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Designed as more of a system show-off than system set-up set, The Ultimate DVD Platinum is best viewed for the sheer pleasure of its aural and visual vignettes. You'll use it to configure your home theater, too, of course--disc 2 (not included on the Gold or Silver editions) is a reasonably thorough set-up and evaluation tool. But the heart of this set is the wealth of video and music included on the first disc.
Each part of disc 1 showcases different features and capabilities of DVD-video, from screen formats and multi-angle viewing to multiple languages and surround-sound formats such as DTS, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro Logic. For demo material, the disc draws from a deep and exciting reserve of quality filmmaking and animation, including excerpts from classics (Chronos, Beyond the Mind's Eye) and lesser-known gems ("Liquefied," "Jackpot"), as well as documentaries ("Boeing 777 PTQ," "Great Barrier Reef") and music (Mickey Hart's "Indoscrub," Alan Parsons's "The Time Machine").
Highly useful is the ability to compare the quality and characteristics of the different surround formats in use today (provided your DVD player or surround receiver can decode them). If your DVD remote has an Audio button, you can even switch between Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel soundtracks while you watch. Audiophiles will delight in both the prominence of surround-mixed music and the presence of several music-only tracks recorded by Mapleshade and WILDCHILD! Records at 96-kHz/24-bit resolution. (Listen through your DVD player's analog outputs here; again, you must have compatible hardware--in this case, 96-kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converters--to appreciate this feature.)
The audio tests on the set-up and diagnostic disc confuse more often than they enlighten, though some are quite useful. The video tests, however--which consist of Brightness, Contrast, Purity, Geometry, Convergence, Chroma, Hue, Clamp, and Sharpness--are indeed eye-openers, and a strip of blue cellophane is included to assist you in this area. --Michael Mikesell
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