On the rear is a top-notch array of sockets, but significantly it lacks a SCART output, which is no surprise given its American origins and the fact that serious home cinephiles wouldn’t be seen dead using it. What you’ll find is a HDMI output of the v1.2 variety that can shoot out 1080p, 1080i, 720p and 576p/480p signals, plus component video output with its own 108MHz/12-bit video DACs. Also on board are composite, S-video and optical/coaxial digital audio outputs that offer Dolby Digital and DTS bitstream output, while custom installers will welcome the RS-232 and IR control ports.
Like the DV-980H, the 983H offers Dolby Digital Surround EX decoding, which is why you’ll find 7.1-channel analogue outputs on the rear panel. And because the unit also features DVD-Audio and SACD playback, you can use these connections to enjoy hi-res audio.
The DV-983H is a truly universal player. As well as DVD-A and SACD, it handles MP3, WMA, DivX and XviD files from disc or via the USB port on the rear, and also displays JPEG photos in hi-def resolution. It’s also really pleasing to discover that the unit plays Windows Media Video, which isn’t mentioned on the spec sheet, although it won’t play HD files or anything earlier than WMV9. Disc-wise it spins DVD-R/DVD+R, DVD+RW/-RW and both types of dual-layer disc, while those of you with lots of movies from across the pond will be pleased to hear the DV-983H can play DVDs from any region – and you won’t find a single Blu-ray player that can do that.
The deck’s high-end ethos is reflected in the extensive selection of picture tweaks in the setup menu. You can alter the levels of brightness, colour, contrast, brightness, hue and saturation, as well as control gamma, noise reduction, Y/C delay, deinterlacing modes and colour space. Audio tweaks include basic bass management, audio delay and a range of perfunctory sound field modes.
Sadly, like its stable mates the deck lets itself down in the ease of use department with another horrible remote, sporting small, awkward rubber buttons (which handily glow in the dark) and a cluttered layout that makes menu navigation a real chore. Thankfully the unit responds quickly to the remote and the setup menu is sensibly structured, but its bland, dated design doesn’t feel right on such a cutting-edge machine.
But all is forgiven when you put a disc in the tray and crank the HDMI output up to 1080p. We loaded up ”King Kong” and were immediately taken aback by how clean and cinematic the picture looks. The quality of the upscaling is excellent, giving the picture a visible detail boost without introducing any unwanted artefacts – hats off to the ABT1018 chip.