Onkyo's hi-fi releases are very like buses: nothing for ages, then several come along at once.

After a flurry of digital amps, not much was heard from the firm - and now both the unusual D-TK10 speaker and this universal DVD/SACD player show up.

Companies such as Onkyo and Pioneer are joining Denon and Yamaha in returning to audio from the AV badlands, but what has a DVD player got to do with stereo?

Well, the DV-SP504E is an SACD, CD and DVD-Audio player as well, and a healthy slice of the budget has been spent on the critical audio components in the circuit. So it has Nichicon capacitors, low-switching-noise diodes and a 'well-regulated power supply' rather than all the latest video-processing gizmos.

It has some of the latter, of course, and at just £300 it is good to see a HDMI output with its upscaling to 1080i and progressive scan.

This means pictures will look better than average if you have a compatible screen. The interesting thing is the emphasis Onkyo claims to place on minimising noise in the audio signal path, because this is what screws most DVD players when it comes to sound quality.

The DV-SP504E has a good selection of inputs and outputs, including the slightly confusing Front or D.Mix stereo outputs - you have to use the latter pair if you want a regular stereo feed, even if the machine is set up to play only two-channel audio.

Alongside are 5.1-channel audio outputs for adventures in multichannel, component, composite and S-Video analogue video outs, a Scart connector and a digital audio output that can be switched to downsample to 48kHz or not, as required.

Build is pretty good for the price. The Onkyo has a metal front plate and, unusually, an IEC mains inlet so you can upgrade the cable if you fancy. Finish lives up to the usual lofty standards of large Japanese companies, even though manufacture is in Malaysia.

The sound produced by this player is clean and revealing, considering how many formats it plays and its price point. As a CD player, it lags behind dedicated machines such as Cambridge Audio's 540C (£200), which extracts greater resolution through the mid and more bass weight.

However, it doesn't make things sound hard or particularly lightweight, and isn't easily phased by dense material. It just lacks the degree of definition of a dedicated machine - not surprising given all the licence fees Onkyo has to pay for the logos adorning its fascia.

Give it an SACD, however, and it'll outplay a budget player that only accesses the CD layer. Barb Jungr's SACD disc on Linn Records, for example, reveals more of its subtlety in the Onkyo's hands.

Pioneer's PD-D6 SACD player (£400) delivers a more exciting sound, but doesn't of course do video replay. Switching to DVD-Audio, the Onkyo clearly reveals more low-level detail than with CD, making an orchestra sound significantly more natural.

On screen, the DV-SP504E has good colour saturation and decent detail levels, but is prone to a degree of digitisation on fast-moving edges - there's a slight loss of solidity of image. On the whole it's bright and crisp and delivers a picture that's about average for the price.

This is a tough call. The DV-SP504E has stiff competition from Denon's DVD-1930 (£250), with Pioneer's similarly priced DV-LX50 due in the autumn. It's a nice one-box player with a sound that'll never fatigue, but not the best buy if you primarily want great CD sound.