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Product Review - Toshiba SD-2109 DVD Player - February, 2000

Brad Shifflett
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Toshiba SD-2109 DVD Player

10 Bit - 27 MHz Video DAC

24/96 Audio DAC

DD and DTS Digital Out

Composite Video, Component Video, and S-Video Outputs

Coaxial  Digital Audio and Two-Channel Coaxial Analog Audio Outputs

Size: 3. 1/4"H X 17"W X 12"D

Weight: 8 Pounds

MSRP: $399 US

 


Toshiba America, Inc., 1251 Sixth Avenue, Suite 4100, New York, New York 10020; Phone 212-596-0600; Web http://www.toshiba.com.

Introduction

The SD-2109 DVD player is the first DVD player I have owned. I received the player as a gift for Christmas. My wife unpacked it and placed it with the rest of all our audio gear. I was very pleased when noticing it. It is very nice looking addition to our entertainment center. My wife picked this DVD player up at a knockout price ($229). 

Sight

First thing I did was hook it up using the S-Video connection to my Toshiba 32" TV we purchased about three weeks prior to Christmas (I did not have a complete set of component video cables yet). I didn't have any DVDs to test it out, but  the in-laws showed up and brought over "It's a Wonderful Life". I immediately put this DVD in. I proceeded to do a A/B test between composite and S-Video, and I could easily see a difference in sharpness and black level detail. The S-Video was much cleaner and I seemed to notice a lot more detail in the characters' faces. I was amazed at the scene where the actors fell in the water at the dance. I could see the clarity in the water and notice small details (water drops, snow falling, etc.) more. After opening all the rest of my gifts, I ended up with six DVD movies: "Con Air", "Air Force One", "The Rock", "You've Got Mail", "Sleepless in Seattle", and "The Wedding Singer."

After Christmas was over, I went out and purchased some standard RCA video cables to test the component video function of my new DVD player. All I can say is, get a TV with component video inputs. It is well worth it. I was shocked to see a huge difference in picture quality, even though I have inexpensive RCA cables. I would be willing to sacrifice having a smaller TV over a larger one for component video. When my wife says she can notice a difference, I know this is good, because video is not her hobby. We watched "Air Force One" and did an A/B comparison between S-Video and component video. The details and color are so much sharper and natural with the component video. I then put in a VHS tape of the same movie and compared the component video output from my DVD player to the composite output of the VHS. I can say this, I will never watch a video on VHS again. I could not believe how much I was losing on the movie with the tape. "Con Air" was truly amazing at the end when flying into Las Vegas, all the lights showed true colors of red, green, and blue. Everything red stands out in every movie. You truly see what the director intended, not only with the widescreen presentation, but the color and overall image quality. (Editor's note: Reds are especially improved with DVD compared to VHS tape.)

You can adjust the black level with the 2109, as you can with all the Toshiba DVD players. It allows you to get that blacker than black quality which is nice when you have a good component video TV. The video DAC is 10 bit. Early DVD players, way back when, were 8 bit.

Sound

I do not have DD or DTS capabilities with my receiver. I have Dolby Pro Logic, but even so, I can say that sound through the DVD player is truly a great experience. I rented "Saving Private Ryan" and was truly enveloped in the sound. I actually had a couple of picture frames fall over on top of our entertainment center. The subwoofer really took a workout with the first 20 minutes of the movie. The DVD player seemed to manage the sounds more evenly than with tape. Also, with tape, the sound seems piercing. The DVD places sounds where they are supposed to be, not blaring it. The lows are low, highs are high. My ears have really come to enjoy the experience. Dialog is crisp and clear. I found in the beginning I had to turn the volume up a bit to hear things more in the movies, compared to my DSS where the volume would be blasting. Now, after two weeks of watching an average of two movies a night, I find myself lowering the volume. I notice I do not need to have it loud because it seems to bring out the bangs and explosions when needed. Dialog is more defined from the center channel, not distributed across all three front speakers like my VHS tapes seem to do.

We then tested the CD-playing functionality. It handled the "Titanic" soundtrack flawlessly . It seemed about as good as my dedicated CD player, which is contrary to some other DVD players I've heard about. In any case though, I do not plan on using the DVD player for playing music. The load time on the Toshiba player was good for me, and I am not sure how other players do. I get annoyed with the FBI warning on every DVD movie. I guess there is no way of skipping that on any player. 

Toshiba's N-2-2 spatializer function adds some DSP to two-channel stereo. It is present on all their players, and it is a unique feature. Although DSP functions can be added by most receivers, the N-2-2 is for when you only have two speakers. It creates surround sound without having speakers in the rear. The bit-rate meter is kind of cool too. It tells you if your movie has lots of compression (lower bit-rate) compared to the DVDs that have only a little compression (higher bit-rate). For example, the DTS version of "Dances with Wolves" has a very high bit-rate and is a real showcase for DVD image quality.

Overall Features

This player has some real nice features I like. The Toshiba remote I do not use. Rather, I use a Cinema 7 which is marketed by One for All. The remote works all commands with no problems, including Menu, Zoom, Subtitles on/off, Audio change, Display changes, etc. I did have to learn two functions, namely the dimmer setting and eject. From my initial working with the Toshiba remote, it is very easy to navigate. But, there are no lighted buttons, and it is kind of small for big handed people. Navigation of player menus are a breeze and easy. I have had experience with my neighbor's player which I did not like. Menus and operation were not very friendly on his player.

The dimmer function on the Toshiba player is nice at night. The only problem is that none of my other components have this ability. Also, when I operate the dimmer, the red power light annoys my wife more than the display being on. Toshiba could have just reversed this, making the power light off when the player is on. That is the way all of my other components are. The 2109 is very stylish over some other players I saw in the store. It has all the functions for tempting upgrades in your system. Mine will be a DD/DTS receiver next.

Conclusion

I give this player top rating for the price. I mean 229 bucks for DD/DTS and component video outputs is my kind of expenditure. More importantly, I have not had any problems with any DVDs yet. All seem to play wonderfully. And that is saying something with all the trouble I have read about in the newsgroups dealing with this and that DVD player not being able to play such and such a DVD. The sound is awesome. The picture is awesome. I say again: Get a component video TV, and you will not regret it. You will probably kick yourself for not doing it sooner. As to the 2109, I cannot see any place for improvements, other than the cosmetic red power light that my wife didn't like.

 - Brad Shifflett -

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Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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