Welcome to our DVD players guide. Below we review the essential DVD player FAQs about buying a DVD player in the UK and give links to some of the best UK DVD player stores.
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If you have a widescreen television, a DVD can be viewed in its original widescreen format (16 to 9 aspect ratio), otherwise it will be formatted to fit the standard television screen (4 to 3 aspect ratio). The majority of DVD players will be factory set to output the picture in 4:3 format, so this will need changing if you have a widescreen TV.
DVD players with PAL Progressive Scan technology built in offer sharper image quality.
DVDs are encoded to display on European televisions (PAL system) or American televisions (NTSC system). The best DVD players can perform NTSC to PAL conversion so that you can watch an American NTSC-encoded DVD on a European PAL television.
If your TV only has an RF (aerial) input, you won’t be able to use it with your DVD player.
There are a few different ways to transfer the video output (i.e. picture) from a DVD player to your television. They are, in descending order of quality:
RGB (Red-Green-Blue) output via SCART - transfer the video ouput via RGB from the SCART (21 pin) output of the DVD Player, via a SCART cable (a higher quality cable will greatly improve the picture), to the SCART input on your television. As well as the video signal, the SCART connection will also carry audio to your television.
Top Tip! If you are looking for a cheap DVD player, make sure a SCART
cable is included, otherwise it might not be so cheap!
S-Video output via S-Video Connections - (4-pin miniature DIN) or SCART, S-Video offers very good picture quality. Normally this would be from the S-Video output from the DVD player, via an S-Video cable, into the S-Video input on the television. However, you can also transfer the S-Video signal via a SCART to SCART connection.
Composite Video Output - This is the lowest quality video connection. Either connect the RCA composite video phono jack output on the DVD player to the RCA Video In on the television, via a single phono lead, or route your composite video signal to your television via SCART to SCART connection.
Component Video Output (Y, Pb, Pr) - This is a high quality method of transferring the video signal, commonly used in the USA, which we include for completeness. DVD players with this output usually have three RCA phono jacks which are colour-coded green, blue, and red and are labelled either Y, Pb, Pr or Y, B-Y, R-Y or Y, Cb, Cr. If your television has the corresponding RCA jack inputs, connect them with a three-wire component video cable, ensuring that the colours match on each end. Component video inputs are more common on plasma screens and projectors.
DVD players will play an increasing number of formats as follows:
DVDs (Digital Video/Versatile Discs) - Note that DVD discs are region-coded to indicate which world region they are intended for. USA is region 1, and Europe is region 2. Your DVD player must support the region-code of the DVD disc you are trying to play. A region 1 DVD will not play on a region 2 DVD player. However, there are now multi-region enabled DVD players that can play DVDs from all regions.
Audio CDs - DVD players will play your CD audio discs.
CD-R (CD-Recordable) and CD-RW (CD-ReWritable) - These types of disc are created on personal computers, and can be read by your DVD player.
DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW - Your DVD Player should play the various types of recordable DVD created using a personal computer.
VCD (Video CD) discs - Almost all DVD players can play VCDs which are CDs which have video as well as audio. They are mostly used for music videos.
S-VCD (Super Video CD) discs - Many DVD players support S-VCD, which is a higher quality VCD disc offering near-DVD quality video. These discs are only common in Asia.
DVD-A (Audio DVDs) - Designed specifically for music, DVD-A is a format designed to replace the Audio CD and provide the very highest quality audio possible. The format supports surround sound, is currently quite rare and is only supported by the very best DVD players, but it will become increasingly important. If you want to listen to DVD Audio Discs at the very highest quality, you will require a DVD player with a 192kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converter. This is an option for rich audiophiles only, as most DVD players currently only have a 96kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converter.
SA-CD (SuperAudio CD) - A very high quality audio format developed by Sony and Phillips to compete with DVD-A, and which supports 5.1 surround sound. Some DVD players already support SA-CD, which will become increasingly widespread as a high quality audio format. As would be expected, support for this format is more common on DVD players from Sony and Phillips.
MP3 audio files - many DVD players will play an MP3 audio file.
JPEG image files (digital photos) - some DVD players will display JPEG image files saved on a CD-R as slideshows.
Ogg Vorbis audio files - some DVD players will play Ogg Vorbis audio files.
WMA (Windows Media Audio) files - some DVD players will play Windows Media Audio files.
DivX Encoded Movies - Some DVD players can now play DivX video files. DivX is an emerging compression technology that allows video files to be smaller in size (and can thus be downloaded more quickly from the internet etc). It's said to be the MP3 of video.
MPEG-4 files - The MPEG-4 supersedes the MPEG-2 standard which DVD players currently use. DVD players which support the MPEG-4 standard are already on the market.
A DVD disc contains all the information necessary to listen in surround sound. The current standards for digital audio output from DVD players are:
DTS (Digital Theatre Sound) – Newest 5.1 channel surround sound standard, slightly better than Dolby.
Dolby Digital 5.1 (also known as AC3) – 5.1 channel surround sound standard.
Surround sound currently requires a system of five speakers around the listener (centre, front left, front right, rear left, rear right) and a subwoofer (note the 5.1 nomenclature comes from the 5 speakers plus one subwoofer), so that different sounds can emanate from different positions in the room, and hence the listener is “surrounded”.
To provide the audio for each of these speakers (or channels), the digital audio information on the DVD must be decoded into each channel.
The best DVD players have inbuilt Dolby digital and DTS decoders and decode the digital audio themselves, and therefore have six separate audio channel outputs on the back which would need to be connected to an amplifier with six audio inputs.
Cheap DVD players are only Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS compatible, which means they do not have inbuilt decoders, and to benefit from surround sound, you will need to connect the DVD player to an external decoder/amplifier unit, which can decode the sound into the six surround sound channels.
Digital to Analogue Converter Standards:
For the final stage of sound output to speakers, the sound must be converted from digital format to analog format. The best DVD players can do this themselves, and have their own Digital to Analogue Converters (DAC). At present there are two standards for the DACs:
96kHz/24-bit DAC – Most soundtracks are recorded in this format, so most DVD players will have at least a 96kHz/24-bit DAC.
192kHz/24-bit DAC – The best DVD players now come with higher quality 192kHz/24-bit DAC, which is designed for the high quality audio DVD format (the replacement for audio CDs, and the highest quality format for listening to music).
RCA Analogue Stereo Audio Outputs - This won’t take advantage of the digital surround sound capabilities of DVDs, and is for older speaker systems where you only have a left and right speaker available. Connect the two RCA phono jack stereo audio outputs on the back of the DVD player to the corresponding stereo audio inputs on your television or hi-fi amplifier (white for left, red for right).
Digital Coaxial Output (S/P DIF RCA phono output) – Is used to send the undecoded digital audio signal to an external decoder/amplifier unit. Connect it to the coaxial digital input on the decoder/amplifier.
Optical Digital Output (S/P DIF Toslink) – Used to send the the undecoded digital audio signal to an external decoder/amplifier unit. Connect the Optical Digital Out (square plug) on your DVD player to the Optical Digital In on your decoder/amplifier unit using a Toslink cable (has snap connector on each end). The Toslink cable is a fiber optic cable which carries the audio data in the form of light impulses instead of electrical signals, which allows excellent preservation of sound quality.
If you have one of the best DVD players, it will have its own digital audio decoders, and will therefore separate the audio out into six discrete audio channels. On the back it will therefore have six RCA phono outputs, which you must connect to an amplifier which has six RCA inputs (known as a “Dolby Digital ready” amplifier).
Blu-ray is an improved optical disc type designed to replace the DVD.
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