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Do high end DVD players improve movie sounds?


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31 replies to this topic

#1 of 32 OFFLINE   Bill Mullin

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Posted May 23 2003 - 07:34 AM

For the last 1.5 years I've been using the Panasonic RP56, which is an adequate DVD player. But I decided to upgrade to a Sony DVP-NS999ES in order to gain compatibility with the rest of my gear, achieve a tiny bit of video improvement, have the ES 5-year warranty, and get the capability to display "time remaining" for a particular movie DVD. I have no interest (yet) in SACD, this player will be used for movies only.

After connecting up the 999ES and before cracking the manual, first I noted that the video had improved a smidgen, as expected. Second I noted that I now had an easily accessible "time remaining" display. But the HUGE surprise was that I got a substantial improvement in movie soundtracks: dialog was crisper in my center channel, separation sounded better in the front and surrounds, the surround channels were passing along much more information than I'd ever heard before, and even the subwoofers (I have two) sounded better. I've been rewatching some of my personal DVDs and am amazed at the sounds I'm hearing that I've never heard before. The sound improvements alone were more than worth the cost of the 999ES, and sound improvement was something that I hadn't even been expecting.

So my only question is: Do high end DVD players improve the sound in movie soundtracks, or is this just "wishful hearing" on my part?

BTW - I got the 999ES at Joe Sammans for $679 + $18 for UPS ground shipping. I was pleased with this price, and no - I don't make money endorsing this store! Posted Image

- Bill

#2 of 32 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted May 23 2003 - 08:39 AM

The high end players aren't doing anything to the sound; it's the same digital data being passed. Should be zero difference for Dolby Digital.

The improvements you mention almost sound like you had the Panasonic set to PCM output rather than AC-3 output the whole time, and haven't been hearing Dolby Digital until now. What sort of receiver are you using, what connection, did all the "DD" indicators light up w/ the Panasonic player? Were any of the dynamic range reduction / "midnight mode" options turned on?

#3 of 32 OFFLINE   Bill Mullin

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Posted May 23 2003 - 10:03 AM

>>>The improvements you mention almost sound like you had the Panasonic set to PCM output rather than AC-3 output the whole time, and haven't been hearing Dolby Digital until now.<<<

No - I've definitely been listening to Dolby Digital.

>>>What sort of receiver are you using<<<

Sony DA4ES

>>>What connection<<<

Optical, there was no digital coaxial output on the Panasonic.

>>>did all the "DD" indicators light up w/ the Panasonic player<<<

Yes, and on the receiver as well.

>>Were any of the dynamic range reduction / "midnight mode" options turned on?<<<

I have dynamic range set to "standard" so that I don't have to keep turning the volume up and down while watching a movie with a large dynamic range. As for the midnight mode, it is off. Actually, I've changed no settings in the receiver, I've just changed the DVD player. I wonder if I'm not a victim of the "wishful hearing" I mentioned in my original post? If so, I like it! Posted Image

- Bill

#4 of 32 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted May 23 2003 - 12:20 PM

Careful here Bill,

There's a whole slew of people ready to tell you you didn't hear what you did.

I'm happy you like your purchase. The 999es is a very fine player and does indeed "sound" very nice.

-edit- please play a SACD on your player, its pretty beautiful.

#5 of 32 OFFLINE   CurtisC

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Posted May 23 2003 - 03:00 PM

I've listened to a few good players,they sound better,imho.If someone thinks an apex sounds like a Krell,they have every right and can save lotsa cash.

#6 of 32 OFFLINE   HienD

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Posted May 23 2003 - 04:13 PM

I was just going to ask the same question. If the digital information is just being pass along to the receiver for decoding, how can it sound different. My cheapo all in one dvd,(s)vcd, mp3, jpeg..etc sound just the same as the more expensive models. Even models 5x the price.

#7 of 32 OFFLINE   ReggieW

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Posted May 23 2003 - 04:45 PM

Hien D,

You are correct. If there will be a difference, it will be in the receiver or pre/pro you are using. Yes, the Apex and the Krell will NOT differ when passing digital information, but will be worlds apart if you are running analog and having the players do the decoding. Digital data is simply digital data whether it's being passed through a Krell or Oritron - the end result and quality will depend on the decoders in your receiver not the actual player.

