The $450 DVD-S1800 is the less expensive of the two universal players currently offered by Yamaha, yet it offers features that—just a year or two ago—would only have been found in much higher priced players. Like several other universal players in this survey, the DVD-S1800 incorporates Faroudja DCDi video processing, but the Yamaha’s superior real-world picture quality makes it arguably “first among equals” in comparison to the other DCDi-equipped players in this survey. Sonically, the DVD-SD1800 skews slightly toward the brighter, leaner side of strict neutrality— emphasizing definition, detail, and treble “airiness,” though at the expense of a bit of overall smoothness, bass weight, and tonal richness. This player will appeal to listeners who prize definition over other sonic qualities, and to viewers who prefer images with a bit of extra contrast for more visual punch.
The DVD-SD1800 has a straightforward user interface and remote control, and offers a much more extensive range of set-up options that most players in this class. Some elements we particularly liked included the following:
We did identify several user interface shortcomings, as noted below:
Not surprisingly, the DVD-SD1800 performed much like the other Faroudja-equipped player on benchmark tests (conducted using the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD Ver. 4). This meant the Yamaha showed solid performance on most tests, but exhibited minor shortcomings in the following areas:
In real world tests, however, the DVD-SD1800 enjoyed a subtle but noticeable edge in overall picture quality relative to the other Faroudja-equipped players we tested, exhibiting visibly better contrast on certain scenes and films. We suspect this performance edge might be attributable to the Black Level control found under the Yamaha’s Video menu. Yamaha specifically recommends turning the Black Level control “On” whenever the player is used with NTSC televisions, where the aim is to “improve the color contrast during playback.” That claim certainly jibes with our observations.
To appreciate the practical benefits of turning the Yamaha’s Black Level control on, try watching a scene filmed under subdued lighting conditions, such as the “A Warm Cup of Tea” scene from Open Range. In that scene, Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) and Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) are served tea by Sue Barlow (Annette Benning) in a prairie kitchen illuminated only by oil lamps. The Yamaha helps give the scene added visual punch and snap, despite the fact that it is dimly lit and that the room’s background colors are comparatively drab.