Start SD-2001VNK DVD Player

    When I initially decided to review the Start SD-2001VNK DVD player, I was intending to simply briefly compare and contrast this machine to its higher specified sibling, the Start SD-2010VNK. However, it rapidly became apparent that these two machines are very different beasts on the inside, so I decided to give this player the full review treatment. The Start SD-2001VNK is a very capable DVD player indeed with one minor fault.

What's In The Box

    These days, you expect everything to be included with any new piece of hi-fi equipment so that it can be hooked up and used immediately. Such is the case with the Start SD-2001VNK. You get a remote control, batteries for the remote control, a three-way composite video/analogue audio cable, an operating manual and a warranty card. All standard stuff, really, and the minimum you would expect to have included in any DVD player that you purchase these days. However, an unexpected and pleasant inclusion in the overall packaging is an S-Video cable, something which you would normally have to pay extra for with most other DVD players.

    The player comes in a burnished gold finish and is sturdily-built. It isn't the most attractive DVD player that I have ever seen, but neither is it the ugliest, either.

Front Panel

    The front panel layout for the Start SD-2001VNK is fundamentally the same as that of the Start SD-2010VNK.

    The left side of the front panel carries the power on-off switch and the controls and sockets for Karaoke mode. The power on-off switch is a microswitch and hence has quite a soft touch about it. Despite the fact that this switch is a microswitch rather than a hard-wired power switch, the player must be turned on with the on-off switch before it will respond to any other buttons. A more logical approach to the operation of a DVD player is to have the eject button turn on the DVD player if it is pressed.

    The center of the front panel carries the disc tray and the fluorescent display. This display cannot be dimmed, and is a little too busy for my liking. One of the criticisms I levelled at the Start SD-2010VNK was the annoying flashing chapter indicator located on the right hand side of the fluorescent display. This indicator is present on the Start SD-2001, but it is used much more sensibly to indicate the current title being played. It is still an unnecessary item on the fluorescent display, but at least this is much less distracting than indicating the current chapter. One further operational irritation is an unnecessary disc spinning graphic on the fluorescent display. This indicator has the potential to cause some visual irritation in a typical darkened home theatre environment, and it has little operational use.

    The right side of the front panel has the tray open/close button, and the basic DVD navigation buttons; chapter skip forwards and backwards, play, pause and stop. Additionally, a Menu button is present. On the surface this seems like a nice inclusion, but in practice it is essentially useless as there are no arrow keys to allow menu navigation.

Rear Panel

    The rear panel of this player is equipped with a excellent selection of outputs. From left to right;

    The video outputs are grouped together and comprise the S-Video output, the composite output and three colour-coded RCA sockets which function as both RGB and component video outputs.

    Audio outputs consist of 5.1 Dolby Digital outputs from the internal decoder, left and right analogue audio outputs and both coaxial and optical digital outputs.

    A 240V AC input finishes off the rear panel.

Remote Control

    Whilst this is not the worst remote control I have ever seen, it isn't all that good. Other than the nicely laid out arrow and Select (Enter) keys, there seems little rhyme nor reason about the layout of the rest of the controls. The play/pause button in particular is very badly placed and takes a lot of getting used to. It is in the second from bottom complete row of buttons, second in from the left. This is a totally illogical place to put such a frequently used button. It is marked cryptically in red and takes forever to find the first time that you look for it. One thing that I will say in this button's defense is that it functions as a PLAY/PAUSE toggle, which to me is the logical functioning of such a key rather than wasting two separate keys on this function.

    The operating range and angle of operation of the remote control were acceptable, though were less than other remotes that I have used to date.


    The manual is semi-reasonable and is at least readable. "Chinglish" gems are scattered throughout, such as "Press OPEN/CLOSE button to open the disc tray and fetch disc up" and there are a number of blatant errors in the manual, such as exhorting the user to connect the Centre and Subwoofer analogue audio outputs to the Left and Right TV analogue audio inputs, but overall it is a reasonable effort.

Set-Up Menu

    The set-up menu is plain and has only limited options available. A notable omission is decent control over the inbuilt Dolby Digital Decoder - there are no level controls for the separate channels at all, and the only control options that exist are to enable or disable specific channels such as the centre channel, the surround channels and the subwoofer channel. This limits the usefulness of the inbuilt Dolby Digital decoder considerably.

Video Playback

    All video playback tests were performed with the player set to 16x9 output mode and using the S-Video output.

    The video output from this DVD player was generally excellent and of very high quality. It is of better quality than any other DVD player that I have reviewed to date other than the Toshiba SD-2109. The video output was extremely crisp and clear with no detectable chroma noise or low level noise inserted into the signal. Indeed, the video performance of this DVD player is far superior to the performance of the Start SD-2010VNK. This is largely explained by the fact that these two machines use different MPEG decoder chips. The Start SD-2001VNK uses a C-Cube MPEG decoder chip, whereas the Start SD-2010VNK uses a Zoran MPEG decoder chip.

