Product Review (October 2003) - Sony
RDR-GX7 DVD Recorder

Sony's newly released RDR-GX7 DVD Recorder is an exciting product that takes advantage of recordable DVD (DVD-RW and DVD+RW) as well as write-once DVD-R discs. The unit is designed to function similarly to a VCR, but with far more capabilities and ease of use. The built-in NTSC TV tuner records programs with the simplicity of a conventional VCR and includes VCR Plus+. Channel information as well as time and date are stored automatically for each recording. The user can also manually enter a title name for each recording. Random access makes this product more user friendly than a VCR, allowing the operator to select any of the previously recorded programs from a simple menu. In addition, programs that are no longer desired can simply be erased (Rewriteable discs), freeing up valuable recordable disc space on the DVD. The RDR-GX7 has an attractive silver look with nice build quality. The attractive light-blue, dot matrix display shows the track time when operating and displays the time and date when the unit is off. The construction is similar to some of the better Sony A/V components we've seen in the past.

The front lower flap that extends the full width of the unit reveals several A/V connections that include composite, s-video, iLink (IEEE1394 Firewire) and two-channel audio. This is ideal for both analog and digital camcorders. The iLink interface is used to control the camcorder and allow the RDR-GX7 to receive audio and video data that facilitates the powerful editing features built into the RDR-GX7. Several other buttons reside behind this panel including functions for the menu controls and the One Touch Record button.

Rear Panel
The back of the RDR-GX7 includes two additional sets of A/V inputs (composite and s-video with two-channel audio) as well as two sets of A/V outputs. High-quality component outputs are also provided for the progressive-scan or interlaced video. Both optical (Toslink) and coaxial digital (RCA) outputs are available. The UHF/VHF antenna/cable connections use F-connectors and are identical to what one would find on a typical VCR. This input is used by the 181-channel built-in NTSC tuner for recording cable or over-the-air programming. Sony's Control-S connection is also available for televisions that support this feature. We were happy to see a detachable power cord as it always makes it easier to install the component. There's also a fan on the back that provides cooling for the unit.

Connectivity
The RDR-GX7 has a rich set of connections that include three A/V inputs (two on the rear and one in front). These inputs include two-channel audio along with composite and s-video inputs. There are also two sets of A/V outputs on the rear panel that include two-channel audio with composite and s-video connections. A set of component video outputs are also available for maximum picture quality. These outputs can be configured to output interlaced or progressive scan rates. Both toslink and coaxial digital output are included. These outputs can stream two-channel PCM data, Dolby Digital or DTS bitstreams and must be configured in the setup menus. If the recorder is not in clear line-of-sight to the wireless remote control, the Control S jack on the back of the unit can be used to control the unit. This link uses the television's IR receiver to command the DVD recorder. The front panel also has an iLink interface to communicate with digital camcorders using the Program Edit functions.

Remote
The wireless remote (RMT-D203A) included with RDR-GX7 is very similar to the other Sony DVD remotes we've used in the past. Navigating is easy with the thumb-based joystick. The three most important buttons (System Menu, Title List and Tools) are located right above this. The lower portion of the remote is behind a sliding panel that hides less frequently used controls such as the record buttons. The design of the remote is simple and it's easy to use. Also located here is the Command Mode that selects between one of three settings. This allows one remote to control up to three Sony DVD players or recorders.
A slider switch on top of the remote enables the user to choose between controlling the DVD recorder and multiple brands of televisions (basic functions) and A/V receivers (volume only). The overall design of the remote and the logical user interface on the RDR-GX7 is one of Sony's best attributes when it comes to their consumer products.

The menu screens transition in a smooth fade-in and fade-out fashion. The title bar that appears when a selection is played shows the track, channel, start time, stop time and date. In some cases when the data is present in the video transmission, the program name also appears. Tracks contained in the list can be sorted by Date, Number or Title.

Setup
The Easy Setup (and it really is easy) menus guide the first time user through a series of questions and configures the unit for optimal performance. The user selects Language, Time and Date, Antenna or Cable, TV Screen Type, Line Outputs and Digital Outputs. simple as the unit guides you through the initial setup menus.
Fully manual setup is also possible with the RDR-GX7. Video settings define the TV type (16:9 or 4:3), Progressive Mode (Audio or Video), and the type of inputs (Composite or S-Video) for the Line 1 and Line 3 inputs.

Disc Support
The RDR-GX7 supports three different types of recordable DVD media which includes DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD-RW. DVD-R is a write-once format that cannot be erased. Finalized DVD-R discs can be played on a wide range of DVD-players. DVD+RW discs do offer the flexibility of being erasable, but it's more difficult to edit recorded material with this media. DVD-RW discs can be formatted in two different recording modes. The DVD Video Format (Video Mode) is widely compatible with DVD players, but has limited recording flexibility. On the other hand, the DVD Video Recording Format (VR Mode) will not playback in many players, yet offers more editing flexibility when it comes to finalizing the DVD.

