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Appeared on: Monday, March 29, 2004
Sony DVP-NS330


1. Features/Specifications

Sony DVP-NS330 DVD Player - page 1

The increased production of consumer players nowadays coupled with cheaper, more reliable optical parts has had a significant effect on retail prices. In addition, consumer players are no longer the arcane devices they once were, incorporating simple controls making it easy even for ordinary users to operate them, even if they are not computer literate. Today, everyone has the opportunity to own a DVD player or recorder, place it his living-room and enjoy the latest movie.

We have selected an ordinary DVD player, available from Sony at an affordable price. The model is the DVP NS-330.

Basic features

Sony's DVP-NS330 features built-in MP3 decoding, DVD-R/DVD-RW and DVD+R/DVD+RW (video mode) playback, and Precision Drive 2 with Dynamic Tilt Compensation for error-free disc reading. SCART and composite video outputs provide connection with nearly any television set.

MP3 Playback: Playing MP3 Music on this Sony DVD player is easy. Just insert an MP3 disc and press MENU. A blue screen pops up to Display your folders. Scroll down the list using the remote control or front panel cursor controls to select the folder you want. The green, files screen pops up to show the files for the selected folder. Select the file you want to hear and you're done. Finding music couldn't be easier.

A 192 kHz 24-bit digital-to-analogue converter ensures optimum decoding of all disc formats. Both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel surround-sound signals can be routed through the player's coaxial digital-audio output for direct connection to a full-featured audio/video receiver. If you don't have a surround receiver or six-channel speaker setup, you can still make every movie night the ultimate experience: Sony's TV Virtual Surround (with four surround modes) simulates surround sound through two speakers (even the stereo speakers on your TV).

Playback options include quick set-up, DVD/CD Text, block noise reduction, a digital video enhancer, custom parental control memory for 40 discs, Advanced Smooth Scan and Smooth Slow Modes, instant replay and instant search. Supplied accessories include a remote control that operates the DVD player and many brands of television.

Precision Drive™ 2 with Dynamic Tilt Compensation - Past generations of Precision Drive technology were only able to compensate for warped discs by moving the entire optical block, which took more time and limited the amount of correction possible.

Technical Data
System
Playback Audio CD Yes
  CD-R/RW
  Data CD (MP3)
  DVD
  DVD+RW
  DVD-R (Video Mode)
  DVD-RW (Video Mode)
  DVD-RW (VR Mode) No
  JPEG No
  NTSC (region 2) Yes
  SACD No
  VCD Yes
Video    
  Block Noise Reduction Yes
  Clear Frame No
  Digital Noise reduction No
  Digital RF processing Yes
  Digital HF processing (video) No
  Gamma Correction No
  Horizontal Resolution >500
  Motion Equalization No
  Slow Scan No
  Smooth Scan Yes
  Video DAC resolution 10 bit
  Video DAC Sampling rate 27 MHz
  Video Equalizer Yes
Audio    
  Direct Audio No
  Centre Equalizer No
  DAC: Current Pulse No
  Audio DAC resolution 24 bits
  Audio DAC Sampling rate 192 KHz
  Digital Cinema Sound modes No
  Dolby® Digital Output No
  DTS Output Yes
  Dynamic range CD >97 dB
  Dynamic range DVD Video >100 dB
  Dynamic range DVD SACD No
  Frequency Range CD 2-20
  Frequency Range DVD Video 48 KHz 2-22
  Frequency Range DVD Video 96 KHz 2-44,000 Hz
  Integrated DTS decoder No
  Integrated MPEG multi-channel decoder No
  S/N ratio (dB) >110
  Virtual Surround enhanced modes 4
Connectors    
  5.1 Audio output No
  96 KHz, 24bit No
  Audio Output No
  AV (RCA) Yes
  Digital Audio Coaxial Output Yes
  Headphope Output No
  Scart Output Yes
  S-Video Output No
  Optical Digital Audio Output No
  Progressive Video Output (NTSC) No
  Sub-woofer Output (2.1) No
Dimensions 430 x 255 x 62 mm (W x D x H)  
Weight (kg) 2.15  

2. Unpacking / Menu

Sony DVP-NS330 DVD Player - page 2

Unpacking - Control Menu

The european retail package includes the unit, the remote control, two batteries, and the stereo with video cable. We would like to see a coaxial cable included as well.

