Before we start, let's get this out of the way: Yamaha's spiffy DVD-S2300 plays more than just DVDs and CDs. This machine can also handle Super Audio CDs and DVD-Audio discs, which makes it a universal player. In addition to its audio prowess, the S2300 offers top-drawer video, thanks to Genesis/Faroudja video processing. Partnered with a simpatico system, the S2300 will deliver extraordinary performance, but its price will scare off all but the most dedicated audiophiles. Even before we plugged in the S2300, its luxurious feel and 19-pound heft distinguished it from everyday $99 DVD players. The drawer opens with unusual grace, and the understated front panel is marred only by bright indicators marked DVD and SACD.
Setup took a while since the SACD and DVD-A sections require separate routines, and the user manual doesn't offer much help. Specifically, we struggled with the S2300's awkwardly implemented bass management, a system that redirects the bass from small satellite speakers to a subwoofer. In all fairness, many players lack even rudimentary bass management.
The manual mentions neither that you must first play an SACD before entering the SACD setup mode, nor that once you get there, you'll have no onscreen display. Also, the S2300 doesn't send test tones to the subwoofer; you just have to guess the speaker's proper level. Furthermore, if you don't punch the SACD/DVD button to access the SACD layer of a hybrid SACD/CD, you'll wind up listening to the lower-fi CD layer. This is the first SACD player we've tested that has this problem. Plopping a DVD-Audio disc into the S2300, on the other hand, gives you DVD-Audio sound every time. On a more positive note, unlike most SACD players, the S2300 provides an instantaneous track-advance response.
The DVD-Audio setup was easier and more versatile, offering a greater degree of fine-tuning. For example, the S2300 can compensate for the fact that most people sit closer to the surrounds than the front speakers.
The cheap-looking remote won't win any awards for ergonomic design. It isn't backlit, and we found the button layout a bit awkward. Oh, and the search control was too sensitive for our clumsy fingers; we were always accidentally triggering hyperspeed fast-forward or reverse searches. As befits a player with universal status, the S2300 spins just about every type of disc currently on the market: SACDs, DVD-Audio and -Video discs, DVD-Rs, DVD+R/RWs, CDs, CD-R/RWs, and MP3-encoded CDs. However, it can't play our test DVD-RWs or display JPEG photos.
The S2300's connectivity offerings are extremely generous. You get two sets of component-video outputs, as well as dual S-Video and composite outputs. A convenient button on the remote lets you toggle both component jacks between progressive and interlaced output.
We found the expected six-channel analog outputs for DVD-Audio and SACD, plus a little something extra: a bass-management output that works wonders with subwoofer/satellite speaker systems. There are two digital-audio outputs, one coaxial and one optical. The headphone jack, which has its own volume control, is a nice touch.
To enjoy the S2300's SACD/DVD-Audio surround sound, you'll need to hook up the unit to a receiver with 5.1 analog inputs; the digital-audio connections don't work for SACD/DVD-A. Also, if you want to hear everything these superformats are capable of, we recommend partnering the S2300 with a set of high-quality speakers. In other words, make sure your A/V receiver and speaker system are up to snuff before buying this or any other SACD/DVD-A player. We inaugurated the S2300 with Norah Jones's megaseller, Come Away with Me, recently remastered on SACD. This disc offers stereo and multichannel mixes, but we spent most of our time luxuriating in the understated surround mix of Jones's easygoing jazz. There was nothing gee-whiz going on in the surround channels, but the music was more full-bodied and natural in 5.1 mode; going back to stereo was always a letdown. Naturally, the SACD sounded far better than the CD; even in stereo mode, the SACD came across as juicy and dimensional, while switching to the CD squashed a lot of the life out of the music.
At the end of our auditions, we compared the S2300 with Denon's new universal player, the . On Rebecca Pidgeon's SACD The Raven, the 2900 delivered more palpably realistic sound. We had been at the recording session, so we were able to notice that the 2900 let us hear more of the studio's acoustic signature.
The better-sounding DVD-Audio discs knocked us out. The 5.1 mix of REM's Automatic for the People had lively dynamics and the sort of textural detail you never hear from CDs. Miles Davis's Tutu unfurled a huge soundscape punctuated by growling bass lines. The master's shimmering trumpet danced above it all.
In our video-quality tests, we enjoyed similarly good results. We looked at the gamut of test patterns on our 61-inch Samsung , and the S2300 equaled that TV's excellent processing. That's not a surprise since both devices have Genesis/Faroudja's DCDi de-interlacing technology, which smooths artifacts out of video-based material that trips up many other processors. The S2300 reproduced the waving flag from Video Essentials flawlessly, and the flying-camera shots in chapter 31 of Charlotte Gray were crisp and free of instabilities.
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