DVD players have also come down in price very rapidly (VCRs took many years to reach affordable prices), so now you can find major brands (Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, etc.) with excellent picture and sound quality for $200 or less.The video and audio information on a DVD is stored in digital form, differences in picture and sound quality between different brands have become very small. Even inexpensive players produce picture and sound that’s a huge improvement over the best VCR.
How much better is a DVD’s picture and sound?
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but picture sharpness and clarity is measured in “horizontal lines of resolution.” A DVD’s maximum is 540 lines, the sharpest picture available to consumers in the home other than High-Definition TV. (Don’t confuse horizontal lines of resolution with our TV system’s 525 scanning lines; all North American sets use 525 lines to “paint” the image across the screen.)Compared to DVD playback, a VCR produces horizontal resolution of 240 lines maximum, a TV picture that’s fuzzy with bleeding or overlapping colors when you look at it next to a DVD’s image. Live TV of a sports event or a studio talk show will yield 330 lines of resolution–better than a VCR but no match for a DVD player. A DVD’s picture is stored digitally (and a VCR’s is analogue), video noise–the grainy look to VCR images–is essentially absent from DVD playback.
In the sound department, stereo hi-fi sound from a VCR is really very good, but again it’s no match for six channels of Dolby Digital surround sound that virtually every modern movie release has on its soundtrack.The first thing to make sure of in a DVD player is that it will play back Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound — as well as dts surround, Dolby’s competitor. Almost all DVD players will pass these multi-channel audio signals via a coaxial cable or a “Toslink” optical cable to your A/V surround sound receiver.Even if you haven’t got a surround sound unit yet, a DVD player will still deliver a stereo audio signal that you can feed to your stereo amplifier until you can afford to upgrade to a Dolby Digital surround receiver.