The variability in how well recordable DVDs work in machines from different manufacturers is a crap shoot. There's no doubt that more of today's DVD players are capable of playing recordable media. However, there are no guarantees in many cases. Here's a list of DVD Video players that are compatible with DVD+RW and DVD+R media.

Recording Options
There are six variable bit-rate recording speeds available. The following table indicates the approximate recording time based on the recording mode selected.

Recording ModeRecording Time
HQ60 minutes
HSP90 minutes
SP (Standard mode)120 minutes
LP180 minutes
EP240 minutes
SLP360 minutes

We had recordable DVD media from both Sony and Verbatim. We started with the Verbatim DVD+RW disc for some of our initial testing. Verbatim has introduced some new cool looking recordable DVDs that resemble film reels. We recorded over-the-air programs from various channels and then selected the programs using the Title List.

The copy protection mechanism in the RDR-GX7 works well at preventing unauthorized recordings. Every one of the DVDs we tried with the exception of a Norwegian travel video resulted in a recording error. The unit accurately detects the copy guard signal and prevents unauthorized copies from being made. The unit can also detect copy control signals broadcasted over the air. There are three types of copy control (Copy-Free, Copy-Once, or Copy-Never) codes that are interpreted by the recorder.

Features
Material recorded on compatible media can have custom titles (up to 64 characters long) added to them. Some titles are automatically inserted into the recordings from over the air broadcasts. We recently programmed the RDR-GX7 to record Saturday Night Live and the title automatically showed up without having to edit the DVD. Each of the recorded titles show up on the Title List menu. Titles can be protected or erased by the user. The more advanced editing capability allows the user to edit the original recording by taking advantage of the true random access nature of DVD. Creating a playlist on an original recording is possible as well as fully manual chapter insertion. The user can also erase sections of a track by defining a starting and ending point (A-B) on the disc. We took one of our favorite foreign films on laserdisc that is not available on DVD and transferred the video directly to a DVD-RW (VR mode). Since I started the recording just before I went to sleep, the recording included a 10-second side change from our CLD-D704 laserdisc player. By simply tagging the unwanted segment (A-B), that part of the recording was removed from the video. The data actually still resides there, but the unit jumps over the unwanted segment.

Recording programs is a simple process with several options available. Manual recording is similar to a standard VCR where the user pushes the record button and the current channel is copied to DVD. The Quick Timer records in 30-minutes increments up to a maximum of 6 hours. Scheduled recordings are also available using VCR Plus+ or the traditional method and can store up to 30 programs (up to one month in advance). There's also a Synchro Record that automatically starts recording when commanded from an external component.

One of the great features of the RDR-GX7 is the ability to communicate with digital camcorders using the Firewire connection. Using the One-Touch Dubbing feature, the DVD recorder will transfer the entire content of the tape to a DVD. If the recorded content was stored on a DVD-RW disc using the VR mode, the Advanced Program Edit feature allows the user to completely rearrange or delete scenes, resulting in a fully edited version of the original content. Another feature called Program Edit lets the user select the scenes to transfer to the disc prior to burning the data on the DVD. This is particularly useful when using DVD-R write-once media. In this mode, the recorder keeps track of each scene selected by the user and creates a table to be processed once the arrangement is complete. This is possible because the recorder completely control the camcorder including play, stop fast-forward and rewind.

For those who lack the full home theater speaker system, Sony has included some audio processing to simulate a surround environment. The TV Virtual Surround (TVS) has four modes and can also be completely defeated. The Dynamic mode creates virtual rear speakers using the front two channels. The Wide mode is similar, but creates a virtual full five channel system. The Night mode is essentially a dynamic range compressor. Loud sounds are compressed and quiet sounds are still audible making it ideal when others are sleeping (like your neighbors). The Standard mode creates three virtual speakers.

Performance
The RDR-GX7 uses Sony's Precision Cinema Progressive video processing found in the DVP-NS999ES DVD player for the progressive component outputs. By combining Per-pixel I/P Conversion, Vertical Edge Compensation and using a high quality 12-bit, 108MHz Video DAC, the RDR-GX7 produces an excellent progressive picture free of objectionable artifact from the deinterlacing process. Our classic test case uses the opening scene from Star Trek's Insurrection on DVD. The curved hand rail on the bridge was smooth and natural looking. The roof tops of the structures in conjunction with the camera slowly panning across the field-of-view revealed an excellent picture. The RDR-GX7 did a great job on this material with virtually no visible artifacts.

Analog sources that have noise and line-to-line jitter can be improved by the Pre-frame Noise reduction and Time Base Correction circuits. We fed some VHS content that had both noise and jitter in the video and the recorded image was certainly more tolerable than the original source material. In addition, contrast, brightness and color controls allow the user to adjust the incoming video prior to being recorded. This is particularly important for many older videos that have some quality problems.

