Toshiba SD-2109 DVD Player

    Recently, I had some rather annoying problems with the player I was using for reviewing and enjoying various discs, as I was with most of the rest of my home theatre equipment. The problems with my DVD player revolved around compatibility with my television set, which restricted me pretty much to composite input due to the fact that the people who made the player in question forgot to provide S-Video output. Coincidentally, I had been viewing commercials for the Toshiba line of products, mostly by accident, quite a lot at the time. One of these commercials stated that Toshiba's DVD players were setting the standards by which other players were to be judged. A bold claim, I thought, but my curiosity was further built by the fact that Toshiba SD-2109s were in use at the local Hi-Fi store for demonstration purposes. At a recommended retail price of $699, this player represents excellent value for money. If you buy it from a retailer who knows their stuff such as Sydney Hi-Fi, they can sell you a version that has already been region-modified for $800. The player also features a few handy extras for reviewers like myself, such as a comprehensive display of time figures and a transfer bit-rate meter. It is a well thought-out player by any standards.

What's In The Box

    Just about everything you need to get the very basic audio and video performance out of this player is included in the box, although it is somewhat disappointing that some extras weren't provided for the slightly more serious DVD buff. However, this is still a vast improvement upon my previous player, the Grundig GDV-100D, which didn't even include basic stereo cables. A somewhat ugly remote control is provided with batteries, as well as a three-way cable for composite video and analogue audio, and a mildly helpful operations manual. A warranty form is also included, and the player I bought also contained a form which the buyer can send to Toshiba in Melbourne in order to receive four free Warner Brothers titles. This offer was a limited one, but I presume that another one of its kind will soon take its place, given how keen Toshiba would be to hold their place in the market. In any case, serious users will need to purchase an S-video cable for the video output, and a coaxial cable for the digital audio output. Annoying, yes, but I wouldn't sweat it.

    The manual is full of the usual safety precaution messages, and also contains one of the most worrying messages I have ever read about moisture condensation on the optical lens. The final pages of the manual also contain a list of the abbreviated language codes it uses and what they actually mean, although there still isn't an explanation of the code for English That Is Wildly Variant From The Actual Dialogue, a common subtitle for many Warner Home Video releases. While this list is a thoughtful inclusion, it does highlight the fact that more players need to be made with comprehensive language codes (it would make reviewing discs much easier for me).

Front Panel

    The model I evaluated was a solid rectangular black shape, very basic in appearance, and without all the pointless aerodynamics that some other players come with. The SD-2109 is a moderately attractive player with everything that a serious movie buff would need, and nothing that the casual user wouldn't. The left side of the front panel carries the power switch, the state of which is indicated by a fluorescent light that switches from green to red. The middle of the front panel carries the disc tray and a digital display that displays such polite, friendly messages as "Welcome to Toshiba DVD" when the player is switched on, and "Goodbye" when the player is put in standby mode. I must say that it is wonderful to see such manners from a piece of electronic equipment, and yes, that is a hint to not only Microsoft but also most of the electronics industry. It is also worth nothing that the player sends a very attractive DVD logo to the screen when switched on, which is a nice little touch if you're into flashy graphics. The fluorescent display is also dimmable, which in spite of only being dimmable in two steps (dim and completely dark), can provide a man like myself with a few seconds of amusement while reviewing a particularly bad movie.

    Placing a disc into the tray is an extremely easy affair, which is a major advantage over any player on the market I've seen that is priced any lower than this. Although it misses out on a feature that I would like to see become standard, the ability to do the turning over of flippers for you by some means (double-sided heads would be the next wonderful step), it is otherwise a very helpful and thoughtful player in terms of physical layout. The ability to eject a disc by use of the remote control is a handy feature unless you always close your cabinet doors after putting a disc in, in which case you might find yourself suddenly leaping up to run to open the cabinet doors before the tray jams against them.

Rear Panel

    While the front panel of this player may be somewhat minimal and inefficient in terms of arrangement and operation, the back panel most certainly isn't. All of the essential connectors for basic playback are present and accounted for, and some nice bonuses are included. The video output jacks give you three options, but the manual, which I ignored, states that only one set of video outputs should be used at a time. In any case, the SD-2109 provides the viewer with a choice between S-Video, composite, and component connectors. The only shortcoming as far as choice between video connectors goes is that there is no RGB output, or input for that matter. This is a minor oversight that may worry some completist nutcases, but this player was not really designed with them in mind. Audio output consists of a left and right analogue audio output, and a bitstream (PCM) digital audio output. In spite of being warned against it by sources other than the manual, I used both outputs at once, plugging the analogue outputs into the television set and the bitstream output into the amplifier.

    Connecting all the necessary cables to the back of the player is a quick and easy task, although the close proximity of all the connectors means that you need to have a clear and precise plan of how the cables will be arranged before you do it. Adding cables later can be something of a headache unless you unplug all the existing cables and start again from scratch, which is what I normally do anyway. Connecting the supplied AC power cable, on the other hand, was a relatively simple affair with no fuss required, although the connection allows for a lot of worrying wobble. The setup menu mentions a Karaoke option, but no connectors or dials relating to any such function exist on either panel of the player. This would be a most suspicious omission if I had the slightest interest in Karaoke, but I feel that Karaoke is an atrocity against mankind that Japan should be bombed again for, much like most of the crappy music that Sony are responsible for foisting upon us. Still, mentioning this option in the menu appears to be something of an oversight, given that it is not mentioned in the user's manual.

