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Minimalists will appreciate the player's appearance, but others may not be so enthused. Cosmetically, the DVD-S1200 is about as basic it gets: it's essentially a black box, with little in the way of design enhancements. Also, the remote is very small and awkwardly laid out, and it has no backlighting whatsoever.
However, we do appreciate the button on the front of the player (rather than on the back) that lets you switch between progressive and interlaced video. And the player offers fairly comprehensive connectivity options. There's one set of component-video outputs, an S-Video output, two composite-video outs, and an optical and a coaxial digital audio output. On top of that, Yamaha gives you 6-channel discrete (5.1) analog outputs for DVD-Audio playback and a set of 2-channel analog-audio outputs for those who lack a full-blown surround-sound rig.
The DVD-S1200 is an awesome performer from both a video and an audio perspective. We evaluated the player's video prowess first by using its progressive output on a Toshiba 65H80 HDTV-capable rear projector, then via its interlaced outs on a Runco DTV-991 driven by a Runco VHD4404Ultra video scaler. On the Toshiba set, the DVD-S1200's progressive-scan output definitely outperformed the Toshiba's internal line doubler, exhibiting a sharper, more resolved picture. Watching the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection on the Toshiba revealed the player's excellent 3:2 pull-down circuitry, which assisted in rendering an extremely smooth, filmlike image.
We watched a variety of DVDs on the Runco rig via the DVD-S1200's interlaced output and were impressed with the player's video performance on the high end. In fact, the DVD-S1200 stands up to our current reference progressive-scan DVD player, the . Upon close inspection of the rear jack pack and the internal menu system, the DVD-S1200 appears identical--apart from the face-lift--to the Panasonic. The front panel has been modified slightly, and the remote is not the same. Too bad Yamaha didn't slap its logo on Panasonic's excellent remote; the illuminated keys and joysticklike navigational button found on the other remote would have added value to the Yamaha player.
All in all, in terms of video quality, this player is an excellent match for consumer-level, direct-view and rear-projection, HDTV-capable displays and for ultrahigh-end, front-projection rigs that typically employ a video scaler that will accept only interlaced DVD signals. It is clearly not intended for lower-end, analog direct-view sets.
On the audio side, the DVD-S1200 is also quite impressive; the DVD-Audio performance is excellent. We listened to the DVD-Audio sampler Beyond CD through a midlevel audio system consisting of a midline Yamaha receiver and a Paradigm speaker system. The Steely Dan cut "Janie Runaway" never sounded better. The Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush" was simply awe-inspiring. The amazing thing about DVD-Audio is just how good it sounds even through relatively inexpensive audio gear.
The bottom line on the $999 (list price) DVD-S1200 is that it's an excellent player in every regard but is somewhat overpriced. Comparing it to our reference progressive-scan DVD/DVD-Audio player, the Panasonic DVD-RP91, the Yamaha costs 30 percent more (list price), with virtually the same performance characteristics. You do the math.