With all this technology at your fingertips, it's no surprise that operation is supplemented by an exhaustive list of advanced adjustments and features. Anyone not au fait with a glossary of AV technical terms may feel initially unsettled, but the clearly defined menu system and uncomplicated manual will help dispel any fears.
The Set Up Navigator feature offers a useful introduction, using a series of prompts to define the compatibility of your partnering equipment. The more complex Initial Settings menu allows you to select audio and video output options with accompanying individual menus dedicated to specific multi-channel music, HDMI and i-Link settings.
You can optimise the picture according to your screen type, choose between presets or individually adjust practically any picture element from gamma to chromo and black levels. And audio settings include several effects as well as advanced speaker management that allows you to configure your surround-sound system from scratch.
The sheer number of options available overwhelms ease of use and the remote's uncomfortable joystick is annoyingly unresponsive at times. But few players offer you such complete control over picture and sound presentation. Plug-and-play it isn't, but your patience will be rewarded by performance.
At this price level, the DV-989 pleads to be partnered by equivalent equipment to realise its full potential. And using a screen without HDMI connectivity would be wasteful, especially since digital images are at the forefront of its ability.
Using HDMI with an upscaled 720p signal seems to work best and literally transforms the picture in terms of clarity and definition. Superbly dense black levels expose previously unnoticed detail and enhance depth-defining contrast, without losing distinctness in dark scenes. Elsewhere, authentic colours are beautifully balanced with seamless gradation between shades and shadows. And there's no sign of shimmering straight edges or unstable backgrounds with even the slowest panning movements gliding effortlessly across the screen.
There is an expected decline in picture quality using analogue connections with detail diminishing and less overall density. But, especially using progressive scan, images are still outstanding if compared to typically priced players.
The DV-989's sound performance also outclasses its contemporaries, especially with movie and multi-channel music soundtracks. The player creates a balanced, cohesive surround soundstage featuring accurate expression and controlled dynamics, which are enhanced using the FireWire connection. And even stereo tracks can compete with a dedicated CD player.
If you are prepared to pay the price, the DV-989 offers simply peerless picture and sound quality. However, the law of diminishing returns does play a part and you're asked to spend significantly more for what a layman would deem as only subtle improvements. Also bear in mind that Blu-ray and HD DVD players will appear this year, promising an even higher quality of picture. The DV-989 is top of the pile for now, but it isn't future-proof.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide