Rp56 review

Keywords: rp56 review
Description: Panasonic DVD-RP56 DVD Player 0 Stores Found. Lowest Price - $0.0

Have you been thinking of buying a Sony DVP-NS700 progressive-scan DVD player? Would you like to save yourself eighty bucks? Here's an easy way to do it: buy a Panasonic DVD-RP56 instead of the Sony. The new DVD-RP56 matches or surpasses all the key features of the Sony NS700, for a street price of $220, $80 less than the street price of the Sony.

As a matter of fact, the RP56 has a better de-interlacing chip than the next unit up in the Panasonic line of DVD player's, the company's DVD-RP91. While you'll get the very-good to excellent Genesis chip for 480-interlaced (480i) to 480-progressive (480p) line-doubling chores in the RP91, the RP56, coming in at well under half the street price of the RP91, features the excellent Faroudja 2200 chip, the very same chip found in expensive outboard line-doublers and scalers such as the Silicon Valley iScan.

Please note: when I first wrote this review, Epinions had no listing for the "DVD-RP56" and, instead, they had a listing for a product called the "DVD-PV56." It was a typo, and Epinions had clearly intended the "PV56" reviews to cover the RP56. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a Panasonic product with the brand name "DVD-PV56."

In fact, the search engine pointers placed by Epinions still bring readers to the "PV56" reviews when they type "Panasonic DVD-RP56." The product descriptions and merchant links are identical for both the correctly-spelled DVD-RP56 reviews and the "DVD-PV56" reviews. Hopefully this won't cause too much confusion for anybody. If you've come here for information on the DVD-RP56, you're at the right place.

You might get even better deinterlacing performance for your dollar with the RP56 than with the RP91, however, the usefulness of this will depend on the kind of TV you have. If your TV will not benefit from the key feature of the RP56, which is its ability to output video at the progressive-scan 480p level, then you should go with a less expensive model, such as Panasonic's excellent DVD-RV31.

How do you know if your TV will benefit from the progressive-scan output? Simple. If your TV is called an H/DTV-ready TV (or just an H/DTV), meaning it can display images at 480p, then it will benefit from the RP56's progressive-scan output. If you have a regular, NTSC-standard analog TV (a standard, non high-def TV), whether it's a direct-view set or a rear-projection (RPTV or "big screen"), the progressive-scan output just won't work with it.

It will be possible to use the RP56 with a regular TV, but only with the DVD player set to standard, interlaced 480i output. Since the RV31 will do this same standard mode, and costs about $70 less, it'd be a better value, unless you are planning to move up to an H/DTV-ready set in the very near future.

Panasonic has kind of hit a home run with their DVD players of the past few years. The 2002 models, including the RP56, are no exception to this trend. Whereas the entry-level Sony players have an extremely lightweight feel, the Panasonic DVD players create an impression of sturdiness and solidity. I mean, a DVD player doesn't have to weigh more than a couple of pounds, since it's basically just an optical drive, a few ounces of related electronics, and a case, but its nice to own something that feels a bit substantial, as does the RP56.

One of the coolest features of the RP56 is that it contains a Faroudja 2200 video processing chip, a chunk of sophisticated silicon which up to now was only found in higher-end video gear like the iScan outboard line-doubler ($800).

In the interlaced mode, which you'd use with a standard NTSC TV, the DVD player puts out a 480-interlaced signal (480i), meaning that, during each 1/60th of a second, an alternating video "field" is projected onto the TV screen (first the 240 odd-numbered horizontal lines of the image, then the 240 even-numbered horizontal lines). In the player's progressive-scan mode, it puts out a 480-progressive signal, meaning that each 1/60th of a second a full 480-line image is projected.

Actually, with TV video, there are only 30 frames per second (fps), so in pair of interlaced frames, or set of two progressive frames, the underlying frame image is identical. This is fine for video source material, such as live sports broadcasts, which originate at 30fps. However, problems can arise during display of film-source material which originates at 24fps. That's where the Faroudja chip starts to earn its keep. Using a technology known as 3:2 pulldown, in progressive-scan mode, the chip reduces motion artifacts and other problems which may arise during display of movie-source DVD's.

The DVD-RP56 plays DVD-Video, Video-CD's, CD's, CD-R's, CD-RW's, and MP3 CD's. For those of you interested in getting top-notch audio performance from the player's DVD soundtrack digital output, note that it can perform at up to 96kHz/24-bit. For DVD, the player is compatible with both Dolby Digital (DD) and Digital Theater Surround (DTS) soundtracks.

