Click on the photo above to see a larger
12/54 Video DACs
24/192 Audio DACs
● Component Video - Progressive Scan
Faroudja DCDi Processing
● Plays DVD-V and DVD-A
● Size: 4 3/4" H x 17 5/8" W x 16" D
Weight: 23 Pounds
MSRP: $1,299 USA; Street $889
I am like a lot of you, as DVD-A has been
something that I have been willing to wait for. I had a very typical 5.1 surround
system with speakers that worked best when 100 Hz and below normally going
to the surrounds was rolled
off to the subwoofer. I also have been using a
processor without analog bass management, so I was struggling with what
would be the best solution for that as well. The move to 7.1 was a good fit
with my system and room design, and thanks to an upgrade program, a
My point here is that, for a lot of us, keeping up with the changes in
our hobby can consume more than its fair share of our free time. I think
that it is important to understand the benefit of the changes we make in our
systems, particularly when they are format-based changes. I was immersed in
figuring out how to do multi-channel “The Right Way” and still be fiscally
responsible. I have been able to modify the boundaries of my current system
by co-opting my significant other with equipment that she actually uses and
Trying to rationalize the need for an additional music format was something I was
struggling with, and rationalizing it as a vital part of day to day
living just made me laugh to myself. Finding a piece of equipment that
simplifies the system or actually eliminates components or clutter is always
a great selling point, so the idea of a multi-format player with high build and
component quality is always a good choice. Yamaha has tried to
address this with the DVD-CX1.
I brought DVD-A into my system because it was part of an upgrade to my
display path. I did not expect that I would make use of the analog outputs
on the DVD player until I had figured out the bass management conundrum. One day,
just for fun, I chose "Large" for all my speakers in the setup menu on my
processor, and pushed the DVD-A button.
Remember the first time you heard someone in the orchestra cough? The
frantic replay to find the spot that this happened, to be sure that it was
really what you heard? It is the confirmation that you are getting that
little “extra” that we all are trying to find. Remember the look on your
fellow hobbyists faces when they heard it too?
I felt that way with my first listen to DVD-A in my system. It was a great
way to enjoy the music. Even music that I was very familiar with in stereo
was attracting critical listening again. I heard DVD-A used to demonstrate
Meridian's new line last spring. They were using the Bucky Pizarelli disc
that I used during this review. I was so impressed that I decided then and
there that I would take the opportunity to recreate that experience in my
own system, albeit somewhat more modestly priced. Unfortunately I spent a lot of
time fretting about bass management, rather than listening to music, so I got
side tracked for awhile.
I thoroughly enjoy watching musical performance on DVD. It is probably my
favorite way to listen to music lately. The visual cues given off by the
performance are as stimulating and integral for me as the sound. It
doesn’t matter to me if it is Clapton, Yo-Yo Ma, or the London Philharmonic.
I enjoy watching artists at work. It is, to use a well worn phrase, “more
involving”. There is much more of the “being there” that we are constantly
trying to reproduce with technically accurate components. For me, that is
the essence of listening to music with the level of detail that most of us
are trying to experience. It gives us a connection with the performance that feels
as realistic as possible.
Multi-channel audio is getting us closer to that goal by enveloping us with
music. I think that it also will attract more people to the
hobby, in the same way that 5.1 surround
sound has attracted people to the DVD movie format. It not only sounds good,
it is a lot of fun.
Because we are now used to surround sound in our movies, we will want to hear
music that way too. Digital surround sound for movies and music is very high
tech, but it is not important to understand how it works, in order to enjoy
it and want to have it in your home.
The Yamaha DVD-CX1 is a 5 disc carousel changer that is capable of playing
both DVD Video discs and DVD-Audio discs. It is also compatible with CD-R
and CD-RW media and MP3 formatted discs. It is equipped with 192 kHz/24 bit
audio DACs, which are becoming the industry standard, as is the rest of the
feature pack on this player. It comes with a remote control,
cable set, and a standard modular removable power cord (non-grounded).
Only the audio aspects of this player are covered here, since the
already been covered in our Benchmark pages. However, I did watch a number of movies through
this player and found it to be quite satisfactory. (I had to set the
Black Level to Lighter, as the initial viewing appeared to be much too
dark.) I ran an 8” CRT projector with a Faroudja NRS at 720p, and the player
set to interlaced output.
