Missing from the Onkyo DV-SP502 are DVI (Digital Video Interface) or HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) outputs. DVI is a relatively new, all-digital interface format that carries video signals only, while HDMI carries both audio and video signals. There are a few DVD players at or even below the Onkyo's price that offer HDMI and/or DVI connectivity, so that you may want to take this factor into account when deciding if the DVSP502 is right for you—especially in light of the fact that a growing number of other components in your system, such as video displays and A/V receivers, are beginning to offer DVI or HDMI compatibility.
The Onkyo utilizes the MediaTek MT1389EE chip, a combination MPEG decoder/video processing chip, although I did not evaluate its performance since I have an interlaced display. Some DVD-V players have a feature known as DCDi, or Directional Correlation De-Interlacing, a circuit designed by Faroudja, Inc., which processes a progressive scan image on a pixel-by-pixel basis rather than a (scan) line-by-line basis and produces excellent picture quality. If you are considering a DVD player with progressive scan output, you may want to compare the DV-SP502 against a player with DCDi. A few DVD players in this price range offer DCDi de-interlacing.
Ease of Use and Operation
As we see it, a player's user interface and overall ease of use can be just as important as audio and video performance, especially over the long term. In particular, there are two front panel/remote control convenience features that I believe are vital in a universal player: An SACD/DVD-A/CD Audio button to switch between disc formats, and a two-channel/multichannel switch. On the Onkyo DV-SP502 player these controls are found only in the on-screen set-up menu, so that the disc must be stopped before any changes in disc format or channel configuration changes can be made and the TV or monitor must of course be on to view the necessary menus.
The Onkyo player does not include any bass management features other than SUBWOOFER ON/OFF, which we see as a serious omission. Bass man-agement is an important issue for any system that includes one or more powered subwoofers, and players should ideally provide settings to specify the subwoofer crossover frequency, and to set delay times (distances) and volume levels. Although many A/V receivers and controllers include bass management, these circuits are usually bypassed when using the multichannel analog inputs for SACD or DVDAudio recordings. So unless the universal player has bass management functions of its own, you have no way of properly directing the bass signal to the appropriate speaker(s) at the appropriate frequencies and levels, and with correct delay timing. Since many other players in this price range do provide full bass management controls, we think it is high time for Onkyo to include them.
However, despite not offering comprehensive bass management controls, the Onkyo nevertheless exhibited excellent bass response in all of my listening tests.
The Onkyo DV-SP502 Universal DVD player is a good value at $299. With multi-format playback capability it offers popular basic features, though it lacks DVI or HDMI outputs and comprehensive bass-management controls. Although you can find competitively- priced players that offers these features, it is important to realize that additional features sometimes come at the expense of shortcomings in core performance. Fortunately, the DVSP502 gets many of the core elements right.
I use my reference universal player as much or more for music as for movies, so the audio performance of any player is a crucial factor for me, and I found I could listen to the Onkyo player for hours on end without listening fatigue, a good indicator of sound quality. The Onkyo's CD and DVDAudio performance were very good— significantly better than its SACD reproduction for the reasons described above. The player also performed very well with DVD-Video programs, at times outperforming my reference player in terms of picture detail. Consider the Onkyo DV-SP502 if you're shopping for a low-to-midpriced universal player that gets the basic elements of sound quality mostly right, and that offers excellent realworld picture quality. Just don't expect to find it in the grocery store