On the unit's front panel, we can see the power button on the left, and on the right the eject button placed next to the play/search/skip multi knob. On the right also are the stop and pause buttons. Lower are the the "PICTURE MODE" and the "SURROUND" shortcut buttons.

Below we can see the inside of the NS-330, after opening the cover, an action which is not recommended since you avoid the manufacturer's warranty. (Click on the image for an enlarged view).

Below are the two main chips used in the unit.

On the rear panel are the audio/video outputs. Analytically there are: a coaxial (digital) audio output, a stereo audio output (L & R) with video and last the universal (Scart) line out. There is no 5.1CH decoder, but this is something we wouldn't necessarily expect to find on a low-priced DVD player.

For excellent sound, we recommend you use the coaxial output for digital sound, with the use of an A/V 5.1CH (or more) amplifier. Sony offers a wide variety of home theater solutions.

If you are about to connect the DVD player straight to your TV you can use one of the two provided connections, composite video output and audio (RCA), or the scart, which also includes stereo sound. Here, we would like to note the lack of an S-Video output.

The retail package also includes the remote control. Click on the image for an enlarged view. It is a very ergonomic control and simple to use. It also provides control over your TV, as well as control of the majority of the player's functions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is the main screen from the player, the first one you see every time you turn the player on.

Below are some pictures from the unit's menu. As can been seen, there are some settings that can be accomplished during playback. Easy track/chapter navigation, picture and sound settings are included in the first menu.

In addition, parental control is available for password-protecting the player, bit rate information can be displayed on screen, and subtitle language is easily adjusted.

For accessing the advanced menu illustrated below, playback must be stopped.

The player can play MP3 files. Sony provides a convenient and user-friendly menu for fast navigation through the MP3 files or folders on a data disc (CD-R/RW). Below is an example with an MP3 audio CD where there are two different folders. In the first photo is shown the menu for the disc, and in the second the submenu.

The player's settings menu is very easy to learn and it is similar to that of most of the Sony players.


3. Reading Tests

Sony DVP-NS330 DVD Player - page 3

Reading Tests

When it comes to a DVD player, the main focus lies in the reading performance of the device. Technical performance tests could include detailed testing of the performance of the player with various video and audio input signals (MPEG-1 /2 Video/Audio, VBR High/Low switch, CBR, AC-3 implementation, LPCM multichannel audio, A/V synchronization navigation commands, transitions etc). However, such detailed testing is out of the scope of this review in an attempt to offer testing procedures directly resembling the average user's needs performing the usual, everyday tasks. Thus, the performance of the DVD player can be described in terms related to reading speed, reading accuracy, compatibility with various CD/DVD recordable/rewritable formats as well as data/audio playback support, stored in any common medium.

DVD support

The Sony DVP-NS330 we have in our hands is a region-2 drive, which means that the player is able to decode (play) only the pressed DVD-Video discs coming from the European region. However, the player is widely available in the European market through retailers as region-free, meaning that you will be able to use it with any disc regardless of the regional restrictions applied on it.

The next question would be whether the player supports both PAL and NTSC transmission formats. The answer is yes, although the player is already restricted to region 2, so it originally supports the PAL transmission format used throughout Europe. Unlike some multi-regional players, the DVP-NS330 has an internal transcoder that will automatically modulate the source signal to a derivative of PAL or NTSC. Of course, the player will recognize only the region 2 NTSC DVD-Video discs. What we would like from Sony is to make this feature adjustable through the setup menu, in order for users to manually set it to PAL, NTSC or to Auto select.