The first thing that I noticed when I picked up this piece was
the weight. It is surprisingly heavy, and in a very heavy carton. I don’t
know why, but we seem to associate weight and thick cartons with quality in
this business. I remember thinking that it was nice that they put it in a
good box. The player weighs 23 pounds; fit and finish are very good. Part of
the weight is the copper shielding of the electronics package. There is a
high level of attention paid to the construction of the CX1.
The front panel layout is simple and uncluttered. There are transport
buttons on the faceplate for basic disc operations. Most of the initial setup must be done with the on-screen menus and the remote control. The panel on
the front of the unit can give you a lot of information, but you have to be
pretty close to read it. The remote is a simple standard Yamaha unit that
has been formatted for the CX1. Back lighting is not present, but most people
that use a device of this caliber will probably operate it with a multi-function controller of some sort. The
player has additional remote control
inputs on the back panel for allowing the use of an advanced controller. It
also has an RS 232 connection for two-way control and integration. This is a
nice feature, which fits well with installation in a large centrally
Click on photo above to see larger version.
The connections available on the back panel include the
outputs for DVD-A and decoded DD or DTS. There is one pair of two channel analog
outs, one coaxial digital out, and one optical digital out. The video connections include
two sets of component outputs, two S-Video outputs, and two composite video outputs.
The terminals on the back are of good quality and there is sufficient
spacing to use all of the types of cables I had available. The weight of
this player made it one of the first pieces in a long time where I could
connect the plugs without holding the player from the
front. The unit has Yamaha’s isolation feet with a rubber surface
attached. It sits firmly on a rack shelf and is reasonably isolated from
I set up the CX1 fairly quickly. The menu was reasonably intuitive, and the
setup for audio was very similar to other players that I have been using
lately. The speaker setup menu is simple to navigate, and aside from not
having a subwoofer test tone, easy to use for adjusting your system. The
setup does not affect the digital out, so your processor can
be used when you select the options. The default settings are Bit Stream for Dolby
Digital and PCM for DTS, so you have to go through the whole setup
carefully. This unit also lets you elect to down convert the PCM signal from
96 kHz to 48 kHz if
your processor is not set up to handle higher sampling frequencies.
None of the setup is used for the DVD-A analog output signals. This is
not always easy to figure out as it is used for the decoded signals
processed in the unit for DTS and Dolby Digital and output on the same
analog outputs. Simply reading the manual did not tell me this. It took a
bit of messing around with test disc to finally figure it out. This is one
of my major complaints about the player; the documentation is either too
simple or too vague. I can’t imagine that someone would be able to get it
figured out if they did not have a good understanding of the format. The
tendency to default to the Dolby Digital information or track on a DVD-A
disc will cause some users to miss the DVD-A tracks and not know they are
listening to DD rather than DVD-A.
Listening tests were performed using the analog outputs for DVD-A and
standard CDs My system was in direct mode for the CDs and DVD-A mode
for the DVD-A discs. I did some critical listening to DVD-A after it
was reprocessed by my receiver, and I will tell you here and now, that it was worth
the messing around to hear the difference between CDs and DVD-A.
My B&K receiver allows me to select my rear channels or the side
channels to input the back channel information. Having rears and sides is
also an option, but I was trying to stick to the intention of the recording
engineers and run with only 5 speakers active. The Chesky folks have their
own variant of this with the 4.0 track. I found that I preferred the rear
channels rather than the sides. My rear channels are at 1400 and 2200
from the listening position, because the back wall of my listening room
has two symmetrical angled walls and a set of double doors.
I did a bit of critical listening using the digital out and the processing
for Dolby and DTS via my receiver's processor, but the CX1 sounded very good using either the
player's onboard decoders or my receiver's
decoders for both surround sound movie formats.
The balance of my listening was focused on this player’s performance for DVD-A multi-channel playback and two-channel
My listening room is my theater. I used my primary display to see the on-screen menus. I did all of my listening with my display shut down as the
fans in my projector are noisy. With my display shut down, I was
able to toggle the Video Off function back and forth to see if their was any
perceptible difference in sound quality. I did not detect a significant
difference in the performance of the player with the video section shut
I did all of my listening in the range of 65 to 85 dB with my SPL meter in
the C-weighted mode.
I used a number of discs that are familiar for DVD-A evaluation. The
first was the well worn “Swing Live” from Chesky. The disc gives you three
separate ways to listen to the 96/24 analog signal. Most of us will have to
make best use of the 4.0 track, as it is supplied to accommodate the 5.1
systems we have. There is also a 4.0 mix that is compatible with your
surround system that will come through the digital port.
The DVD-CX1 did a respectable job of decoding and outputting the high
quality analog signal from the disc. The recording of Buky
Pizzarelli, Allen Vache, Michael Moore, Bernard Purdie, and Peter Appleyard
was engineered to place you in the audience at a crowded dinner club. This is
the essence of multi-channel audio reproduction. The format succeeds in
making that happen. The CX1 extracted the recording from the disc without
diminishing the impact of the performance. Even if you are not a fan of the
genre’, this performance is moving. If you do enjoy this kind of music, this is one of
the special recordings of its kind.
The CX1 does its job by getting out of the way. There are a
tremendous amount of audio cues that are required to form visual detail from
sound. Reproducing those cues as accurately as possible is required to give
the listener the spatial references that make the recording work. With
multi-channel DVD-A, I feel
like I am in a crowded place with lots of other activity in addition to the
artists. We are all together, the performers, the audience and all of the
other people working the room. You hear the glasses as they are set on
tables, the voices of exuberant support, and whispered recognition. These
things are not distracting or noisy, because they are conveyed accurately
and are part of the audio scene.
They are as much a part of capturing the performance as the mallet hitting
the plates on the vibraphone, or the work of the other musicians on the
The dimension created by the multi-channel recording without the need for
data compression, adds to the presence I felt when listening to the DVD-A
tracks. On track 7 of "Swing Live", there is a point at (56:06) when the
sound of crashing plates is so clear that I thought my cats were trashing
the kitchen (I reflexively winced at the sound, having been a busboy once).
The next disc I listened to was the DTS version of Queen’s "A Night At The
Opera". I am a Queen fan, and I own every record they made
in CD format. But, I do not like the song selection on this record much. While
the new recording is technically well done, it is a skip fest for me. Love of
My Life was one of the stops, and the harp on this track is beautiful and
well rendered. I also listened to Bohemian Rhapsody a few times, which is my
favorite song on the disc. The multi-channel recording conveys the big
operatic feeling that the song was intended to give us, and is much, much better than the
I also listened to the selections on the Chesky "Ultimate Surround Sampler"
used in the setup procedure for this review. The hand drumming on the Conga Kings’
Tumbao De Tamborito makes the listener feel like
part of a drumming circle. The drum heads resonate in a way that gives us
a feeling for the size of the room in which they are being played, without
using the recording to add that ambience. The CX1 gives us an opportunity to
do this without diminishing the intention of the recording engineer, or the
performer, by leaving information behind, or adding artificial ambience to
make up for the loss.
The player performed well on two-channel stereo from either DVDs or
CDs. The sound quality was excellent, and I listened in separate sessions
to prevent the multi-channel affect from skewing the listening experience.
I experimented with the multi-disc functions of this player. The system did
a reasonable job of changing discs as long as they were the same format. It
was not possible to shuffle between DVD-V and DVD-A discs unless I manually
intervened. It will play multiple discs of the same format with the same
functionality as most carousel type changers.
On the Bench (JEJ)
At 1 kHz
(16/44 test CD), THD is very, very low.
11 kHz and
12 kHz inputs produced only a very small set of peaks at the 23 kHz region.
Larger peaks occurred outside of the audible band.
signals, the frequency response is within 0.3 dB from 10 Hz to 20 kHz.
signals (24/96 test DVD), the frequency response is within 0.8 dB from 10 Hz
to 48 kHz.
It is too bad that Yamaha did not include SACD capability in this
player. If they had, purchasing the CX1 would be a no brainer. (Yamaha does
have a universal player though, at a higher price.) Nevertheless,
this is a beautifully constructed piece of equipment,
and it sounds great.
- Brett Johnson -
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