New Sony and Philips Players Break Price/Performance Barrier

The enduring audiophile dilemma about whether to optimize a home-entertainment system for music or movies may no longer be relevant, thanks to new disc players from Sony Corporation and Philips Electronics NV. The machines were introduced at CEDIA Expo 2000, the annual home-theater and custom-installation trade show held in Indianapolis.

One of Sony's new line of versatile, affordable machines, the DVP-S9000ES, is the company's first combination Super Audio CD/DVD player. The DVP-S9000ES will also play standard CDs, CD-Rs, and DVD-Rs. A dual-laser optical system ensures compatibility with all existing formats. No mention is made in Sony's official announcement of DVD-Audio, whose rollout is still bogged down in copyright-protection issues. SACD is the high-resolution digital audio format developed by Sony and longtime partner Philips as the successor to the standard CD.

Due at dealers in November, the DVP-S9000ES carries a suggested retail price of only $1500. The machine should whet the appetites of audiophiles eager to try SACD but reluctant to pay for Sony's much more expensive early-generation SACD players.

Superb audio performance is only one attraction of the new player, however. Movie fans will be happy to know that the DVP-S9000ES also outputs both interlaced and 480-line progressive-scan video signals, and has proprietary image-processing circuitry to minimize motion artifacts and field color flutter. A 12-bit, 54MHz video D/A converter offers unexcelled picture quality, according to Vic Pacor, president of the Sony Home Network Products Group. The player can be calibrated for individual DVDs, and optimized for material that originated on film rather than on videotape.

Sony has also introduced the industry's first SACD 5-disc changer, due in November at about $1200 retail. The SCD-C333ES is said to "incorporate many of the resident technologies found in Sony's 'reference standard' SCD-1 and SCD-777ES, such as a Direct Stream Digital® (DSD) decoder, current pulse D/A converter, and 24-bit variable coefficient filters." The changer has both optical and coaxial digital outputs and a newly developed single-lens pickup with twin laser optics for compatibility with SACDs and standard CDs. A frame-and-plate chassis and rigid aluminum faceplate are said to minimize the deleterious effects of vibration.

Rounding out Sony's new hardware line are two compact DVD/CD "mega-changers," each with a 300-disc capacity. Claimed to be "40% smaller" than current mega-changers, the DVP-CS860 and DVP-CS870D will also ship in November, priced at $599 and $799, respectively. The two machines will play DVD movies and standard CDs, but not SACDs. The DVP-CS870D includes inboard decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound. A "disc explorer management system" is said to make storing, cataloging, and accessing a movie-and-music collection an easy task.

Not to be outdone, Philips Consumer Electronics has debuted a multichannel SACD player with DVD-Video functionality. The SACD1000 will play SACDs, DVD-Vs, VCDs (Video Compact Discs, a format originally known as CD-V, common in Asia and popular with some video hobbyists), CD-Rs, and CD-RWs. Supported datastream formats include DSD, PCM, MPEG2, AC-3, and DTS. "We are very excited by the sound quality offered by SACD," said Frank Pauli, general manager and VP of Philips Disc Systems. "Everybody who hears the pure and realistic sound quality that SACD delivers is captivated. Our SACD player will have six-channel output and will include DVD-Video, which we believe will be a very attractive combination for everybody who likes to enjoy the best in sound and video." Due at the end of this year, the SACD1000 will retail at approximately $2000.