Some of the more obsessed movie collectors out there know that sometimes you just can't find what you want at the corner DVD emporium, not even the best of them. As it was with laserdisc, there are always things being released in other countries that either are not released in the US or are released in some inferior form. Our friends in Europe, Asia, and South America have had to deal with this to an even greater degree and for a longer time than we here in the Colonies. Unlike laserdisc, however, the digital "enhancements" of DVD were designed to severely curtail the ability to play video software from other countries. You see, in most cases, it isn't technically illegal to import legally produced video software from outside the US (or vice versa) with countries the US has trade agreements with as long as the usual import regulations are followed. So the designers of the DVD format were forced by the content providers to make it possible to physically limit the ability to play software from places they didn't want us to be getting things from. You know what I'm talking about. Region coding. Due to the nature of the often convoluted licensing agreements made by the various studios, and even the differences in business philosphy between the different national divisions of the same parent studio, the circumstace has arisen that Europe and Asia have seen a number of films released that have not been in the US, not to mention those that have been released in the US in inferior versions such as pan & scan in the US and widescreen in Japan or Europe. Because Europe and Asia have much less availability of US films, or they are released months or years later than in the US, the cottage industry of modifying DVD players to play other region software has been booming almost from the day the first players were released. Not so in the US. Multi-region mods and software are few and expensive. Most of the hardware, either kits or players, are from European sources making them more expensive to ship and all but impossible to demo. The various mainly Chinese players with multi-region capability that are being imported have an impressive feature list, even progressive scan and PAL-to-NTSC conversion for under $300. But, without exception, these are basically cheap DVD players with the shortcomings of all cheap DVD players. One used to the exceptional video performance and smooth, well designed user interface of, for instance, the Panasonic DVD-RP91 is loathe to give up that kind of performance to be able to watch Jackie Brown or Mulholland Falls (for instance) in a beautiful 16:9 transfer with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Or Pulp Fiction with an actually watchable transfer (the US version sucks by comparison). Or Timecop and Sudden Death in 2.35:1 widescreen. Or....the list goes on. Well, now you don't have to give up top-flight performance to be able to enjoy the best of the DVD releases outside the US. I've found a small US company that offers the latest in multi-region modification for DVD players. I have had my Panasonic retrofitted, but I don't know about other models. You will have to direct your questions about that to Snack Electronics (email [email protected] Snack's mod offers both auto-select for the various region codes as well as manual select. The manual select is important for RCE (Region Code Enhanced) discs that use software on the disc to check for the region coding of the player. If the RCE disc does not detect the correct region before the disc boots, it will not play. For the record, of all the R2 (Japan) discs I have, only one requires the manual select to play (Sudden Death). I've now spent the better part of a day sampling most of the R2 amd R3 discs I have. I must say, compared to the already very good modified Panasonic DVD-A320 I was using, the RP91 mod is everything I hoped for, plus some. Discs that I have always thought of as just "average" have been elevated to something closer to "wonderful". the colors on the R2 version of Pulp Fiction have all the "snap" and depth of a major studio "A" release (the US version sucks by comparison, plain and simple). Jackie Brown and Mulholland Falls look like they are fresh off the rack at the local Best Buy. Peter Hyams wide 2.35:1 compositions in Timecop and Sudden Death are presented intact and, although not 16:9 enhanced, the scaling feature of the RP91 works its minor magic on these two as well. Snack charges $99 plus shipping to modify the RP91 themselves or $75 for a DIY kit. With the number of discs I have from R2, this is about the most cost-effective tweak in my system. For my money, this modified RP91 is THE ultimate DVD player. P.S. Snack also upgraded the firmware in my player to the latest version 236. Incidently, this is also the guy responsible for the updated RP91 firmware files that have been the hot topic here and on AVS for the last week.