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The player is a fairly nondescript black box. When powered up, a cool blue light--the deck's most distinctive visual attribute--illuminates the Open/Close, Stop, and Play buttons on the front panel. Onkyo also opted to put a joysticklike navigational button on the front panel, which we found odd considering it would have been far more useful had it been placed on the remote instead.
And about that remote: It's a small affair with tiny little buttons, none of which are backlit, making the thing next to impossible to use in a darkened theater environment.
As one might expect from a high-end player, the DPS-7.2 doesn't skimp on features. From a video perspective, the 10-bit/54MHz video D/A conversion is certainly a big plus (video performance is solid, but more on that later). However, it's worth noting that there's no Black Enhance feature in the setup menu. This feature, which is available in most high-end DVD decks, allows you to get a deeper, richer black when using a component video connection.
Audio-wise, DVD-Audio playback capability heads the list, with MP3, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, and DVD-RW support rounding out the full suite of playback options.
The player also shines in the connectivity department. On the video front, there are two interlaced (480i) component video outputs, two S-Video outs, and two composite video outs. For audio, you get two stereo analog-audio outputs, 6-channel analog audio outputs for DVD-Audio hookup, two optical digital audio outs, and one coaxial digital audio out. On top of that, there's an RS-232 port for custom installations in which your entire A/V system is controlled by a sophisticated touch-panel system, such as a Crestron or an AMX setup.
We evaluated the DVD video performance on a high-end front-projection rig consisting of a Runco DTV-991 8-inch CRT front projector and a Runco VHD4404Ultra video processor running at 720p. After recalibrating the video for the new player, we tested the player's mettle with the reference-quality Hollow Man DVD; we found the player delivered good overall video performance with decent detail and color saturation. While not a state-of-the-art model like our reference unit, the DPS-7.2 will perform well with consumer-level direct-view and rear-projection HDTV-capable TVs.
Connected to a midline Yamaha receiver and a reasonably priced Paradigm speaker system, the 5.1-channel DVD-Audio performance was killer (the DPs-7.2 has earned the prestigious LucasFilm THX Ultra certification). Listening to the multichannel DVD-Audio sampler disc Beyond CD was an awesome experience. In particular, Natalie Merchant's "Wonder" sounded uncannily realistic, with pinpoint imaging and sound staging. There is no doubt that DVD-Audio is far superior to straight 44kHz CDs, and the DPS-7.2 is a really good DVD-Audio player.
The value quotient of the DPS-7.2, which carries a list price of $800, depends on your priorities. From a video standpoint, the Panasonic DVD-RP91 is definitely superior, and it offers progressive-scan capability for those who need it. The RP91 is also a DVD-Audio player and sells for $100 less. However, the Integra DPS-7.2 outperforms the Panasonic on audio playback, and it works with almost every audio format known to man (SACD is the notable exception). So if you're an audiophile looking to get into DVD-Audio and can live without state-of-the-art video performance, the DPS-7.2 may be just the ticket.