As mentioned above, the Yamaha’s tonal balance sounds somewhat lighter and brighter than that of some of the players we surveyed, while its bass—though deep and clear—can sound a bit “lean.” Definition (that is, the ability to render transient sounds cleanly and clearly) and midrange and treble details are this player’s strong suit. Put these qualities together and you have a universal player that is extremely rewarding on truly well recorded material, but that also tends to “spotlight” the shortcomings in not-so-perfect records. At its best, the Yamaha is a formidable-sounding player, but it is not terribly forgiving of records that tend toward excess brightness, edginess, or glare.
One of the most beautiful-sounding SACDs I own is Patricia Barber’s Nightclub [Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab], and when I played the record through the Yamaha the results were so satisfying that the DVD-SD1800 could nearly have passed for a player twice its price. On the opening track, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” the delicate shadings of Barber’s voice, the shimmering overtones of cymbals and of Barber’s piano, the taut growl of the acoustic bass, and the almost “electric” sense of the air in the room were reproduced vividly and accurately. So far, so good.
But on a good though admittedly less than perfect recording, such as the Abravanel/Utah performance of Brahms’s “Variations on a Theme by Haydn” [Silverline, DVD-Audio], the Yamaha stumbled somewhat, causing the Utah string section to sound harder, more “steely,” and more brittle than it should have. Granted, this particular Brahms recording is not an easy one to get right, but it serves to illustrate the fact that the Yamaha’s best qualities (midrange and treble detail and definition) can sometimes become sonic “double-edged” swords.
Yamaha’s DVD-SD1800 universal player offers better picture quality than some of its most direct competitors, plus a light, lively, crisply defined sound that makes the most of really good recordings. But be aware that player’s sonic virtues can cut both ways, sometimes making imperfect records sound thinner and more “raw” than they should.