    Unfortunately, I noted one specific video problem that was exhibited by this DVD player. An occasional vertical skip was introduced into the image. This would happen several times during any given DVD, and whilst subtle, it did become annoying after a while. It would occur once every five to ten minutes. I suspect that most people would not notice this fault at all.

    The player is marked as a Zone 4 player, and is marketed as such. The evaluation unit that I was supplied with played only Zone 4 and Zone 0 DVD titles.

    The fast forward and fast reverse functions are relatively smooth and work in x2 and x8 speeds both forwards and backwards. These functions lock in immediately when they are selected.

    The reverse chapter skip function will return to the start of the current chapter rather than to the previous chapter. I personally prefer the other implementation of this function, which is for the player to skip to the previous chapter when this button is selected.

    RSDL layer changes were noticeable, but the typical pause was of the order of 1/2 second and was quite unobtrusive.

On Screen Display

    The on-screen display is functional, but basic. Basic disc information only is provided on the single screen of information available, including time elapsed, time remaining, chapter time elapsed and audio/subtitle/angle settings. No bit rate meter is available. A variety of appropriate words accompany key presses on the remote control.

Standards Conversions

    This is an area where the Start SD-2001VNK impresses. It is capable of converting NTSC DVDs to PAL-50 output. I tested this feature with the Beyond The Mind's Eye Region 0 NTSC DVD, a high bit rate NTSC DVD, and found that there were no faults exhibited during this conversion. The output is smooth and free of glitches and is a far superior looking conversion to that performed by its sibling, the Start SD-2010VNK. Unfortunately, I did not have my copy of Video Essentials at hand, which tripped up the Start SD-2010VNK, so as to specifically test these images on this player.

CDR & Video CD

    The Start SD-2001VNK can play CD-R media and Video CDs.

Audio Playback

    I only used this DVD player with its coaxial digital output, and had no specific problems.

    Subjectively, there were some very subtle, marginal audio sync problems. Objectively, the analogue vs digital delay measured on this player was 16 milliseconds, which puts it into the territory where sync problems will very occasionally be barely discernible.

    DTS output is not supported by this DVD player. Linear PCM audio output at 96kHz/24 bit sample depth is not supported by this player. The player will downconvert any such DVD output to 48kHz/16 bit sample depth output.

    MPEG bitstreams are automatically converted to Linear PCM.

Disc Compatibility Tests

    I had one DVD that had a minor playback problem with the Start SD-2001VNK.

    The Matrix Region 4 "Follow The White Rabbit" extra did not function correctly. When this feature was activated, the player would skip directly to the scene immediately following the first "White Rabbit" icon instead of starting the movie from the beginning.


The Good Points
    Switchable Component/RGB video output: Both component and RGB video output is supported by this player, a big plus for some users.

    Image Quality: This DVD player has one of the better image outputs that I have seen, with an unfortunate occasional very slight vertical skip in the image that marred the overall presentation of the image a little.

    PAL-50: This DVD player can output a PAL-50 signal from an NTSC DVD, and can do this very well.

The Average Points
    Flashing Title logo: This indicator is unnecessary.
The Bad Points
    Annoying disc spinning graphic on the fluorescent display. This indicator is unnecessary.

    Eject button. The player must be turned on with the on-off switch before the eject button will function.

    Occasional vertical skips in the image.

Features At A Glance

Video Component Output RGB Output
Audio DTS Output 96/24 Output
Plays CDRs
Conversion NTSC to PAL-50
Inbuilt Decoder Dolby Digital

In Closing

    The Start SD-2001VNK is a much better DVD player than its higher-specified sibling, the Start SD-2010VNK. For starters, the image is much better looking and is only marred by the occasional very subtle vertical skip in the image. This player is worthy of consideration if you require RGB output from a DVD player and don't want to spend well over $1,000 to get it, or if you have a PAL-only TV and want to watch NTSC DVDs.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality
Value For Money

Technical Specifications (Manufacturer Supplied)

Product Type: DVD-Video, Video CD and Audio CD player
Region: Zone 4 (Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, Mexico).
Signal System: PAL / NTSC
Audio Frequency Response: 4Hz - 22kHz (48kHz sampling)
4Hz - 44kHz (96kHz sampling)
Signal to Noise Ratio: 98dB
Dynamic Range: 90dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.003%
Dimensions: 430 (w) x 340 (d) x 85 (h)
Weight: 4.5 kg
Price: $899
Distributor: Start Digital Co
151-153 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne  VIC  3205
Telephone: (03) 9696-9299
Facsimile: (03) 9686-3733

© Michael Demtschyna
13th March 2000