In case you have purchased a modified (multi-region 1-6) DVP-NS330, you must refer to your supplier in order see whether the modification covers the PAL/NTSC issue.

It is important to realize that to play a region 1 disc you require that your television be capable of handling the NTSC 3.58MHz signal (North American broadcast system). A Multi-Region player will allow you access discs from all over the world but your television in turn must be able to support the different transmission standards (PAL/SECAM/NTSC). When choosing a player and you know that your television doesn't have the ability to play NTSC 3.58, look for the Pal 60 ability in the specifications. In case you get a black & white picture despite the PAL/NTSC switch, you should try to resolve the problem through the DVD player's setup. Choose the Video option and set the player to output RGB to the television, ensuring that you are using Scart # 1 from the player to Scart #1 of the television. As a second thought, user can check for any switch located on the back panel of the player, or in the setup menu options.

We connected the DVP-NS330 through the Scart interface with the corresponding cable, which was unfortunately not included in the player's package. Of course, the player supports the DVD-Video format. We recorded a 4.35GB DVD-Video file on various DVD+R/-R, DVD-RW/+RW media. The recorders we used are some of the latest dual-format available on the PC market, as well as some 1st generation recorders. Pressed single / dual layer DVD-Video discs were also included in the test. Here, we remind you that the Sony DVP-NS330 supports DVD±R/RW and DVD-Video playback. However, the player does not support the Variable Recording (VR) mode for DVD-R/-RW. VR Recording offers extensive editing features and the user is able to select from among the different picture quality settings. However, such discs are only playable on "RW compatible players", and this recording mode is not available on PC recorders we used for this test. All the test discs were created with the same PC /software in the DVD-Video mode.

We checked the player's disc recognition as well as smooth navigation and playback. The results were very impressive, since all the discs were read completely. See the drives and media we used in the table below:

Recorder
Media
Speed recorded
Recognition
Playback
Sony DRX-500UL v1.0c
TDK DVD+RW 2.4x
2.4x
OK
Sony DRU-530A v2.0h
Mitsubishi Chemicals DVD+R 4x
4x
Taiyo yuden DVD+R 4x
4x
N-Tech DVD+R 4x
4x
Philips DVD+R 4x
4x
Pioneer DVR-107D v1.05
JVC DVD-R 8x
8x
MKM DVD+R 8x
8x
CMC DVD-R 4x
4x
CMC DVD+R 4x
4x
NEC ND-2500A v1.06
JVC DVD-RW 4x
4x
Maxell DVD+RW 4x
4x
Ritek DVD-R 4x
4x
Mam DVD-R 4x
4x
TDK DVD-R 4x
4x
Plextor DVD+R 4x
8x
Mitsubishi Chemicals DVD-R 4x
8x
Taiyo Yuden DVD-R 4x
8x
Optorite DD0401 v1.30E
MKM DVD+R 8x
8x
Hi-Space DVD-R 4x
4x
Verbatim DVD-R 4x
4x
BTC DRW1008IM v0.55
Pioneer DVD-R 4x
4x
LiteOn LDW-811S vHS0K
FujiFilm DVD-R 4x
4x
Single layer pressed DVD-Video (4.7GB)
-
-
Dual layer pressed DVD-Video (8.5GB)
-
-

The results were nevertheless to be expected from a newly released player like the Sony DVP-NS330. A DVD player offers limited features by its own nature, meaning that it lacks the DVD recording capabilities and advanced video authoring/editing features found on DVD recorders. Thus, reading reliability as well as compatibility are the key factors which will encourage most users to run out and buy a player. What is really interesting in our case is that the Sony DVP-NS330 did not face any problems reading even the latest 8x DVD±R and 4x DVD±RW discs.

