Pros: Multiregion playback
Cons: Nondefeatable Dolby Pro-Logic processing (audio output only connected to TV) seriously hampers audio enjoyment.
I was given the Durabrand-badged (sold thru Walmart) Venturer STS75E to mess with and after a couple of adjustments to the optical block, the DVD player worked quite well. The STS75E is a typical entry-level "home-theater in a box" (HTIB) kit with five speakers and a subwoofer.
Well, I did not have much expectations for the STS75E, but it had some weight to it, mostly from the power transformer. The silver DVD/integrated amplifier does not have an FM/AM radio tuner. I did not have the original remote, but I used a remote for another Venturer HTIB system, and I did like the feel of this company's remotes. I also did not have all of the original speakers, but those satellites are on par with other HTIB speakers in the same price range--many full-range drivers.
The front panel is very straightforward with volume, function, and limited transport keys (play and stop only). As with many DVD players made these days, without a compatable remote makes the machine a pain to use. The LCD display is not as bad as I thought either, as it showed the play time and brings up the chapter but if that run time exceeds 60 minutes, the machine will display 61:00 even 103:00, for example. The disc tray is standard DVD player fare, not as flimsy as I had expected.
The STS75E features composite and component video outputs, composite video input, stereo audio output, and coaxial digital audio output to connect to a Dolby Digital-capable AV receiver. There is also a fan to cool the heatsinks for the power amplifier section.
It simply does the job. However, when the audio setup menu is called up, the entire menu tends to freeze for a few seconds, which is a serious bug in the system's firmware. The positive is that the menu navigation is not insanely complicated.
It does the trick. Without a disc in the tray, press 8, 3, 1, 2, 8 using the remote control and "Region: 1" will appear on the display. Press [ENT] to change regions. Set the region to 9 to enable playback for all regions. Interestingly, the change in the region also enables Video CD playback, which was not available out of the box. Compared to other manufacturers, this method is easier than burning a disc to modify the firmware.
DVD, DVD-R/+R (and rewritables), CD, CD-R/-RW, CD-Rs with MP3 audio (up to 320kbps, VBR supported), CD-Rs with JPEG photos. With a change to the region noted above, VCDs and SVCDs can be played back. Of course, it's not able to play DivX, XviD, DVD-RAM, or a disc covered in strawberry jelly.
As a humble HTIB DVD/integrated amplifier unit, it does the job in a pinch. The snap-clip speaker connectors are color coded for each channel, but those clips are flimsy and one was broken before I had it in possession. I used a set of Kenwood HTIB speakers that I had laying around, which is a slight step above the supplied speakers which I did not have a complete set of. The machine is not very musical and is a chore to adjust when it came to adjusting the bass, treble, and the various speaker levels (but that's my preference to knobs instead of remote-dependent adjustments). The AV input allows for most components to be plugged in, but you might need an AV switchbox if you plan to connect more than a game system or a VCR.
The biggest downside of the STS75E is that you cannot disable Dolby Pro-Logic, there truly is no way to switch it off, not in the menu or any buttons. If you opt to use the analog audio output to a television and not to use the internal amplifier, which the STS75E will penalize you by routing the normal dialogue through the center channel, making the left and right channels very quiet. This is a serious design flaw unless you use the coaxial digital audio output and a DD capable receiver.
The STS75E was not overwhelmed with DVDs that have a lot of flashing brightness, usually on found on concert videos or some animation. The player does have a provision of a black level control, found on many DVD players, but it does not have progressive scan. A bonus is a switchable NTSC/PAL output via menu, just in case you happen to come across a European PAL set, or vice versa. The image quality is typical standard DVD fare with crisp and vibrant pictures.
What I like about the STS75E:
- Convenient home theater kit.
- Small footprint.
- Simple region changability, NTSC/PAL output.
What I do not like about the STS75E:
- Fan noise, which seems to ramp up when you raise the volume.
- Nondefeatable Dolby Pro-Logic, which is not good for standalone use (without speakers).
- Severely crippled without a remote control. Not even an average universal remote could do what an original can.
If someone gave it to you, of course! The nondefeatable Dolby processing is a misdesign and can prevent proper standalone use. The STS75E is very capable with its multiregion playback. If you were in the market for an HTIB, you may have to look elsewhere as seperates are a better choice, giving your system a chance to grow and the freedom of swapping equipment in your system.
In short: maybe not.