Remote Control

    The remote control is rather simple in design, with no slide-away panels or hidden compartments. All of the functions in the player, even the ones you'd most probably never use at all, are accessible from the remote control. Sadly, the layout of this remote control is cluttered to say the very least, with nearly all of the buttons being exactly the same size and the remote itself being much smaller than other remote controls that feature significantly less functions. Needless to say, this makes operating the remote in dark environments something of a laborious lottery. On the positive side, however, this particular remote control does not care about the angle at which it is asked to operate as long as there is a clear path between it and the sensor on the player. I've even bent over and whipped the remote around my back, and found the results satisfactory.

    As I have said, the only real problem with the remote control is that the layout is very cluttered, with nearly twice as many functions as on the remote for my other player (a Grundig) in half as much space. However, where this remote excels is the amount of options and choices it gives the user without necessitating the removal of their buttocks from the lounge chair. If only there was an option to purchase a machine that takes care of the removal and replacement of discs in your player for you, but then, I don't think anyone would ever leave the house again. The ability to turn off subtitles without actually going to the menu, through use of the directional keys, is a very nice touch which I believe should be a compulsory standard with all players.

Video Playback

    The Toshiba SD-2109 ships with the factory default setting for screen size at 4:3 Pan & Scan, which sort of contradicts what your average enthusiast would want from their player. Before I began playing discs in my player, I set the screen size to 16:9 with the Black Level at Normal and the PAL/Auto switch set to Auto in order to avoid any configuration hassles. This player performs remarkably well in the actual playback of DVDs, especially when you first see it in the showroom, and it keeps this up when you get it home, interestingly enough. I have watched many of my favourite films on this player, and found that it plays them back with crystal clarity. I have also borrowed some discs that are known to be problematic, such as The Wedding Singer, and played them back in the SD-2109. While the audio sync problems definitely weren't cured on this player, they were a lot less noticeable than what I was expecting. My reference DVD, the Region 1 version of Starship Troopers, played back without so much as a hiccup. There is one thing I must warn you all about, however, and that is that the Japanese-made Toshiba SD-2109 has a much lower tolerance for scratched or marked discs of any kind, especially compared with German-made players such as my Grundig. I suspect that this is a deliberate feature common to all Japanese hardware of this variety, designed to make consumers buy the same disc a few more times than they usually would.

    The manual and the player itself are marked as Zone 4, but as I have already mentioned, reputable dealers are selling region-modified versions right out of the showroom. My advice here is to hunt around for a reputable dealer that has intimate knowledge of consumer needs. As I have already mentioned, I strongly recommend specialist retailers such as Sydney Hi-Fi because they're expected to have some knowledge of what they are selling. The region-modified version I purchased there will play back any DVD you throw at it, although it still won't play CD-Rs. This is a minor quibble in my view because I have a CD player to do that for me, although others might find it somewhat more worrying.

    The fast forward and fast reverse functions are smooth, with x2, x8, and x30 speeds available in either direction, although the video output during the use of these functions does not properly reflect the position of the heads, time-wise. Near as I can tell, it is almost always out by around five seconds, which is just enough to become an annoyance in moments when you're not paying close attention. The chapter skip functions are somewhat clumsy, with not enough time being given by the player to work out whether the user is finished moving backwards. However, if there is one strange thing in this department, it is that the stop button brings up a message stating that if I want to stop the disc, I must press the stop button again, or if I want to go back to the start of the current chapter, I must press play. If I didn't want to stop the disc in the first place, why would I have hit the button that is quite clearly marked STOP?

    RSDL layer changes are still very noticeable on discs where they are placed in less than ideal spots, but on discs where effort has been made to conceal the layer change, this player performs wonderfully. On Total Recall, the layer change time was cut down by about a quarter, making it slightly less bothersome than previously experienced. The layer change in Darkman, as I mentioned in my review, was completely and utterly unnoticeable. As I previously mentioned, this player will not play back CD-Rs, even if they are simply music discs, and the amount of problems you have with this will vary according to intent with regards to usage.

On Screen Display

    Other than an attractive start-up screen, the on-screen display is rather hard to look at. However, it is remarkably comprehensive in spite of the fact that the glaring omission of the total title time makes determining the actual length of a film somewhat laborious. The bit-rate display is a nice touch that other players with a prettier OSD often leave out.

Audio Playback

    Playing back more than thirty discs on the SD-2109 revealed no audio sync problems that were the fault of the player. While none of the discs in question that I tested in the first run are known for being out of sync on Pioneer players, the fact that nearly three dozen discs failed to show any noticeable sync problems with the player is encouraging. Nonetheless, I had a quick look at some early Village Roadshow discs on a second run, just to confirm the lack of apparent problems. So, let me repeat it again: there are no audio sync problems originating from the SD-2109 itself that I noticed. The digital processor in my Sony STR-DE835 had no problems recognizing the Dolby Digital signal from this player, again on a myriad of discs with wildly different configurations. MPEG audio is, sadly, somewhat problematic as there is no processor in the DVD player for it, although it will still work though the analogue outputs. This, however, is defeating our purposes here. DTS output is supported by this DVD player, a nice option which may come in handy for those who import a lot of discs from Region 1.




    A DVD player that will suit all but the most hard-core enthusiasts. Real value for money.

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). Units are available from some retailers with the ability to play all zones for an extra $100.
Signal System: PAL / NTSC
Audio Frequency Response: DVD linear sound:
48 kHz sampling 4 Hz to 22 kHz
96 kHz sampling 4 Hz to 44 kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: More than 112 dB
Dynamic Range: More than 96 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.006%
Dimensions: 430 (w) x 305 (d) x 61 (h)
Weight: 3 kg
Price: $699 (approximately $800 with region modification)
Distributor: Castel Electronics Pty Ltd
103-119 Gipps Street
Collingwood  VIC  3066 
Telephone: (03) 9416-3688
Facsimile: (03) 9416-3730

© Dean McIntosh
February 10, 2000