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I bought this to replace my Pioneer DV525 which, like all Pioneer CD/DVD players do, had died with a duff spindle motor. I was therefore trying to avoid Pioneer this time. But the Pioneer was a tough act to follow, it cost around £300 and was always renowned for outstanding pictures.
Note there is a Jargon Buster at the end of this review in case it leaves you behind.
I considered Sony, but for me CD Text was a must-have, and I had too much conflicting information on whether Sony models support this. What’s CD-Text? This displays the tack titles on an audio CD on a suitably recorded disk. Some pre-recorded CDs have CD-Text information, and all CDs recorded on a computer using a decent software such as Nero can have this.
I landed on the Panasonic DVD-S47, which supports CD Text, DVD-Ram, DVD-R, DVD-Audio (only in 2 channel though), and probably supports other disks too. The DVD-S47 is also very cool looking, and the clear plastic drawer is illuminated blue!
But a bit more shopping and I came across the DVD-S75 at a local Comet branch for £99.98. I would normally buy multi-region from the web, but the "take me home today" bug got to me and I decided that multi-region could wait. The DVD-S75 played CD Text (only on the TV screen, not the unit's display), played a DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-RW, CD-R, and Video CD that I had to hand, so I was happy it is a player of most things. I think the DVD-Ram may well come in handy in the future, for use with a DVD camcorder. I've now tried DVD+R too, and fully expect DVD+RW to be a success also. It also supports MP3/WMA, DVD Audio (full multichannel version unlike the DVD-S47), JPG images on CD (but not on DVD) and HighMAT CD navigation (probably not the DVD version of HighMAT though, more later). It also has an integral 5.1 decoder though personally I do not need this. More useful is both optical and coaxial digital outputs, the latter often missing from Panasonic products. Connectivity also includes component video (supporting progressive scan) for use with suitable displays.
It also supports playback of DVD-RW etc which is recorded in VR mode. This means it will play recordings made on a DVD recorder which can still be edited. Very few DVD players can do this, and along with the DVD-Ram capability, this is clearly aimed as a companion to a DVD recorder. I've just bought a JVC DR-M1 which should be an ideal recorder to go with this player, which I have also reviewed in detail on www.ciao.co.uk
Once home, what did I do? Why, take the lid off and have a look of course. I am an electronics engineer after all! Internally I have to say the unit shows it has been built down to a price. It's not poor, rather adequate. There is a seperate Dolby Digital decoder board, which strangely has the DVD mechanism plugged into it, which is electrically an odd set of signals to mix on a small-ish PCB. The front loading mechanism is belt driven, which means the belt is bound to need replacing in a few years, but it's very easy to get to. The Power Supply is thankfully on its own board. The rear phono connectors are not the best quality, and there are some surface-mount electrolytic capacitors around which are not the most reliable. There's nothing really bad here, it's just stuff you would expect to find at this price, and hope not to find on a unit costing several times more.
Incidentally, the blue illumination of the DVD-S47 is not included on this model, and looking at it, I can't see how to add it either. Pity.
Even so, this is a very attractive, slim machine. The display looks mirrored when it is off, very nice. It is almost too slim, I added rubber feet to stand it off from the amp it sits on. The drawer is very thin and would die horribly in the hands of a toddler.
So far I've used it more for audio that DVD as it happens. It has all the depth and power of my old Pioneer, and seems to make a better job of MP3 playback than recording them to a CD. From what I have seen so far of the video playback, it is every bit as good as the Pioneer as well. I've not seen artifacts, nor poor low-light performance as cheap machines can give.
Operation is straightforward, once installed. I had a few teething troubles getting the digital audio output modes to be compatible with my AV amp. Strangely, in order for this to work I had to set the DVD-S75 to 2-speaker mode! Why? Because in 5-speaker mode, it assumed it was using the built in decoder, not digital out. The manual did not make this clear at all.
The remote is not a pretty thing, but I use my universal one instead. The codes went across easily. I like the navigation, it's a breeze to get around the disk. Selecting some of the more obscure features such as bitrate display is slightly less obvious, but at least it is there. The few buttons on the front panel are slightly slow to respond (technically, the debounce period has been set too long) so for example to eject the disk you have to keep the eject button pressed for around half a second, not just tap it.
Faults? Not many. It's slow to recognise many disks, a common feature of Panasonic DVD players. It would not play a DVD with MP3 files on it. I had hoped the HighMAT specification would allow me to create a DVD with MP3 file, and though I've not tried this, I've read that HighMAT is only supported for CD not DVD on older models, which this is. (HighMAT is a format supported by Microsoft for creating disks readable by DVD players etc). So that was a very minor disappointment. It does not show ID3 tags for MP3 files, only their filenames, in common with many other DVD players. CD Text titles are shown on the TV but not the display, probably because it was considered too small, but at least it says "CD Text" when the CD is loaded so you know you can get the titles from the TV. The "hand" pointer arrow against the CD Text track listings tends to occasionally flicker up and down when playing a CD, maybe a firmware upgrade might fix this in the future? Making it multi-region involves borrowing or buying a specially modified remote control, and even then the Macrovision stays. For extra high quality audiophile sound it supports DVD Audio rather than the rather more popular but less capable SACD (Super Audio CD), it's a pity it doesn't cover both.
In conclusion, this is a very capable machine. Almost anything round and shiny will play in it. The results are top notch, well worth the extra cost over a cheapie-nasty DVD player. Oh, and did I mention, it's a thing of beauty to look at.Jargon buster paragraph in case I’ve left you behind:
CD-Text as explained above, track titles on a normal audio CD.
DVD-R are once-recordable DVD video discs recorded on any computer or many Standalone DVD recorders such as JVC, Pioneer, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba etc.
DVD-RW are re-writable DVD discs also recorded on above equipment. There are two versions of this, the easily played DVD-RW Video Mode, and the less commonly supported DVD-RW VR Mode. The Panasonic plays both variants.
DVD-Ram are also re-writable DVD discs recorded on a few computers but more normally on standalone DVD recorders. Not very many DVD players play these, but this Panasonic does.
DVD+R are once-recordable DVD video discs recorded on a few standalone DVD recorders, mainly Philips and the cheap and nasty supermarket ones.
DVD+RW are the re-writeable version of above.
MP3 is just a way of compressing music. So you can record a CD with about 10 albums of MP3 files, and play it on this Panasonic. ID3 tags display the track names onf MP3 files, but the Panasonic won’t display these.
WMA is a better way of compressing music than MP3. The sound quality is better. The Panasonic plays these.
HighMAT is a format for recording pictures and sounds onto CD or DVD, usually with a computer, which allows you to play them easily on a DVD player. The Panasonic plays HighMAT CDs. Pictures are usually recorded in JPG format.
Macrovision is a recording method of video tapes and pre-recorded DVDs which makes it difficult to then copy those tapes onto VHS. Not really very important today with VHS being obsolete.
DVD-Audio and SACD and competing formats for ultra-high quality audio discs. The Panasonic plays DVD-Audio only. Because of this format battle, neither format has really taken off.