The player has a nice variable (up to 100x) forward and reverse-scan control. There's a jog-shuttle dial on the far right side of the player's front face, which is excellent for reviewing forward and backward through a DVD. Unfortunately, the jog-shuttle dial is not replicated on the remote control. So, you'll get a little exercise jogging back and forth to operate the jog shuttle. But I'm sure most video enthusiasts can benefit from a little exercise. The less-energetic can forward and reverse-scan by clicking the left and right buttons on the remote, all without exiting the easy chair.

The remote is the same one that comes with all the Panasonic DVD players. It's fairly compact and fits in your hand pretty well. With a little practice, you can operate it by feel. This is a good thing, because the remote is not backlit. The buttons are a tad mushy.

The RP56 has a comprehensive set of outputs. For regular analog audio, such as you'd feed into your TV's audio input jacks or a regular stereo aux-in, there are L/R audio outs. For the digital audio feed, which would typically go to the digital input of an A/V receiver with an integral DD/DTS decoder, there's a TOSLINK optical jack. The only type of jack not present is a coaxial digital-audio jack. As the signal passed over either an optical or a coaxial digital-audio line is identical, the lack of this type of jack isn't inherently important. It may be an issue if you have an A/V receiver with only a single TOSLINK optical input and it's already used for another piece of gear such as a satellite receiver. However, it's usually only on the very entry-level ($200 or less) receivers that you only find a single optical input.

Rounding out the audio outputs, there's a line-level subwoofer output. This is an unusual feature for a DVD player, though somewhat useless. The idea is that, if you don't have a regular A/V receiver and a full set of five surround-sound speakers and, instead, you are sending the L/R audio of the player into some kind of receiver for playing in stereo mode, the subwoofer output will let you simultaneously run a self-powered subwoofer for reproducing the low-frequency effects (LFE) information in a soundtrack. In other words, it will let you replicate, but with stereo-size speakers, the so-called 2.1-channel (two speakers plus a subwoofer) setup often used with PC's. However, since almost all self-powered subs have speaker-level in/outs, in this type of situation you could just run your stereo speaker wires into the sub through those speaker-level connections. But it was still nice of Panasonic to think about people who are soldiering on without surround-sound systems. Along these same lines, there's a Virtual Surround-Sound (VSS) mode which is alleged to create a surround-sound effect when playing DD soundtracks over a stereo sound system. I have yet to hear a difference between regular stereo and the VSS mode, even when I set VSS for "extra crispy."

For output of the interlaced, 480i video, there's a composite-video jack, an S-Video jack (somewhat higher quality connection than S-Video), and a component-video output. The component-video output, which is actually a set of three jacks for the three separate cables which carry a component signal, will give you the best connection quality although, unfortunately, it's usually not found on the less expensive TV sets. If you switch the player to the progressive mode, the signal will be output through the component jacks only. All H/DTV-ready TV's have at least one component-video input, so you shouldn't have any connection problems here.

The RP56 uses on-screen menus (your TV screen, that is, though there's also a small LCD panel on the front face to give you basic status messages) to control its various settings. The owners manual is pretty straightforward and it won't take long for you to set the various parameters for your TV set (i.e. 4:3 or 16:9 screen, etc.). The onscreen menus can display in English, French, or Spanish.

This DVD player, if you buy it in the U.S. operates only with Region 1 DVD's. Like every other Panasonic DVD player I've ever used, the RP56 is actually made in Japan. Hey, the Japansese economy isn't doing so great now either. They can probably use the manufacturing jobs too. We can't export all that work to Kuala Lumpur. Panasonic covers the unit with a one-year labor on parts and a skimpy 90 days on labor.

I'm not going to go into a lengthy warning here on premium cables and extended warranties. Suffice to say, you should not buy them. Get the RP56 from a retailer with 30-day money-back return. If it works for 30 days, it'll probably keep working perfectly for 30 years. As for cables, buy the least-expensive models from a reputable manufacturer (Recoton, RCA, Radio Shack, etc.), making sure, of course, that your cables have the appropriate plugs at the ends. See the Caveat Emptor sections of my last two reviews for advice about choosing an electronics merchant.

Panasonic is really batting 1,000 with their DVD player line. Their RP31 is one of the best values in entry-level players. The RP56, as you've read here, is a category-killer in the lower-priced progressive-scan market segment. As for the company's RP91, which I hope to evalute shortly, it's quite popular among videophiles due to some rather special tricks it can do scaling non-anamorphic letterboxed DVD's so they can display full-screen on a 16:9 display. Panasonic might not be at the cutting-edge of quality and technology with their TV's, but with DVD players like the RP56 and its brethren they've earned the right to dominate the DVD playing field.

Photogallery Rp56 review:

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