LG 4721P DVD player

(A picture of the player and the remote control.)


This is a multi-capability player, able to play back DVDs, ordinary audio CDs, MP3 CDs, VCDs, and SVCDs, and I'll review each function separately.  It'll only play pressed DVDs, not self-recorded ones; but the others can be on pressed or burnt discs, including both WORM (write-once, read-many) and rewriteable discs.  I've since discovered it will play burnt discs of any type (audio and video, and write-once and re-writable discs), but it'll depend on what recorded them.  e.g. It won't play DVDs recorded on my Liteon DVD recorder, but happily plays discs recorded on my Philips DVD recorder.

It's quite an old player, by now.  It was one of the more expensive ones at the time, somewhere around $300 (Australian).  Mine's still in fairly good condition, but then it's not had a great lot of use.  I'd be cautious about getting one second-hand, though, and wouldn't offer much for it.  The lasers and mechanics do wear out with use and age.

DVD player

This is yet another of those annoying players with Macrovision on the video output (when playing a Macrovision protected disc).  This means, that; apart from it being slightly difficult to make a video tape copy (though easy enough to do, if you have something to re-insert the vertical blanking period, e.g. a video stabiliser box); if you want to play DVDs on a projection screen TV set, you're likely to see the flashing Macrovision pattern at the top of the screen; many ordinary TV sets will flicker (*) badly during playback (all of mine do); and if your TV doesn't have video inputs, so that you have to play through a VCR, it's likely to playback with severe distortion (whether, or not, you try to record it at the same time).

* (By flicker, it can be any one, or several, of a variety of symptoms:  The luminiosity of the picture flickering bright and dark; the picture jittering up and down vertically; the top of the picture flicking left and right, known as flag-waving.  Another effect caused by Macrovision is part, or all of, the picture going dark, and staying that way.)

I hate that Macrovision crap.  It makes viewing discs, that I've paid good money for, a thorough pain (either I've got to put up with the flickering, or run the video through a processor, which is a major pain to have to do).  And it does nothing to stop piracy (discs can easily be copied, if you know how).  I'm yet to see a DVD player with RF out, to plug into an ordinary TV set, and many ordinary TV sets are more than good enough for watching DVDs.  It's certainly not worth spending $1000 on a new big TV set, just because your old one doesn't have the sockets.

The video quality is pretty average.  I've seen a slightly better video signal on a cheaper deck.  The S-video output is utter crap.  As soon as you turn it on (there's a choice of using either the component or S-video output), the brightness level is jacked up a significant amount.  We've had these things things called video specifications for around forty years now, that let manufacturers know how to form video signals, but some of them just don't seem to understand why.  They're there, and not kept secret, so that all video equipment is compatible with each other, and when switching from viewing one thing to another, the picture doesn't radically change.

I was bothered, enough, about the Macrovision and and poor quality of the S-video output to write to the Australian outlet for LG, only to get fobbed off with a story that DVD player manufacturers, unlike TV and VCR manufacturers, don't have to adhere to the television standards in this country.  Yeah right, what a load of crap.  It's just an excuse for sub-standard manufacturing.

On the subject of standards, don't expect this deck to be able to play all discs.  It's designed for normal (pressed) DVDs, it mayn't play home-recorded DVDs (with some, it complains that it can't read the disc).  Seeing as such self-recorded discs are not produced to the same standard, it's a valid, albeit unfortunate, complaint.  And this deck was built quite some time before home DVD recorders existed, there's yet another reason not to expect it to be able to play them.

The remote control is rather tiny, making it difficult to operate without studying the control before you press a button.  And it has that annoying design of combining the skip and search features on the same button (tap to skip, or press and hold down to search).

It is a multi-zone capable deck.  Although it comes pre-set to your region, you can switch it to no region (0), or pick the region that you want it to operate at (some discs won't work in multi-zone players).  The trick to converting it is to enter a code at turn on.  Annoyingly, it doesn't display (anywhere that I could find) what the current zone is, only the codes that you type in (to change things).  It also has functions to convert an NTSC (foreign) disc to play back on a PAL (Australian) TV set.  I only have region 4, PAL, discs, so I've not been able to test if it actually plays back the alternatives properly.

How to change the player's region/zone:

If you have problems getting the hack to work, try pressing “stop” on the remote before you press “pause” for the first time.

Warning:  You reconfigure your player at your own risk.  If you enter the wrong codes, or the manufacturer has changed the codes since this hack was discovered, there's no telling what may happen, whether you'll cause a permenent problem with your player, nor whether you'll get any help in having it fixed.

Summary:  If your TV doesn't handle Macrovision protected video very well (you can usually tell by playing rental tapes—many of them use Macrovision), then avoid this deck.  Likewise, if you don't have video inputs on the TV, also avoid it.  Likewise if you want to use S-video connections.

