will help at all, but, relatively recently, there was a discussion of the audio side of DVD players, specifically whether it was worth it to buy a dedicated CD player. I chimed in that I thought it was in that none of the DVD players I owned came close to playing redbook CD's to the quality produced by my Arcam 72T.

    A rep from Arcam came on to explain the problems he say with DVD players trying to do a good job on the audio side. It is interesting reading and I hope it helps out, although we always have to keep in mind that it is a company rep speaking. Still, he does make some sense, at least to me.

    Here's his post:

    Since someone has mentioned Arcam's name I'll come in with our point of view, which is based on actually developing and listening to real products, and monitoring their success in the marketplace.

    To do proper D/A conversion in audio you need, among other things, a very clean crystal generated clock signal, with as little jitter on it as possible (we are talking very small numbers, sub 200 picoseconds for good results, as measured at the output of the DAC by the Paul Miller/Julian Dunn technique). It helps to have the master clock physically right next door to the DAC chips too.

    There are many other factors involved of course, including the DACs themselves, the digital filters, post conversion analogue filters and so on. The layout of the PCB, especially with respect to ground currents is also critical and mistakes and less than optimum layouts here are definitely audible, even though the obvious measurements may not really change.
    4 or 6 layer boards help. We've done lots of listening inside the company and are absolutely certain of the huge amount of attention that needs to be paid to these things. It's reflected in our sales too.

    It's not too difficult to do all of this inside a CD player, where you only need one master clock and where the transport is slaved to this. DVD players need multiple clocks however, to get 27MHz for video and integer multiples of both 44.1 and 48 kHz for audio, as a minimum. In nearly all DVD players I have seen, the master clock is 27MHz and the audio clocks are derived from this via additional phase locked loops. Now this can be done well or badly - there are a couple of pretty good if somewhat expensive parts out there - but mostly it is done using the on-chip PLL of the MPEG/DVD decoder chipset (the lowest cost solution) and the jitter results are from mediocre to horrendous. As you might imagine this compromises the audio DAC's performance, even if all else were perfect (which is usually isn't by a long way). It also affects the SPDIF digital output stream.

    At Arcam we overcame this in our house designed DV88 and DV27 DVD players by using 3 separate master clocks, one for video and two for audio, the latter being adjacent to the audio DACs. The Zoran MPEG/DVD processors we use support asynchronous clocks, AFAIK most others do not and it was one very good reason why we chose to use Zoran parts in our DVD players. We do a lot of other stuff too, including phase locking our power supply switchers to the audio clock running at that time, but I am sure you get the idea.

    It is interesting to note that Perfect Vision magazine rates Arcam's DV27 as "one of the few DVD players that is truly a reference quality CD player in audiophile terms, and is the best combination of absolute performance with DVDs and CDs this side of the Ayre's mighty D-1". (March/April 2003 issue, page 46).

    Back to jitter. In practice the SPDIF sysytem is not very good at transmitting the master clock signal and most receivers and many AV processors are not very good at recovering the DAC clock from this stream, so you get jitter on the DACs inside the receiver/processor. The standard SPDIF receiver chipsets are definitely not good enough here if you want the best results. This limitation can be overcome, for example by fitting a crystal based PLL clock recovery circuit (as used in the best processors - Arcam, Meridian, Lexicon, TAG; this list is not exhaustive) - which is quite expensive and difficult to do. But the results are clearly audible and speak for themselves. To prove my point another way, we initially tried to avoid doing this in the Arcam AV8 processor on the grounds of expense and time to market, until we did the auditioning - then we rushed back to the drawing board to implement the circuitry!

    I don't know if the Krell Showcase has this circuitry or something similar (I suspect not but am happy to be corrected). What I can say with some confidence is that if it does not then (IMO of course) you will be better off with an analogue connection using the DACs inside a good CD player or that rare beast, a properly implemented - in audio terms - DVD player. Of course if a processor doesn't have a true analogue bypass then all bets are off again.

    HTH.

    John Dawson (Arcam
     
  4. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Dana, thanks for sharing that post. It's very informative. I've always heard that the Arcam DVD players are excellent CD players.
     
  5. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Nick, I don't know how the DV89 rates on the video side, but the 'RP91 is good in that department. That said, I have no doubt whatsoever that the DV89 is head and shoulders above the 'RP91 on the audio side. No doubt!

    As for the 'C555ES, it has been discontinued. I never see it on display in stores in the US anymore, and the US mail-order dealers have sold out of it. Is it still available through Canadian retailers? If you cannot find the 'C555ES, the 'C222ES is still in production.
     
  6. Mark All

    Mark All Second Unit

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    I've seen the good reviews of the Arcam DVD players in "The Perfect Vision" magazine and the comments above show how much work manufacturers have to put in to develop what seem to me essentially units with the least compromises possible given the apparent incompatibilities inherent with mixing DVD/SACD/DVD-A/ and CD in one unit. In the case of Arcam it's mixing DVD and CD as well as possible in one unit. However, I've been under the impression for a while now that Zoran's video chips are not the best available at this time for DVD picture quality.

    It still makes sense to me to keep separate units. Why potentially compromise an excellent CD player by adding video circuitry to it in the first place? It makes the CD player more expensive. Given a choice, I'd rather use a Faroudja-based DVD player to watch something and a separate CD player to listen to music.
     
  7. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Mark, good points. If someone wants the best of both worlds and has room for just one component, an Arcam DVD player may be the best choice. However, I would argue that one could do better with a comparably priced, dedicated CD player and then a budget DVD player with excellent video implementation. The obvious choice for the latter a couple of months ago would have been Panasonic DVD players, but it seems as though they have taken a step (or two) backwards with their current budget models. As a result, if I were doing it right now, I'd look at the Panasonic DVD-RP91 (still available) or the Denon DVD-1600.
     
  8. Nick V

    Nick V Second Unit

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    Keith, there's one store here in Edmonton that still has a few 555's in stock, but they told me they couldn't get a hold of any 222's (which is weird). The 555 has a ridiculous price listed ($2000 CDN) which doesn't make sense seeing as how the retail was $800US before they stopped producing it.

    I'm sure they could give it to me for a good price though, cause they're very good to work with. I should go in there and double check about the C222ES though, because that would be more in line with what I'm willing to pay at the moment. How do the C555ES and the C222ES stack up quality wise anyways??
     

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