Reg
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#8 of 32 OFFLINE   ChrisAG

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Posted May 24 2003 - 02:15 AM

I've noticed that CD players can impart a different sound, even when using the digital out. I compared a Marantz CC3000 and a Sony SCD-C222ES (CD only), both using the coaxial output to my Marantz SR6200 receiver, and the Sony sounded more lively and natural. Supposedly timing differences (jitter?) with the units internal clock are responsible for this, though I don't know if the same can be applied to Dolby Digital off a DVD disc.

Now, I hope I won't get a lot of replies saying "digital is digital," unless people have actually done a comparrison themselves and have some insight to share. There is a lot of information on Audio Asylum about the sound improvements a clock upgrade can have for a CD player.

#9 of 32 OFFLINE   Tom Grooms

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Posted May 24 2003 - 04:03 AM

Posted Image
Quote:
Yes, the Apex and the Krell will NOT differ when passing digital information
LOL! Do you really believe that? The transport can have a dramatic effect in the audio chain at your listening position. Of-course you might never know this if your using mid-fi down stream components......

$0.02

#10 of 32 OFFLINE   Phil A

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Posted May 24 2003 - 05:03 AM

If one wants to go by specs, all CD players measure substantially the same as do DVD players. There are differences in transports regardless of specs. I've owned many DVD players in the past, including cheap ones and expensive ones. A few years back when I bought the Sony 9000ES for my bedroom system, I lent it to a friend for the 1st week since I was not going to be around much to use it. When he returned it, I had just watched Shaft (2000) on my Proceed PMDT which at the time was not yet progressive scan. My friend is a die-hard 2-channel audiophile and not big on surround sound. I decided to just plop the unit into the main system so I could see a few minutes of Shaft in progressive. Well the picture was a bit better but not a night and day difference as some might expect. What surprised me the most was the night and day difference in the sound on the opening theme song. I just assumed my friend turned something off in the menu that might do something and was shocked at the fact that there was not and just that much difference in sound quality. Sometimes on a cheap DVD player with little mass, putting a small telephone book on top (do not block any openings for ventilation) improves the sound quality (or a Bright Star Little Rock for those wanting something nicer looking and that costs $80 or so).

#11 of 32 OFFLINE   HienD

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Posted May 24 2003 - 05:29 AM

Unless there's some conversion of the digital information on the dvd disc. I'm going to assume the same 1&0 are going to be passed along to the receiver. This is on the assumption that the dvd player only acts as a reader and nothing more. Much like in a computer dvdrom player. The software determines the video and sound quality, not the type of dvdrom used. Now the analog output will sound different.

Does anybody here actually know if the DD and DTS information sent to the receiver the same as the info on the disc?

#12 of 32 OFFLINE   ReggieW

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Posted May 24 2003 - 10:37 AM

You may want to contact Stacey Spears over at "Secrets." He has actually dones these tests and many of the results will surprise you.

Reg
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#13 of 32 OFFLINE   Lewis Besze

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Posted May 24 2003 - 03:50 PM

Quote:
There's a whole slew of people ready to tell you you didn't hear what you did.
The question wasn't about what he heard but rather if the difference is "real" based on sound theory.
No!

#14 of 32 OFFLINE   Tom Grooms

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Posted May 24 2003 - 05:19 PM

Quote:
The question wasn't about what he heard but rather if the difference is "real" based on sound theory. No!

There was a great article written by Robert Harley. I believe he knows a thing or two about "sound theory".

Don't kid yourself into believing your $300 DVD player is a killer transport. Just because the digital to analog conversion is happening elsewhere, the transport still has to output the digital stream.

#15 of 32 OFFLINE   Phil A

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Posted May 24 2003 - 05:34 PM

Note that a digital cable does not carry the signal in digital form (e.g. 1s on 0s). The signal is transmitted in analog and subject to any of the problems that would be for any other analog cable. Just like any other well built piece of gear, it would be more typical for a high end player to have separate power supplies for audio and video. In most cheap machines the audio is a slave to the video clock, but not necessarily true of higher end designs. A luxury car will take one from point A to point B just like an economy car. If the main purpose is to get from point A to point B then it really does not make a difference what you drive. In a DVD player using a digital out, one is also limited by the quality of what is using as a processor and amplifiers. It is not necessarily the best scenario for some to be able to evaluate the qualities of sound with a $150 DVD player hooked to a $400 receiver. The only good way to hear most differences is to listen on a reference system set-up in a proper fashion. Similarly, it makes little sense to put a $300 cable on a $150 DVD player even if it is better. Putting the same cable on an $8,500 Ayre DVD player may not be overkill. Many newer cheaper DVD players sound quite good playing DVDs. As with anything in the world of high end audio, moving up the chain to get better sound is not at a proportional cost that may make sense for 98% of people out there. To spend 10 times the amout of a cheap DVD player may only get one 5-10% better sound (depending on what it is hooked to) and is certainly not going to be the most cost effective upgrade to do.

