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Save 80% on this NEW Top CD-DVD-Audio/Video Player DiVA DV79

Model # DV79

Regular Price $1,299.99

Our Price $249.99

Our Price

$249.99

Savings $1,050

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Arcam proudly states that it is one of only a few specialty audio companies that design their own DVD players from the ground up rather than having to modify an existing platform from another manufacturer. They also state that one of the main design goals for their DVD players is that they have CD playback at least as good as Arcams own entry-level CD players.

The DiVA DV79, one of the latest models in Arcams DVD line, includes DVD-Audio capability and was their first player to provide HDMI output. It is described as an "affordable enthusiast-level machine that offers reference-quality audio and video performance" at a retail price of $1800 USD. The DV79 is the more expensive of the two DVD players offered in Arcam's DiVA series. Arcam's FMJ line includes a costlier DVD-A player, the DV29.

Arcam through and through

The DiVA DV79 comes in a silver or black chassis 17" wide and looks like just about every other Arcam DVD player or CD player that came before it. The disc drawer is on the left, with a green LED display to the right, and a neat row of buttons below to control the players basic functions. Although the look of Arcams disc players has changed little over the years, the company has continually upgraded their audio and video circuits to keep them competitive.

The DV79 features a Zoran Vaddis 5 video processor with built-in "per pixel motion-adaptive progressive-scan engine" and 12-bit/216MHz Analog Devices video DACs. It supports 480 interlaced and progressive output for NTSC displays and 576i/p output for PAL displays. Video signals are provided via composite, S-video, component, RGB SCART, and, perhaps most important, HDMI outputs. HDMI permits a purely digital video connection to a high-definition display, as well as two-channel PCM audio with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. The DV79 will play DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, VCD, SVCD, DVD /-R, and DVD /-RW, CD, CD-R/RW, Photo CD, MP3, WMA, and JPEG discs -- but not SACDs.

On the audio side, the DV79 uses a 32-bit Zoran audio DSP with 24/192 Wolfson WM8740 DACs on all channels. There is built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, as well as Dolby Pro Logic II to provide 5.1-channel output from stereo CDs and DVDs -- a nice touch. CD playback includes HDCD decoding. Bass management applies to all audio formats, including DVD-A. The crossover is adjustable from 50 to 150Hz in 10Hz steps. For two-channel listening, the subwoofer can be turned off or used with the crossover, or full-range signals can be sent to both the speakers and sub. The DV79s Dimension and Center Width settings and Panorama mode for DPL II can also be adjusted, along with speaker distances and output levels for each channel.

The DV79s menu can be navigated via its front-panel buttons. The menus are well thought out, with a professional appearance and attention to detail that made them very intuitive to use. Loading and recognizing discs was a bit slow, with a delay of several seconds each time I ejected or inserted a disc. The slim-line remote fits easily in one hand, but its small buttons are hard to read. Fortunately, the DV79 can also be operated with the more ergonomic CR80 universal remote supplied with Arcams DiVA processor and receiver, which is what I used.

Although no one would consider Arcams DVD players to be inexpensive, at $1800, the DV79 costs a lot less than players from some ultra-high-end manufacturers such as Esoteric. From its understated good looks to its solid build quality and precision disc-loading mechanism, it looks the part of a high-end component. And the well-executed menu system and high-quality onscreen graphics made it a pleasure to use.

Which came first, the picture or the sound"

The DV79 may not have the most advanced video chipset, or all of the features of cutting-edge models from some manufacturers, but Arcam has always gotten great picture quality from the Zoran Vaddis video processors. Both the HDMI and component-video outputs provided excellent picture quality. I briefly experimented with the S-video and composite outputs, which also looked very good.

The picture had a lot of "wow" factor without looking unnatural or exaggerated. Colors were nicely saturated, with a vibrant quality that was very analog and filmlike. The deep reds and greens of The Station Agent looked incredible, and captured the natural ambient lighting flawlessly. Flesh tones were spot-on. Peter Dinklages slightly rosy face was contrasted by Patricia Clarksons fair and freckled complexion; both looked as real as if they were standing in front of me.

CGI images from Monsters, Inc. were just as impressive. The gentle swaying of individual strands of Sulleys fur at the beginning of chapter 4 was smooth and exquisitely rendered. The uneven sunlight pouring through the windows and reflecting off different surfaces looked startlingly realistic. And delicate shading and minute details Id not noticed before added a sense of dimensionality to Mikes spherical body.