The Sony DVP-NS330 does not support reading of DVD-ROM discs, even if they hold MPEG-1/2 video files or MP3/WMA files. This is usual for most DVD players since native DVD-ROM format is not supported.

The Sony DVP-NS330 supports AudioCD, CD-R/-RW, VideoCD and Super-VideoCD playback. The *.cda files of any audioCD are recognized flawlessly, even when the disc is factory pressed or is a CD-R/RW. In addition, CD-Text is supported.

In our case, when talking about data CD (CD-R/-RW), we refer to either audio compressed audio files (MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis..) or pure *.wav files, or to VideoCD and Super VideoCD.

In case of pressed AudioCDs the player recognizes and plays all the tracks, offering additional features such as CD-Text reading and navigation between tracks, as already mentioned in the previous page. This also applies to CD-R and CD-RW discs. The device played audio files of the CD-R, 10x HS-RW, 24x US-RW and 32x US-RW discs we inserted in the disc tray.

In addition, no problems were noticed when we played 8cm CD-R/-RW (185MB), 90/99min CD-R as well as CD business cards, as long as they are round shaped. The player's tray is not designed to accept any other media shapes, as is sometimes the case with smart cards or business cards.

For anyone that has purchased any protected audio discs from your music store, Sony DVP-NS330 will not let you down. The discs we tested were "Natalie Impruglia - White Lilies island" protected with Macrovision' Key2Audio system, and the the "Celine Dion - A New Day Has Come" protected with Cactus Data Shield 200. Both titles were recognized and played flawlessly. After all, those protection schemes are designed to discourage PC users from copying them and as such are not playable on PCs only.

The Sony DVP-NS330 does not support Super AudioCD.

Let's see now how the player reacts to various compressed audio files stored on data CD-R/RW. Although the specifications of DVP-NS330 clearly indicate MP3 support, it is not sure whether the drive can handle all MP3 compression modes. CBR or VBR encoding mode and variations in the sampling rate could be hard for any reader to decode. Below is available the reaction of the player to various MP3 and WMA files.

Compression type
Compression settings
Recognize / Play
MP3
CBR 20kBit 11025Hz Mono
No
CBR 20kBit 11025Hz Stereo
CBR 32kBit 11025Hz Stereo
CBR 32kBit 22050Hz Mono
CBR 40kBit 22050Hz Stereo
CBR 48kBit 22050Hz Stereo
CBR 48kBit 44100Hz Mono
Yes
CBR 56kBit 22050Hz Mono
Yes
CBR 56kBit 44100Hz Mono
No
CBR 64kBit 22050Hz Stereo
No
CBR 96kBit 22050Hz Stereo
Yes
CBR 96kBit 44100Hz Mono
Yes
CBR 96kBit 44100Hz Stereo
No
CBR 112kBit 44100Hz Stereo
Yes
CBR 128kBit 44100Hz Mono
CBR 128kBit 44100Hz Stereo
CBR 160kBit 44100Hz Stereo
CBR 192kBit 44100Hz Stereo
CBR 224kBit 44100Hz Stereo
CBR 256kBit 44100Hz Stereo
CBR 320kBit 44100Hz Stereo
VBR - High compression
VBR - Highest compression
VBR - Low compression
VBR - Lowest compression
VBR - Medium compression

Windows Media Audio

(WMA)

WMA 48kbps
No
WMA 64kbps
WMA 96kbps
WMA 128kbps
WMA 160kbps
WMA 192kbps
WAV
WAV

The player supports decoding of the most popular CBR and VBR MP3 modes. All the files sampled at 44.1 KHz CBR were playable despite the quantization resolution (112-320 Kbits). An exception to this was the 96kBit Stereo and the 56kBit Mono files, which were not recognized. It appears that the player is rather picky with lower sampling rates.

In case you are keen on using the WMA format for your audio files, the player will disappoint you. In addition, we were surprised the device did not accept the uncompressed *.wav audio files.