#16 of 32 OFFLINE   HienD

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Posted May 24 2003 - 08:01 PM

From skimming through the article by Robert Harley, I see the 1&0's are not always getting to the receiver in original unaltered form. Some where along the way, bits are lost which results in a lost of sound quality. Jitter is the main factor for the lost of bits.

#17 of 32 OFFLINE   John Kilroy

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Posted May 24 2003 - 11:22 PM

There's a reason why error correction is built into all audio decoding schemes. Not all streams are perfect. Far from it.
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#18 of 32 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted May 25 2003 - 08:33 AM

hmmm, just skimming through the dolby technical specs I can see how and why a transport could be improved.

The good news - its packetized with two CRCs for each frame. Good idea there dolby.

The bad news - its still snyched from a pre-amble. These first couple of bytes dictate the timing for the rest of the frame. Its a pretty simple concept and is used in most digital communications. The downside is if the transmitter can't get a good and consistent pre-amble then some bit errors are bound to occur (jitter in your pre-amble is a no-no. Remeber the receiver uses it to sync the rest of the frame). bit error = failed CRC. failed CRC means the decoder has to "make up" the entire frame or guestimate the entire frame.

In computers and data communications this really isn't a big deal because the frame is just re-transmitted because of the built-in acknowledgment algorithyms. But we're dealing with a one-way stream of frames here, there is no re-transmission.

So - YES, I can certainly see why one DVD player could sound better than another.

I wonder if anybody's done any tests of DVD players to see what the error rate is? With the professional digital transmission medias I'm used to working with and designing every day the error rate is 0.00% - but to get that the physical layer (cabling) has to be pristine, the clocks are high quality as are the transmitters and receivers. And you'd better believe they track and report signal level, jitter, received bit-rate, voltage, slips, etc.

We're talking about asking a 100 dollar DVD player to output a digital stream perfectly...I just don't see it happening.

Hopefully I've presented some ideas on why and how "digital is not just 1s and 0s" and why "you either get it or don't get it" is way off base with digital transmissions.

-edit- good link on Dolby Digital encoding and frame structure. http://www.dolby.com/tech/desgnac3.pdf

Thanks for listening
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#19 of 32 OFFLINE   Craig_Kg

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Posted May 25 2003 - 12:25 PM

The timing for the DD frame is synched to receive the rest of the bitstream of the frame - this does not correlate directly to the decoder output as the information within the frame needs to be decoded and expanded into the PCM of the encoded channels.
The output MAY reclock with each frame but that would produce a jitter level far smaller than that of PCM (varies with the number of words extracted from each frame which varies according to encoding rate and number of channels encocded). The paper does talk about the stages of buffering each of which will reduce input jitter to the point where the effect is negligable.

As for the data integrity, the DVD standard is a pretty easy one to meet as there is a lot of error correction within the format specs. Read errors are detected by the transport force a reread (so the data is not a one way flow)which is why a player can stutter and even lock up on a bad disc. Read glitches could be more common with cheaper players but only with media that is in quite poor condition.

Quote:
I've noticed that CD players can impart a different sound, even when using the digital out.

With PCM, the SPDIF bitstream clock is often used directly for the timing of the decoded audio so in this case, transports can have a definite effect on the sound quality.
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#20 of 32 OFFLINE   Lewis Besze

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Posted May 25 2003 - 09:39 PM

Quote:
There was a great article written by Robert Harley. I believe he knows a thing or two about "sound theory".
That article was written 10 years ago,and doesn't address DD and DTS [packeted data] which this thread is about?!
Quote:
Don't kid yourself into believing your $300 DVD player is a killer transport.
Oh, I'm not the one who's kidding himself here!Posted Image


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