Technics DVD-A10 DVD-Audio player Page 2

'Round back is a full array of connectors, including two pairs of audio outs on RCA plugs, six RCAs for 5.1-channel analog surround, and two digital outputs on TosLink and RCA (S/PDIF), for an external Dolby Digital/DTS decoder or external DAC. (Yes, that means the DVD-A10 can be used as a CD transport.) Next to that are a full set of video outputs. Rather than the ubiquitous IEC mains-in connector, the A10 uses one of those small-appliance AC input and cord.

The DVD-A10 is built fairly well for a mass-market item, weighing in at a hefty 19 lbs, with a multilayer honeycomb resonance-absorbing base and substantial footers. When you power it up, the display reads "welcome to dvd world"—walk this way. The remote is garishly golden and very Mondo Video—not especially ergonomic, but it gets the job done with a minimum of fuss, and it's definitely hard to lose. (I tried!) You have to slide the remote's lower cover down to access most key control functions for playing music.

MASHin' D-to-As
In addition to DVD-Audio discs, recorded at a variety of bit depths and sampling rates, the DVD-A10 plays DVD-Video discs and "Red Book" CDs but won't read CD-Rs. According to the paperwork, a single DVD-A can hold up to 400 minutes of two-channel stereo at 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution, or up to 74 minutes of uncompressed 24/96 six-channel surround or 24/192 two-channel. One layer of a DVD-A can hold up to 4.7 gigabytes of data—about seven times that of a standard audio CD.

Technics says that the "sampling frequency is an incredible 4.3 times higher than audio CD (192kHz vs 44.1kHz) and the quantization resolution is 256 times finer (24-bit vs 16-bit). This translates to amazing two-channel stereo sound not even approachable by audio CDs." (My italics.) Hey, where were these guys in the early '80s, when Perfect Sound Forever debuted? Okay, I get it—now it's perfect sound forever! [insert evil grin here]

There's more: "This yields extremely high resolution and extraordinary dynamic range of up to 144dB (vs 96dB for audio CDs)." In fact, at the press launch for the 'A10, an engineer from Japan made a big deal of the frequency analyzer display on Technics' matching SA-DA10 receiver, showing that there was, indeed, information well above 20kHz, and that it contributed to the sound (footnote 2).

As with the Marantz SACD machine, there wasn't much technical information available. I'm not saying Technics/Panasonic is stonewalling, but, aside from some press releases, a brochure, and a white paper on Re-Mastering, I had little to go on. The following info was gleaned from those documents.

Traditional D-to-A converters, Technics posits, are "unsuitable for use with DVD-Audio, or too expensive to mass produce." Their position is that while multibit and 1-bit types are "acceptable," each has its drawbacks. Enter their own D/A system, which optimizes DVD-A by "combining some of the best characteristics of both types of DACs." They use newly developed MASH "noise-shaping" D/A converters to "reduce background noise to imperceptible levels . . . .Like a multibit DAC, it can operate at high speed without running into the limits of electronic device performance, and like a 1-bit DAC, it is easy to make it into LSIs (Large Scale Integrated) circuits or IC chips."

Yessss, Massster . . .
Technics' Re-Master function is very much part of the DVD-A10's overall design and an integral part of the system's operation. Re-Mastering relates back to Technics/Panasonics' New Awareness of over-20kHz information and its effects on reproduced sound.

"Although humans can only hear up to roughly 20kHz, strong evidence has shown that higher frequencies can affect how we hear frequencies in the audible range. While you cannot directly perceive these higher audio frequencies, they can color what you do hear within the audible range."

That's Technics talkin', and it's a mouthful. Both DVD-A and SACD effectively broaden the analog signal bandwidth over standard 16/44.1 technology. DVD-A does it by mastering the music using Linear PCM (LPCM) encoding at 96kHz or 192kHz with up to a 24-bit bit depth. The anti-aliasing filter can therefore be more gentle on the broadband high-frequency signal content and so avoid the ringing endemic to the ol' brick-wall filter that cuts off everything above half the "Red Book" sampling rate, 22.05kHz. SACD does it with very-high-speed single-bit processing that's aggressively noise-shaped to push the noise associated with such wide bandwidths out of the audible range. In that respect, it's perhaps the less efficient of the two [See David Rich's article on SACD elsewhere in the November 2000 issue—Ed.].

Footnote 2: See John Atkinson's article in the October 2000 issue for an examination on the high-frequency content in high-sampling-rate recordings.