“Twelve thousand dollars! I can buy a DVD player for 100 bucks! Why would I spend that kind of money?” My friend’s reaction to the ClassÃ© CDP-300 sight unseen was perhaps predictable in some ways. You don’t have to spend much to be able to play DVDs. Yet, using that logic, BMW would never sell a single motor vehicle, while everyone drives a Toyota Yaris.
Even before you fire the CDP-300 up, you can tell where a lot of that 12-large has gone just by looking at it. Its beautifully sculptured aluminum casing has the fit and finish of a Euro fighter. The first DVD player in ClassÃ©’s Delta line, it shares that range’s distinctive curved corners and minimalist appearance. Discs are loaded via a slot mechanism, illuminated on the outside by a soft blue light that helps you to see what you’re doing in the dark. But the real show stopper is undoubtedly to the left of the slot, where an inbuilt LCD screen displays the video from whatever disc is playing. Such screens have been a feature of some of the better AV processors and a few Media Centre PCs, but this is the first time to my knowledge one has been used in a DVD player. It’s a useful thing for setting up the video when your equipment is in a separate room, but here it has the added advantage of acting as a touchscreen to control player functions. Instead of using the admittedly excellent remote control, you can set the player up directly by pressing buttons on the screen. Nice.
Components and connections
Built in-house at ClassÃ©’s facility in Quebec Canada, the CDP-300 is the world’s first high-end DVD player to fully implement all HDTV resolutions. In the engine room are three CirrusLogic CS4928 chipsets, crunching the digital signal into an analog picture. Through component output, the CDP-300 de-interlaces the image and then scales it up to 1080i. But using the HDMI output, it is capable of scaling a DVD image up to a retina soothing 1080p, currently the highest rate available. HDMI is a new type of video connection designed to transfer video and HD multi channel audio in a single cable. If you want to see it at home, check that your monitor or projector is high definition (capable of producing 1080p pictures) and equipped with an HDMI input. If it does, then connect it to a DVD player with HDMI-out (such as the CDP-300), and get set to enjoy some of the sharpest video images available.
The CDP-300 will pretty well set you up for all of your audio needs as well. It plays CDs, up-sampling them to a class leading 24-bit/192kHz resolution. Better than that, it also plays DVD-Audio discs which have a higher resolution than CDs again, actually being recoded in 24-bit. The number of DVD-Audio discs available is dwarfed by the number of CDs you can buy, but if you love music, seek out a disc or two; they can be a real improvement over the now two decade old CD format. Note that SACD is not supported; so if you have a significant library of these discs, you’ll have to continue using a separate machine.
Beside this, the ever increasing alphabet soup audio formats supported MP3, AAC, WMA DTS-CD, including bafflingly huge number different recordable formats. Be aware, however, while will play recoded CDs DVDs, not actually CD DVD recorder itself. The emphasis end market is on overall picture quality, and throwing recording functionalty would detract from that. Some might baulk at this fact considering price entry, but it’s bit like complaining that you can only fit two people in Ferrari F40; it sort of misses the point.
As the ClassÃ© CDP-300 is new to the Australian market, there weren’t any review samples available yet from local importer Convoy International, with whatever examples here already spoken for by a number of lucky owners. For our audition I dropped into Sydney retailer Audio Solutions to have a look for myself. Not a bad option in the end as I was able to watch it through a nice Samsung projector, in a dedicated theatre room. To commence proceedings, I watched the player in 1080i mode, connecting it to the projector with a component RGB cable. On Into the Blue, the picture had detail and sharpness that was up there with some of the best I had yet seen. On the underwater sequences where Jessica Alba dove down to the wreck, colours were vivid and rich, but not in an unrealistic, cartoonish kind of way. Skin tones and water colour were crisp and believable, with little in the way of discernable bleed through. Detail, as I said, was fantastic, with beads of water on a persons face, or the line of a fishing rod, clearly visable.
Not wasting any time then, I cracked out the HDMI cable, plugged it into the Samsung, and selected 1080p resolution via the hefty, backlit remote. The improvement in picture wasn’t absolute night and day, but it was without a doubt noticeable right from the get-go. The thing that struck me the most was the improvement in the depth of field. The picture appeared to become a great deal more three dimensional. It was like I could put my whole arm into the scene. On the Into Thin Air documentary, the track working its way up into the Himalayan Mountains appeared to snake on forever into the distance. There are only a handful of other players that can produce that kind of detail.
You can buy the ClassÃ© CDP-300 confident you are getting the best available. Hopefully, you’ll be enjoying the player for years after you’ve forgotten the sting of the price.