DVD Players

A DVD player should be at the heart of any home cinema system, and offers superb digital surround sound, widescreen display, plus many other features only possible with DVD. This page is an introduction to the features found on a range of DVD players, and how different features suit the other equipment in a home cinema.




A DVD-Video player can be used to view pre-recorded DVD video discs and also normal audio CD, video CD and even CD-R on some players. The players can be connected directly to a television and also to a range of Home Cinema equipment to benefit from different standards of sound thanks to the variety of outputs included.

Other players in the DVD family include the new DVD-Audio format, plus recordable DVD-R that may become the replacement for the VHS video recorder when prices fall enough.

Most DVD-Video players come equipped with a similar list of features that enhance functionality and allow connection to a wide variety of other home cinema components. The main features are described below.


Samsung DVD-709 DVD Player


Dual Laser Pickup

By using two separate laser mechanisms, one for DVD and the other for CD, a DVD player can produce better quality playback of audio CD and also play CD-R discs, allowing the DVD player to be used in place of a separate CD player. DVD players with a single laser pickup will still produce a reasonable CD sound, but these are nearly always second best when compared to a dual laser.


Region-Free Modifications

Although not officially supported by the player manufacturers or the DVD disc producers, players can be modified to play discs with different regional code protection. The modifications could be a secret sequence of key strokes on the remote control (a software hack) or may need a new chip to be soldered onto the players main circuit board (chipping). UK and european DVD players are manufactured with the region 2 protection which only allows playback of region 2 discs. The modification allows playback of discs from other regions, although most people will only upgrade in order to play the extensive catalogue of American region 1 software.


Phono Audio Outputs

For connecting the player to an amplifier using stereo phono interconnects, just like the cables you use to connect normal hi-fi separates to an amplifier. Used when playing CD in stereo, and for feeding analogue stereo and surround sound to an amplifier with a Dolby Pro-Logic decoder.


The Solid interconnect by the Chord Company

Digital Audio Outputs

Digital outputs come in two types: either coaxial (electrical) or optical (light). They are used to transfer raw digital data between components that have the same type of input/output at each end. In a DVD player, the digital connections are used to send sound information to an amplifier, receiver or processor that contains the sound decoder hardware. The most common sound format used in DVD is Dolby Digital, and can be anything from a single mono track, to stereo surround, to the full 5.1 channel surround sound. An amplifier / processor equipped with a Dolby Digital decoder receives the sound data from the DVD player through a digital cable before it is processed and decoded into an analogue signal that can be used by a speaker system.


ProDAC coaxial and Optichord optical digital cables from the Chord Company
  Some players come with their own built-in digital sound decoders that processes the data before it leaves the player. In this case, the player's 6-channel phono connection is used, as described below.

Digital Surround Sound Decoder / 6-Channel Output

Some DVD players have their own built-in digital surround sound decoders. The player will have a 6-Channel phono output on the back made up of 6 phono outputs for feeding the decoded sound channels to an amplifier with a 6-channel input using six phono interconnects. This means that a DVD player equipped with digital decoding can be connected to even a basic home cinema amplifier, providing it has a 6-channel input.


Video Outputs

Video outputs are needed to feed the picture information to a television. The common method is a Euro A/V SCART lead, although most DVD players also have outputs for the superior S-Video connection. Most players also have a composite video connection that uses a single phono lead for video transfer. Make sure that the television you are using has at least one of the above video inputs. Top line players may abandon SCART, and use the top quality RGB output commonly used to connect a video source to a large screen TV or a video projector.


Picture Zoom

During the pause feature, some players allow you to zoom-in on particular parts of the picture to explore the frame in greater detail, thanks to the perfect-still freeze frame of the DVD format.


Jog Shuttle

A feature common to video recorders is even more impressive on DVD. Because each frame is a digitally encoded picture, it can be displayed on the screen as a perfect still image, without the usual flicker found with VHS tape. Frames can be advanced or reversed at various speeds, including frame-by-frame to reveal detail previously hard to see.


Pioneer DV-717
Pioneer DV-717 DVD Player