Audio CD player

The deck can operate as a simple audio CD player.  It does most of the things most people will want, and pretty much all that I wanted (minimal features, and the ability to operate it without needing the remote control at all).  Though the simple time display was a little bit too unfeatured (while playing, it shows the current tracks elapsed time; and when stopped, shows the duration for the whole disk; and that's all).  And it's annoying how you can't wind back past the start of a track into the end of the previous one (it starts playing the current track again, as soon as it hits the start of it).

The deck does have several different audio outputs.  There's two sets of stereo connectors (using standard RCA style jacks), so you can connect it to your stereo system and TV, at the same time.  There's electrical (again, an RCA jack) and optical digital audio outputs, though there's no mention of whether they're just for DVD playback (and I've no suitable audio equipment to test them with).

Incidently, my prime reason for buying a DVD player was that my CD player had died, and I figured that now was the time to do a bit of updating.

Summary:  If you don't need any fancy features at all, then it's quite okay as a CD player.

MP3 player

Quite a basic player, with far less features than you'd expect, and a few significant drawbacks.  Its implementation as an MP3 player hasn't been well thought out, at all.

There's no random shuffle play, and the you can only program a sequence of up to sixty tracks.  The front panel controls can't navigate directories, and can only skip from one file to the next, or backwards, while already playing an MP3 (you can't step through to the fourth MP3, then start playing, for instance).  You need to use the remote control and have a TV set plugged into the deck, which is a pretty stupid requirement for an audio-only playback mode.  From the front panel controls, you can only start playing MP3s if there are MP3s in the root directory, or if the first listed directory has your MP3s in it (you'd press PLAY once to enter the first directory, then again to play the first MP3 file).  If there are files and directories in the root directory, then the directories are listed first, and you'd need the remote and TV to select anything other than the first directory.  If there are more than one directory, you need the remote and TV display to navigate them.  The player can't even automatically jump to the next directory, once the current one has finished playing.

e.g. A disc set out with the following directory structure (below), can't be automatically played from beginning to end.  Only one directory will be played straight through, requiring you to manually choose the next directory (with the remote control and TV set).

CD:\Beatles\ (A directory of MP3s of The Beatles songs.)
CD:\Doors\ (A directory of MP3s of The Doors.)

It can only handle up to 256 MP3 files on a disk.  There's a limit of 50 nested directories.  You have to burn a disk with a directory structure (i.e. you cant use the easy-CD, packet-writing, UDF, etc., formats, that just dump files to the disc like a giant floppy disk).  It doesn't handle multi-session burnt discs well at all (some of the files that are properly on the disc are not listed, and the more sessions on the disc, the slower it gets to work out the discs table of contents, though even single-session discs take an age to read the structure), so you really need to either burn fresh CD-Rs as single-session discs, or use CD-RWs and erase them between re-writes.

Despite having a TV display capable of upper and lower case letters, only an upper-case fifteen-character truncated filename is displayed, and from the ISO 9660 directory structure, too.  You'll need to understand burning disks for non-Joliet systems to get decent file names (plain ISO 9660 has the same name limitations as MS-DOS, but ISO 9660 with extensions allows 31 character names).  It pays no attention to the ID tags embedded in the MP3s, which would have been a very simple circumvention of the filename limitations.  And only the TV displays any track names, the front panel display only shows the currently playing track and the elapsed track playing time.

It doesn't understand the well established playlist files (such as M3U or PLS files, which are simply text files listing the tracks you want to play), which would have avoided this problem:  It plays files in alphanumerical filename order (numbers 0 to 9 first, then letters a to z).  If you want tracks to play in a specific sequence, you're going to have to name them accordingly.  If you're going to use numbers, then you'll need to pad the numbers to the same length with leading zeros, so that file one isn't followed by file ten, then one-hundred, then eleven, then file two.  Alphabetically sorted numerical sequencing goes by the characters used, not that actual value of the number.

e.g. The sequence that'd normally get used (most computer program sorted numbered lists work that way):

Padded:  001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010, 011, etc.
Unpadded:  1, 10, 100, 11, 2, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 3, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, etc.

This player:  100, 10, 11, 128, 192, 1, 20, 21, 2, 320, 3, 4, etc.

It only seems to handle joint-stereo encoded MP3s (I've tested it at 128, 192, and 320 kbits per second).  Independent left and right stereo encoded MP3s make funny noises during playback.  This probably isn't a problem if you're encoding your own MP3s, and you're not having to deal with stereo tracks with radically different left and right signals.  Though many of The Beatles' songs (for instance) do have extremely different left and right channel signals, probably due to them being more of a dual-track mono signal (where joint-stereo encoding wouldn't be the best choice), than a stereophonic one.  But if you're trying to play back MP3s that someone else has encoded, then that sort of thing is out of your hands.  Having said that, all the MP3s I've seen, were encoded as joint-stereo.  (Joint-stereo encoding is where the MP3 encoding encodes both left and right together, rather than keeping the two tracks independent.)

Summary:  If you're making your own discs, you need to understand the options of your MP3 encoder and/or CD burning software.  If you're playing other people's discs, you mayn't be able to play them.


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