The RDR-GX7 uses 24-bit DACs running at 192 kHz conversion rates for the audio outputs. The digital outputs are down-converted to 16-bit/48kHz. As a CD player, the RDR-GX7 performed as well as many of the better DVD players currently on the market. However, I have plenty of other players that can play CDs well, so I would be inclined to preserve this machine for DVD recording and playback.

Conclusion
While most of us still use a tape-based VCRs for time-shifting our favorite programs, others have opted for hard drive-based products such as TIVO and Replay. These products work well, but limit the portability offered by the DVD format. Sony's new RDR-GX7 DVD recorder supports several DVD formats (DVD±RW and DVD-R) and can capture all of the old video footage you've been waiting to archive on digital media. In addition, the built-in Firewire (iLink) interface makes it fully compatible with today's digital video cameras. The more we used the RDR-GX7 to record over-the-air and DirecTV programs, the more we wanted to keep this product as part of our reference system. The ability to transfer old laserdiscs not available on DVD is invaluable. Sony has produced a real winner here. The price may seem a little high, but once you experience all of the capabilities offered by the RDR-GX7, you'll be hard pressed not to justify it.

- Kevin Nakano








Review System

Display - Mitsubishi - PD-5010 50" High-Definition Plasma Display (ISF calibrated)
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 TripoleŽ Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box #1: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
Set-top Box #2: RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
HDTV Receiver/Controller: Mitsubishi HD-5000 Receiver
D-VHS VCR #1: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U D-VHS High-Definition VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer: Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer


Review - At a Glance

Sony - RDR-GX7 DVD Recorder with Progressive Scan Video

Features:

  • DVD+RW/-RW/-R DVD Format Recording Compatibility
  • Precision Cinema Progressive™ 480P for Playback
  • One Touch Dubbing for DV/D8 Via i.LINK™ Interface
  • User Friendly Graphic User Interface
  • Timer Recording Feature
  • Pre-Frame/Post Frame Noise Reduction
  • Variable Bit Rate for Adjustable Recording Times (60-360 Minutes)
  • Linear and Non-Linear Editing
  • DVD/CD Text
  • DVD+RW/-RW/-R DVD Format Recording Compatibility
  • 12 Bit Video DAC with 108Mhz processing w/NSV
  • 192 kHz 24 Bit Digital to Analog Converter
  • Dolby® Digital and dts® Optical/Coaxial Output
  • TV Virtual Surround - 4 Surround Modes
  • Block Noise Reduction
  • Digital Video Enhancer
  • Digital Video EQ
  • Custom Picture Mode
  • Title and Chapter Viewer
  • Advanced SmoothScan™; and SmoothSlow modes
  • Instant Replay and Instant Search
  • Full 3-2 Reverse Conversion
  • Specifications
    Precision Drive™ System:Two laser assembly
    Video Horizontal Resolution:>500 TV lines
    Digital Output (kHz/Bit):48 kHz/16 Bit
    Precision Cinema Progressive System:Playback 480P; Recording 480P
    Audio Frequency Response
    (DVD, 96 kHz PCM):
    2-44,000Hz, ±1.0dB
    Audio Frequency Response
    (DVD, 48 kHz PCM):
    2-22,000Hz, ±0.5dB
    Audio Frequency Response (CD):2-20,000Hz, ±0.5db
    Audio Signal-to-Noise Ratio:0.003%
    Audio Dynamic Range:103 dB (DVD); 99 dB (CD)
    Wow and Flutter:Less than detected value
    Overvoltage Shutoff: 137VAC
    Undervoltage Shutoff:95VAC
    Protection Modes:L-N, N-G, L-G
    Maximum Current Rating:15A (1800W)
    Response Time:<1ns

    Inputs/Outputs:

  • Three sets of A/V inputs (composite and S-video), including one front-panel input
  • Two sets of A/V outputs (composite and S-video) and one component video (480i/480p)
  • i.LINK connection on front panel (for use with a digital camcorders)
  • Optical and coaxial digital outputs for Dolby Digital/DTS®/PCM
  • RF input/output for antenna/cable signals
  • Includes

  • DVD recorder
  • Wireless remote control (RMT-D203A)
  • 2 "AA" batteries
  • AC Power Cord
  • A/V patch cable (with male stereo RCA and composite video plugs on each end)
  • Coaxial video (75-ohm) cable
  • Operating Instructions
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Important Safeguards
  • Warranty sheet

  • Company Information
    Sony Corporation
    One Sony Drive
    Park Ridge, NJ 07656

    Source: Manufacture loan
    Model Number: RDR-GX7
    MSRP: $800 (Street price: $700)

    Size: 16-15/16" x 3-7/16" x 15-15/16" (WxHxD)
    Weight: 12.6 pounds (5.7 kg)
    Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

    URL: www.sony.com

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