A grand don't come for free, as the Street's Mike Skinner once said, and it's certainly a lot of money for a DVD player. Moreover this is the price you will actually pay, because Arcam's limited distribution means internet deals are few and far between.

And when Yamaha's new baby, the DVDS657, can do everything the DV79 does, plays SACD and DivX discs as well, and can be picked up for around £180 - you really have got to ask what Arcam gives you for the extra £850.

It's bigger and chunkier of course. Arcam cosmetics are always a matter of taste and the grey paint fascia with green display has a distinctly different bent. So different in fact, that it looks wholly out of place next to any kit using a blue display (almost everything else on the market) and rather ties you in to an Arcam based system if you have one eye on design. The remote is more solid feeling but still a long way off being a Design Council Awards contender.

Beauty is more than skin deep of course. The back panel features an HDMI output, an RS232 firmware upgrade port, progressive component output and a choice of optical and digital audio outputs. You get a gold plated 5.1 analogue connection plus a dedicated stereo audio out, while system remote control ports allow the DV79 to be controlled where it cannot receive infrared - in the ugly cupboard with a bag over its head perhaps.

You get what you pay for

Inside are some of the best specified video components on the market from the likes of Silicon Image and a huge helping of Arcam's hi-fi know how. The six page linear menu leads you through the set-up quickly, backed by a wonderfully lucid user manual. ProLogic II trims, down-sample audio rates and full control of speaker size, distance and the crossover frequency with a subwoofer are all available. A handy post processing delay feature will ensure dialogue stays in lip sync.

What comes out of this innocuous looking box is a piece of home entertainment magic. Using the HDMI output you are rewarded with a super bright and vivid picture with superb colour balance. Details are sharp enough to cut yourself and the picture scrolls very smoothly indeed.

There is a smidgeon of edge enhancement that can lead to a slightly granular or artificial look, but nothing that backing off the TVs sharpness control doesn't cure. Switch to component video output and the results are actually even more impressive. With some displays the added smoothness of the analogue picture is actually better than through HDMI!

With Arcam's heritage the DV79 is always going to play a good tune but hooked up to decent hi-fi system it turns effortlessly into a top notch CD player. The sound has a signature clarity and warmth with rich bass and smooth treble.

It's wholly genre-agnostic musically, managing a fine delicate hand with Debussy and the musical equivalent of flaming stage diving with Rammstein. The smooth treble just begs you to give music a handful of volume and before you know it it's 3am, the wine box is empty and you are knee-deep in CD cases listening to discs you haven't played for ages.

It might be expensive, it might be cosmetically challenged and it might not play SACDs or DivX discs, but the DV79 comes fully loaded with the sort of magic that eludes all but the very best DVD and CD players on the market.