DVD Shootout Questions

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Dan Salden, May 31, 2003.

  1. Dan Salden

    Dan Salden Auditioning

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    I read the DVD Shootout Report whenever I am in the market for a DVD player. In fact, as a result of reading the report recently, I became interested in obtaining a Panasonic DVD-RP82 (or XP30). It seems that the rest of the country has had a similar reaction! Now, used and refurbished models are selling well above the MSRP, as the "herd" mentality takes over for normal brain function (myself included). [​IMG]

    I wonder whether this kind of reaction is really justified. The new format reports scores that appear to be analogous to scores published for comparative tests by Consumer Reports. However, CR generally indicates that final scores within X number of points do not really suggest qualitative differences. Therefore, when reviewing Shootout data, what guidelines might suggest "real" product differences (as opposed to artifacts of the particular test)? This raises a second question. What is the sampling method? How are the products obtained? Are multiple units for a given model tested? In regard to the latter, we all know that there is performance variability for any given DVD model (the very existence of refurbished models exemplifies the extreme condition here). Might not some of the tested models be on either end of the performance continuum for a given production run of a model? For instance, might this explain why in the current Shootout, the authors document performance difference among Panasonic units that were basically using the same hardware (and in the case of the RP82 and CP72, the very same hardware).

    The bottom line to my questioning is that the HT buying public may be overreacting to reports--creating irrational and inflated markets for certain products.. Thanks for any input.

    Dan
     
  2. Guy Robinson

    Guy Robinson Agent

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    Depends what you want. Video or audio performance. I had an RP82 and as it could only do DVD-A for hi-rez, I bought a Pioneer 45a that also does SACD. I noticed an immediate improvement in the DVD-A area on the Pioneer and I mean quite a considerable improvement to my ears. Mainly in detailing and just an overall more satisfying sound. Part of this I am sure was due to the built in bass-management. Also it does SACD (very well might I add) so I am a very happy camper. I don't watch much video on it as I bought it for the Burr-Brown DAC's and the ability to play all audio formats flawlessly (I think). I am used to trading in my DVD player every 6 months or so but I will not be trading the 45a in for a long time. I have never had the Pioner choke on any disc. Now I have heard about the chroma bug on the Pioneer but I am using a 32" tube TV and it looks great to me. I see no flaws in the picture. If you were using the Progressive Scan it might make a difference. However, I do miss the button the RP82 had that switched a widescreen source to a full screen output. The RP82 may have better video but I never A/B the Pioneer and the Panasonic so I can't vouch for that. So as I said before, I guess that it depends what you are looking for. If you are looking for great video and the ability to do DVD-A as an additional feature the RP82 is a bargain. However if you want audio that is as close to flawless for all formats in one player (and I am extremely picky), it's got to be the Pioneer 45a.
     
  3. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    We get samples three ways:

    - Borrowing them from friendly owners or local stores
    - Lent by the manufacturer
    - Buying them

    In most cases, we use a single sample, but we have never seen any signficant variability from sample to sample in the cases where we've measured multiple units. For example, we did measure multiple RP82s, and they measured identically within the resolution of the test equipment. Multiple CP72s also measured the same. Furthermore, the RP82 and the CP72 do not have identical hardware. The analog output stage is similar, but not the same.

    As for the scores, as we say many times they represent our own assessment of what is important (just like Consumer Reports). You are free, in fact encouraged, to interpret the results differently. We didn't want to have the scores, in fact, but lots of people emailed asking us to boil it all down to a single rating. So we did, and now some people (correctly) point out that you can't capture the complete performance of a player in a single number. Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

    We (Stacey and I) also don't do audio, mostly because it requires much more subjective listening than we're prepared to do. When possible, the players are sent to other reviewers for lengthy audio evaluations.

    In the end, we make no claims to be Consumer Reports, though we both admire their attempts to measure performance objectively. We try to emulate that approach, but we don't have nearly the resources that Consumer Reports does, and this is basically a hobby for us.

    That said, we stand by the results. If you were to perform the tests as we describe in your own home, you would get exactly the same results, which is the core of scientific repeatability. How to interpret those results is your own choice. You don't have to take our interpretation at face value.

    Ultimately we hope people will read the articles and come away better informed. We really don't care if people agree with our ratings at all.

    Don
     
  4. Dan Salden

    Dan Salden Auditioning

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    Dear Don-

    Thanks for your informative reply. I hope that you did not misinterpret my inquiry. Since I was first exposed to the "Shootout," I have found it to be a valuable source of information (although I do not pretend to have the background in electronics to fully fathom all the technical aspects of the tests). I also am aware that your intention was not to duplicate Consumer Reports. However, I suspect that many readers in this forum treat it as such since it is one of the few sources of documented, objective information available. most of the time, all we get are subjective reports from end-users. For my part, I just could not help but be intrigued by issues of validity and reliability in testing--hence my questions concerning sampling and item variability. Thanks again.
    Dan

    PS: If the Panasonic RP-82 was so good, it would sure be nice if someone were able to duplicate the performance/price ratio!:b
     
  5. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I used to think the Secrets guys were way too picky, using "torture discs" and making a big thing out of minor problems the average HT enthusiast would never see.

    Then I put "The Red Violin" in my JVC progressive scan player--almost unwatchable and the player was constantly switching itself from video to film mode. I got a CP-72 and tried the same disc in it--gorgeous picture.

    Now that's one example out of my collection of maybe 400 discs, but there are a number of others that play very noticeably better on the Panasonic.

    I have both players connected to my system and use the JVC mainly for 4/3 film based dvds, or nonanamorphic letterbox discs because PQ is just about as good as the Panny and it puts black bars on the sides of 4/3 and can scale or forced zoom nonanamorphic letterbox.
    Abyss looks better scaled by the JVC than when played on the Panasonic and zoomed by the tv.

    But when I want the absolute best PQ on a problem disc or a video based dvd, I use the Panasonic every time.

    My take on the Secrets reports is that they are above all honest and unbiased, and also that I need to decide for myself if a reported shortcoming in one player is bad enough to make me want to do without a feature it has that another player lacks.

    I too consider video performance the most important factor in my choice of a dvd player--I buy them to watch movies and wouldn't care if they didn't play audio cds of any kind.
     

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