The distinctive-looking DVD-S2700 is part of a double-act. The Laurel to the brand's Hardy RX-V2700 receiver, it's styled to match both the latter's award-winning performance and it's distinctive aesthetics. For owners of that particular receiver, it seems a perfect match, but how does it stand up when viewed in isolation?
The S2700 is a high-end offering with a custom install-friendly RS232 control port on the rear panel. Also on the back are a full complement of AV outputs. The HDMI v1.1 output can go all the way to 1080p, provided your screen can rise to the challenge.
Predictably, this upscaling is not supported on the component output, too. Perhaps more regrettable is its inability to deliver 480i/576i over HDMI. Delivering SD over this single digital cable would have been a significant boon for those who prefer to use an outboard scaler, or simply choose to let their panels do the upscaling.
In audio terms, the S2700 offers a full 5.1 set of phonos. This is essential for Super Audio CD and DVD-A hi-res multichannel audio. An added bonus is that it also caters for Dolby Digital and DTS DVD soundtracks.
You'll also find optical and coaxial outputs for pumping raw bitstreams to off-board AV gear. In addition, audio (two- or 5.1-channel linear PCM, or bitstream) is also available on the HDMI output. Useful, then, if your amp acts not only as an HDMI switcher, but can also siphon off audio from the connectors. But beware: you can't use the other digital outputs if 'audio-over-HDMI' is active, as I discovered after much cable-checking!
This is an undeniably expensive player, but while clearly advanced, the V2700 is conventional rather than cutting-edge. Faroudja's familiar DCDi deinterlacing is built-in, as is the certified ability to play subtitled DivX software, and MP3/JPEG/WMA files.
The Analog Devices video DACs benefit from noise-shaped video (NSV) technology, but such benefits will, of course, be lost should you opt for the HDMI connection. Features available to both output types are comprehensive video adjustments, and a TV-like non-linear 'stretch' feature that fills a 16:9 screen with a 4:3 picture.
Audio-wise, the S2700 plumps for Cirrus Logic CS4398 192/24 audio DACs. Yamaha made its consumer reputation in sound so I'm pleased to see that this tradition has been upheld with an 'audio direct' mode and a separate power supply for the analogue audio.
But while it packs in the features fairly well, there are none of Yamaha's trademark DSP goodies on the 5.1 analogue output. Indeed, you don't even get Pro-Logic II decoding - a useful upgrade for older amplification - and, as a result, the audio from stereo (2.0) discs emanates from the front left and right channels only.
Note that most AV amps operate in 'straight' mode with an external 5.1 source, feeding audio directly to the power amps via the volume control. If you want surround from two-channel DVDs, you'll have to use either digital or the separate two-channel analogue connection. This, of course, wastes another input.
Configuration is straightforward - all of the expected output, language, parental control and hi-res audio options are present. Unfortunately, you only have a choice of NTSC/60Hz or PAL/50Hz when setting video output. A third 'auto' option would be welcome, especially if you have made your player multiregion.
Then there's the audio setup. A batch of settings look after speaker size, delays (distance) and levels - an overall audio delay adjustment is, however, missing. There's a noise sequencer to aid level adjustment, but it's a dead loss as far as subwoofers are concerned. Better to use a calibration DVD with 5.1 test tones, delving in and out of the player's audio menus until you get it right.
Where it counts, the S2700 scores highly with a dynamic and impressively-detailed picture, particularly if the HDMI route is taken. Upscaling is commendable. It's amazing how much detail this player can squeeze out of DVDs.
NTSC replay also proved excellent, with horizontal motion, like camera pans, being remarkably smooth with no loss of detail. Vertical movement, notably end-credit sequences, were juddery but not annoyingly so. A test-DVD, authored directly from off-air satellite transport streams, gave pictures that represented a noticeable improvement over what the average set-top box is capable of, particularly in the HD upscaling modes. DivX video playback is superb, providing the original encode is up to scratch.
It's difficult to fault the player's audio performance. Once the subwoofer output had been recalibrated along the lines described, a sound characterised by a thick and overblown bass was replaced by one of spacious and dynamic character.
Channel separation is well delineated, and tricky dialogue sequences were always clear and defined. I did find, however, a noticeable jump in volume when changing from the 5.1 output to my (ironically, Yamaha) receiver's own decoder. With SACDs and DVD-As, the S2700 does a great job regardless of genre - music by Pink Floyd, Linkin Park and Mahler were conveyed compellingly, and without fatigue.
While it doesn't push any particular envelope, the S2700 is a fine player, and an obvious match for anyone buying the brand's award-winning RX-V2700 receiver. My only real issues are with setup and a few minor output gripes. In pure performance terms, its nearest competitor is Denon's HQV-enabled DVD-3930.