Note that the DVP-NS330 is equipped with a 192 kHz 24 Bit Digital to Analog Converter for audio.

As presented in the player's specifications, both VCD and Super Video CD formats are supported by the player. The discs are recognized and played by the drive without any particular problems.


4. Error Correction Tests

Sony DVP-NS330 DVD Player - page 3

Error Correction Tests

Here, we try to simulate one of the most interesting problems faced by the average user while using a DVD player, the reading accuracy of a DVD player when accessing a defective or scratched DVD or CD disc. Of course, the performance of the drive here has to do with the quality/precision of the mechanical parts (Optical Pickup Unit, sufficient servo control, etc) as well as with the drive's reading strategy under abnormal conditions, controlled by the main chipset and firmware commands.

Our experience from PC CD/DVD readers shows that some drives just skip the read errors at full reading speed, producing unreliable results, while some others dramatically slow down reading speed and perform read retries to maintain reading accuracy over the problematic areas. To our disappointment, firmware upgrades for the drives do not always positively affect the error correction performance of a reader.

In the case of a reader and especially a high-priced stand-alone reader, we do expect better control during the reading process. We tested the Sony DVP-NS330 with a number of pressed DVD-Video and AudioCD test discs. The ABEX series fromAlmedio offer a good picture of the error correction capabilities of a CD/DVD reader. In addition, we used the SBC444A test disc from Philips and the CD-Check test disc from Digital recordings.

DVD-Video

This is a single-sided, dual layer (S-2 type, OTP) disc with 8.5GB capacity. The disc can be used for checking the layer switching operation from layer1 to layer 0. The disc also includes test pictures and test signals for Dolby Digital, linear PCM (48kHz/24bit, 96kHz/24bit) and others to check for high quality picture and sound. The disc contents is a MPEG-2 NTSC DVD-Video file. Apart from the disc contents, the TCD-545 includes defects on the disc area (black dots and fingerprints). The size of the black dots varies from 0.4mm to 1.0mm. Fingerprints are sized from 0.065mm to 0.075mm.

Although a graphical presentation of the transfer rate when reading the test disc is always enlightening, it is not an easy task when you test a non-PC DVD player. As a result, we used the test disc as a normal DVD-Video disc and checked whether it is recognized and played correctly, with detailed navigation through the tracks and forward/reverse operations. Note that the size of the defects increases as we sequentially play the tracks.

The Sony DVP-NS330 read the disc successfully, and no skips, picture stills or glitches were noticed. This good behavior is also prominent amongst most PC DVD recorders/players. We proceed to the next test disc, the Abex TCD-541.

This disc is exactly the same as the Abex TCD-545 tested previously, except that the defect is a scratch of dimensions varying from 0.4mm to 3.0mm, increasing by steps of 0.2mm/step.

The Sony DVP-NS330 showed very good performance again. All chapters of the DVD-Video were played correctly. Here we should say that not all PC DVD/CD players are able to read the specific disc.

AudioCD

This is an AudioCD disc used for measurement and adjustment of the error correction ability and tracking/focusing servo characteristics of a player against the defects included in some CDs. Three kinds of defects are included on this disc, interruption in information layer, black dots and fingerprints. The interruptions are fabricated by intentionally varying the lengths of pits in the disc fabrication area. Their size varies from 0.5mm to 1.0mm. The diameter of the black dots are sized of 0.4mm to 1.0mm. Last, the simulated fingerprints are small gathered dots, of diameters sized from 65 micro-meters to 75 micro meters. 160pcs black dots in total construct the artificial fingerprint.

All audio tracks were played in the Sony DVP-NS330 deck. No audible read errors (clicks, skips) were reported.

The test concept with the Philips SBC 44A is the same as in the previous test disc. Interruptions on the information layer vary from 400 micrometer to 1000 micrometer, while the black dots have a size of 300 micrometer to 800 micrometer. The test results of the previous test were confirmed, with the player reading the discs accurately.

