At first glance, you might think that the Marantz DV7001 is a bit of a King Canute - a DVD player failing to stem the tides of HD DVD and Blu-ray. As you can pick up a high definition HD DVD player for a lot less than £600, this DVD player just isn't worth the outlay, right?
Wrong. The DV7001 is a steal, once you see what it can do. For starters, it's optimised for DVD playback and can crank out a much better picture from standard definition DVDs than any of the hi-def disc players out there - HD DVD and Blu-ray alike. One glance at the mountain of DVDs in your living room should remind you of the importance of getting the best from your existing SD disc collection.
The specification of this sumptuously-styled deck gets things off to a great start. There's an HDMI output that can upscale your SD DVDs to 720p, 1080i and 1080p, with the assistance of a Faroudja DCDi chip.
Other connections include component video output, RGB Scart output, and the usual lesser connectivity roll call. There are also 5.1 channel analogue outputs for the sadly overlooked SACD format. Multimedia playback is also impressive, including WMA, MP3 and DiVX on CDs and DVDs.
Despite the technology on board, the DV7001 is deceptively simple to use: the onscreen menus are basic and easily navigated, and the remote is better than most.
So, selecting a test DVD of Borat from our very own leaning tower, we decided to work from the bottom up, engaging the ordinary 576p mode first off. Even at grass roots level, the DV7001 is a great little performer. Images are solid as a rock, impressively detailed and realistically coloured.
Next stop, upscaling to 720p, Borat rises to a greater level as well as retaining the previously impressive picture traits. Most noticeable is how much smoother the picture looks.
The scene where Borat struggles to cover Pamela Anderson with the traditional Kazakhstan wedding bag is displayed without irritating motion noise.
Detail too is enhanced, apparent in the scene where our moustached hero sings the Kazakhstan national anthem to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner, as the jeering crowd looks more finely detailed. It's a world away from the upscaling talents found on most budget DVD players.
High definition highs
You'll need a 'full HD' TV to make use of the superb 1080p setting, but, as Borat would say, the cultural learnings of Marantz for make benefit glorious high definition pictures. You could argue, though, that the extra detailing and more realistic skin tones and colours of the infamous naked wrestling scene is a mixed blessing. Joking aside, there's no denying the 1080p picture quality - it's superb.
Similarly impressive is the audio performance. Dialogue is clearly delivered, sound effects rendered subtly, and the overall soundstage expansive.
Once you've experienced the Marantz DV7001 in action, you'll be turning your nose up at cheaper players. If you've a spare £600, your DVD collection will love you forever.