In my humble opinion, a $40 dvd player can sound every bit as good as a high dollar player. The specs may be somewhat better on the higher end player but lets face it, my ears are not as sensitive as the test equipment telling you that the denon is better. Good speakers are key! Have a great day!
Good DACs, great build quality, big power supply, will generally give you a better player. It has to be comparable to the rest of your system though. A great player with average speakers will still give you average sound.
Check the better audio rags out there. Look at the measurements and pay particular attention to excess noise and jitter. excess noise just kills any resolution. For CD look for noise to be at around 76db or 16bits. For dvd-a look for excess noise to be around 90db or around 19bits(which is by todays tech the highest you can get). SV mag does a good job publishing noise. Naturally noise figures are not that important if you have a low resolution system to begin with.
Jitter is not as widely published. More so in high end rags. Jitter is timing errors. Timing errors create the glare, hard, harsh, electronic sounds often associated with low end cd players. Jitter measured in pico seconds, look for figures as close to zero as possible. Most of the good players have jitter less than 200ps. The truly high end players have jitter less than 30ps.
Put these two figures together and you have a pretty good idea how the dvd player would sound for critical listening.
Shem, I upgraded from a 100.00 sony Dvd/Cd player to a denon 2200 and the difference was night and day,I had a problem with that particular unit having a sticky power button,so I brought it back after about 2 weeks and decided to demo the 2900, and the difference between the 2200 and the 2900 was again another improvement s.q.Both units have same p.q. I decided to keep the 2900 because in my opinion it was worth the x-tra money for better s.q.This was a great up-grade for my system,really gave it something it was lacking.As for a $40.00 dvd player ,don't expect to much.If you have a "decent" system, and sound quality is important I wouldn't recommend a $40.00 player.But what you could do is by by The $40.00 player and the denon or pioneer ,or what ever, and do a side by side,everybody hears things different,its up to your ears only.Return what you don't like.
Some people will dispute this, but the quality of the cable will matter as well. Within reason of course, but you can pick up a solid cable with a Belden core quite inexpensively and it will serve you well.
Other than that, everything John Garcia said is what I'd say as well.
Doesn't it depend of what connection you are using? If using the digital connection, then won't the receiver determine the sound quality since it's DACs are doing the work and the DVD player will just act as a transport?
Now if analog connections are used, then I could see how some DVD players would sound better than others.
If you're using analogue connections, then sonic characteristics can vary greatly, and in some surprising ways. If you want an anecdotal account of DAC comparisons between players and receivers, I started a thread about that here . If you use two players connected by the digital output to the receiver and A/B them, I suspect (though I haven't tried this) they would likely be indistinguishable (assuming levels are matched). This is because in both cases, the receiver is doing the work. Someone above mentioned jitter, and this could affect the sound of one player over the digital connection adversely, but the jitter would need to be fairly severe to be noticed in normal circumstances. Analogue connections rely on the internal DACs of the player, and here the difference can range from subtle to unmistakeable. As John noted above, things like power supply, build quality and such can have an effect, especially when it comes to vibration. Moreover, error correction is not to be overlooked. When I chose my players, I brought along a scratched CD that wouldn't play in any player (CD or DVD) in my house or car without skipping moderately to severely, and the players I bought (see thread link) each played the track with no problems. I think this is where the 40$ player would likely stumble compared to a pricier player, even if sound quality seems identical via digital connection (though I played my scratched disc on a fairly expensive machine and it couldn't cope, so price is not the only factor for this aspect either).
Bitstream is the undecoded Dolby Digital and DTS data that will be properly decoded by your receiver. PCM is short for Pulse Code Modulation. I'm not an engineer, so I can't explain the technical details to you, but PCM is the basic technology of CDs. When your player is set to output PCM, it is NOT sending the DD or DTS signal to your receiver. A DAC is a Digital to Analogue Converter. It is the chip (or chips) that converts the digital info (whether PCM, DSD (the tech in SACDs) or video info) into its analogue form. It can be in the player, via regular RCA coax cable, or in the receiver for sound. For video, it is usually converted in the player, unless you have DVI or HDMI, which are digital protocols that get converted by your TV/projector, if they are equipped to do so. Clear as mud, right ?