 

 

Same contents as with the Abex TCD-726, but different defect. A scratch sized of 0.4mm to 3.0mm is oin the disc's surface. Error symptoms expected when playing this disc are noise, sound skips, same sector repeatedly played, start of tune cannot be detected etc.

The Sony DVP-NS330 played successfully the first 7 tracks out of the 15 in total. The 8th track corresponds to a scratch size of 1.4mm. First problems occurred in the 8th track (1.6mm) with audible "clicks" while playing, followed by sound skips and playback interruptions in the 10th track (2.00mm). The remaining tracks were not playable at all.

This behavior has been met with many other PC CD players, where drives successfully corrected/concealed read errors coming from local scratches up to 1.8mm, approximately. Of course, some rare exceptions give us hope and raise our expectations from a player.

We finish this testing cycle with the CD-Check disc from Digital Recordings. Five audio signals (5 tracks) in combination with disc error patterns to rate the player's ability to read music and reproduce it completely. The five tracks contain a sequence of progressively difficult tests.

Check level 1 (track 1): Standard manufacturing errors

Check level 2 (track 2): 0.375mm scratch

Check level 3 (track 3): 0.750mm scratch

Check level 4 (track 2): 1.125mm scratch

Check level 5 (track 2): 1.500mm scratch

Any clicks, interruptions or looping during audio reproduction indicate failure of a Check level (audio track). Below you can see the test results:

Check level
1
2
3
4
5
Result
OK
OK
OK
Periodical Clicks
Continuous clicks

The Sony DVP-NS330 successfully handled (played) the first 3 tracks, which correspond to a scratch sized up to approximately 1.125mm. Notice that the same player managed to correct more seriously defective areas on the Abex TCD-721R test disc (up to 1.4mm). The explanation here must be related to the way the scratched areas are positioned on the surface of each disc. The Abex TCD-721R places the scratched area on a single part of the disc. On the other hand, the CD-Check disc "slices" the disc circle in four equal sectors and each scratch is placed along the margins of each sector (four equal scratches on the disc). As a result, the drive "faces" the same scratch 4 times per cycle, making playback more difficult. Don't forget that error correction/ concealment procedures can be effected by statistical factors, and thus, repeating the same test does not always give exactly the same results.

Summarizing, we could say that Sony DVR-NS330 returned average behaviour in the error correction tests.


5. Conclusion

Sony DVP-NS330 DVD Player - page 4

Conclusion

Pros

Cons

  • CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW compatible
  • VCD/SVCD compatible
  • User-friendly menu interface
  • Very good DVD media compatibility
  • Compatible with Ultra-speed CD-RW
  • Good picture quality
  • Good CD error correction
  • Very good DVD error correction
  • Low price
  • No S-Video output
  • Coaxial cable not included
  • Cannot play .wma files
  • No SACD support

The NS-330 is a very good and reasonably priced performer. The player is able to read all the DVD recordable/rewritable discs we chose for this test, recorded in the latest PC DVD burners. The CD-R and CD-RW media were also accepted and recognized by the player, allowing the user to enjoy MP3 audio, VCD or SVCD video playback. In the case of audio, we would like the player to support SACD as well as the .wma format.

With the error correction tests, the Sony performed well. Especially with DVD, all the defective areas on the DVD-Video discs were handled with remarkable reliability, making reproduction flawless. As for CD's, discs with scratches up to 1mm can be easily played back without problems. In comparison with PC players/recorders, the Sony NS-330 could be better in this area.

In addition, the lack of a built-in 5.1 decoder could be a weak point of the player, but this was expected when you have to spend only €110-120 for the player. What we would also expect is a more complete package with a coaxial cable as well as an S-Video output.

Last, the menu is user-friendly and navigation through the settings panels is easy and fast. What is also worth mentioning here is the MP3 menu interface where the audio tracks can be selected through a smart GUI.



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