Oh, that Arcam sound!

The DV79 was, without a doubt, a first-rate digital transport that made my reference Anthem Statement D1 preamplifier-processor sound better than it ever had before. The slight harshness of the metallic sound of swords as the Bride battles the Crazy 88s in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was barely noticeable. There was incredible depth and delineation to the clapping sounds and acoustic guitars during the final showdown between the Bride and O-Ren Ishii. Music borrowed from the Japanese film Shurayukihime (Lady Snowblood) sounded less like a movie soundtrack and more like a well-crafted audio recording.

DVD-Audio discs sounded incredible with the DV79. Seals Best 1991-2004 [DVD-Audio, Warner Bros. 48776-9] is one of the best sounding high-resolution multichannel mixes Ive heard, and the vocals were stunning. Seals voice on "Kiss from a Rose" was crystal-clear through the center channel, and even the harmony vocals from the surround channels sounded lifelike. The bass that is prominent on nearly every track was solid, tight, and totally bracing. The sound of the DV79 with well-recorded DVD-As was some of the best digital audio playback Ive heard.

The two-channel version of Brian Wilsons Live at the Roxy [DVD-A, Brimel/Rhino R9 73928], one of the finest concert recordings available, sounded spectacular through the Arcam. There was an immediacy to the vocals and instruments that was almost scary. It was like sitting front-row center at a concert, except that the sound quality was much better. The ultrawide soundstage on "Good Vibrations" placed the vocals and instruments precisely in front of me in a mesmerizing display of imaging and fidelity.

Arcams pride in the CD playback quality of their DVD players is well founded. While many audio/video players sound very good when playing back SACD and DVD-A discs or when used as transports, they often disappoint when used as standalone CD players. Listening to Dire Straits remastered On Every Street [CD, Mercury 510160-2] through the DV79s analog outputs was like listening to a top-flight CD player. In fact, had I not known better, I might have guessed I was listening to one of Arcams mid- to higher-priced CD players -- the sound was that clear and immediate. "Calling Elvis" was rich and full-bodied without becoming thick or plodding. The bass line was well defined, each beat sounding distinctly different from the previous one. Mark Knopflers vocal on "On Every Street" was palpable, and the soundstage was deep and solidly defined. The guitar on "Heavy Fuel" growled with plenty of bite, yet lacked the harshness thats sometimes evident on this dynamic track.

The DiVA stands apart

Although my Pioneer Elite DV-45A universal player is a few years old, I thought it was doing a pretty decent job of providing video to my system. That was before I compared it with the Arcam DV79. I was clearly able to appreciate the superiority of the DV79 even on my 34" direct-view CRT.

Watching the opening scene of Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope was a literal eye-opener. The luminous blue halo surrounding the planet Tatooine and the engines of the star destroyer radiated with a dimensionality that was lacking with the Pioneer, which seemed flat in comparison. The detail in the star destroyer as it flew past and the grime on R2-D2 were much more noticeable with the Arcam. While the scuffmarks on R2s white "torso" were just as visible with the Pioneer, it had a more difficult time resolving the detail on R2s shiny dome. Overall, colors looked darker and muted with the Pioneer DV-45A; the Arcam DV79s picture was crisp and vital without seeming artificial.

Although the Arcam lacks the ability to play SACDs, it easily outperformed the Pioneer with DVD-A discs. "Above," from the Blue Man Groups The Complex [DVD-A, DTS Entertainment 69286-01120-9-4], was totally open and clear, the soundstage extending farther in all directions. "Time to Start" sounds impressive on any system, but it really came to life with the higher fidelity and better sense of space provided by the DV79. The DV79s DVD-A performance was of reference quality.

The Arcams CD performance was also substantially better than that of the Pioneer, and approached that of the D/A conversion of my Anthem D1 pre-pro. The D1 was a bit smoother yet more incisive, with better transients and tighter control with On Every Street. But while the D1 was superior, the differences were relatively minor; I could have happily listened to the DV79 as the sole CD source for my system.

Conclusion

The Arcam DiVA DV79 was an absolute pleasure to use -- not something I can say about many of the products I receive for review. A well-executed design that excels in all areas of performance, it offers reference-quality DVD-Audio playback, superb video performance, and CD playback comparable to that of a good standalone CD player.

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