Customer Reviews: Cambridge - DVD-89 DVD Player with 720P Output
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on July 6, 2008
This player is a really good buy, if you're hanging on to an earlier version widescreen TV, or 32" CRT. This will play DVD's in progressive scan mode and give you 720 lines of resolution, which as good a picture as you can get with a CRT, I suppose. This also plays SACD or DSD as well as all other formats of CD's I believe, and when coupled with Cambridge's 540 or 640 AV receivers, produces some really fine audio--the first week every old disc you have will be worth listening to over again because the detail is so much more fine-grained. A very good buy from Amazon thru Spearit Sound.
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on May 27, 2009
Contrary to the Amazon description, this unit, which I bought for it's quite good audio performance DOES NOT play MP3's. Had I known this I would not have bought it. There is nothing in the Cambridge documentation that claims it does.

I have bought 4 under $100 dvd players in the last few years and they all play both mp3's and wma's. I guess the British haven't caught up yet...
Also - this unit stops playing an audio cd when you press the "back" button to go to the beginning of a playing track, which I can only think is a defect. Cambridge Audio is notorious for poor quality control, I'm told by my audio sales friend. I should have listened.
But the audio IS good for this price.
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on February 8, 2011
I bought my DVD-89 in 2007. Overall the audio/video performance has been good to exceptional, but the overall user experience has been tarnished by unstable firmware, a lack of firmware updates to address existing issues, nearly useless and inconsistent documentation, and a truly dumb decision by Cambridge Audio to ship US market units with disabled mp3 support after advertising mp3 capability.

The good:

1. Excellent audio capability.
2. Good video quality with 720p upscaling.
3. Video connectivity of almost any type imaginable including both HDMI and DVI.
4. Region-less playback if you have an international collection of DVD's.

The bad:

1. The screen shots and instructions in the printed manual included with the unit didn't match what was on the on screen displays. Neither did the two "updated" pdf manuals I downloaded from Cambridge Audio's website. I got mine set up primarily through trial and error, and sheer dumb luck.
2. The unit came with the latest firmware installed and there have been no other updates from Cambridge Audio. I have reinstalled the firmware but the results are the same.
3. Fit and finish of the case and faceplate weren't up to the standard set by other Cambridge Audio components I own.

I bought the DVD-89 based on how satisfied I was with my Cambridge Audio amplifier and tuner. I should mention that my local Cambridge Audio dealer warned me about this model. He refused to keep them in stock because of past customer complaints. Stupidly I ignored his advice and ordered one online.

Like my other Cambridge equipment it arrived well packed, right down to Cambridge's signature blue velvet bag. I unpacked it and sat down to review the included manual. I had already downloaded and read a pdf copy while waiting for my order to arrive so it didn't take long to notice some of the instructions and illustrations were different. I checked the two copies I had and found the pdf was the newer revision so I printed out a copy so I could refer to it in the living room during setup.

As soon as I brought up the on-screen setup menus I knew something was wrong. None of the menus, including the "home" screen matched the illustrations in either manual. I ran through a basic setup just to play some discs and verify the machine worked.

After that I contacted Cambridge Audio customer support via email about the discrepancies between the manuals and the OSD (I was concerned that I might have a counterfeit or grey market copy of a Cambridge unit). A few days later I got a response apologizing for the difficulty and instructions to refer to the attached new revision of the manual. They also confirmed the serial number as authentic.

Well the new manual did match the OSD a bit better, until I got to the specific menus for each section of the setup.

I did eventually get the setup sorted out and mp3 playback working but describing it all would take pages, even if I could remember what I did. And some of it I did by luck and can't say how it was done.

Here are the biggest issues I had with the setup and using the unit since.

Setting the desired HDMI/DVI resolution:
According to the three manuals video resolution for all video outputs is done under the video setup tab on the OSD. In fact only the format (NTSC or PAL) and resolution of the analog outputs can be set there. Really only the component outputs since they offer a choice between 480i and 480p when the unit is in NTSC mode.

To set the resolution of the digital outputs you use the button on the left of the bottom row of the remote control labeled "DVI/HDMI. Pressing the button will cycle you through the resolution choices in order: 480i-480p-720p, then oddly enough 1080i, even though it isn't supported by this model.

(720p upscaling is only possible through the digital output, as is usually the case.)

Setting stereo down mixing through the 5.1 audio outputs:
The DVD-89 has both stereo and 5.1 surround analog audio outputs. Like many multi format players capable of playing high resolution audio discs such as DVD-A and SACD the DVD-89 will only output the high resolution audio output through the 5.1 surround outputs. If like me you're a 2.0 purist (too cheap to buy 5 speakers) you'll need to set the unit for stereo downmixing.

The menu entry that the manual instructed me to go to set this is greyed out. Three years later it is still greyed out (I just checked again). I had noticed some menu entries pertaining to stereo/surround setup in other menus so in a fit of frustration I went through every setup of the OSD until I got to the DVD playback setup screen and saw a setting for Stereo output. Voila! That proved to be the magic bullet and I had stereo output for my SACDs.

Score so far: Manuals 0, Me 2.

MP3 playback:
Two of the manuals and Cambridge Audio's website said this model could play mp3 disks. Putting in a MP3 disk proved otherwise. No sound and the display said "Invalid Disk Type". Another email to customer support came back with the response that I must have formatted my mp3 disks incorrectly.

I'm a hardcore Linux head. I've been burning CD's of all types since the 90's using command line utilities. I've shown friends how to burn mp3 disks on their windows PCs and Macs. The disks I had played fine on Linux, Mac, and windows computers and they also played well on my old Panasonic DVD player. So I was rather insulted by their response and said so in my reply. Cambridge then replied with a link to third party website on "hacking the DVD-89, playin mp3s" (I'm not making that up). The email went on to state that if I did use this workaround to enable mp3 playback it would void my warranty.

To summarize: To fix a broken feature the machine was advertised as having I had to void the warranty by hacking the machine myself.


I would pass on the "hack" but I lost the printout years ago. You may still be able to Google it. The hack requires you to have the original remote and invokes a special setup display for professional installers by means of the right combination of keystrokes. Think "easter egg". Once in the special menus you can setup MP3 playback. I also found out that audio upsampling on my unit was turned off, so I turned it on.

If you're considering buying a used, refurbished, or open box DVD-89 MAKE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THE ORIGINAL REMOTE IS INCLUDED.

Once setup was done the unit has worked OK. The firmware does still hang up a bit from time to time and requires power cycling to correct and sometimes the play button has to be pushed more than once to get a response.

All is not bad though. The upscaled 720p video is quite good. Very little in the way of pixelated shading or other artifacts. And most of the pixelation I have seen can usually be traced back to the DVD itself (IE. It happens on other DVD players as well.)

The audio quality is very good to excellent. There is an annoying delay at at startup on some SACD's but it's only truly annoying on my SACD copy of John Coltrane's Blues Train. The up-sampling works wonders on marginal MP3s.

Would I recommend this unit to anyone? Maybe. If you're technically inclined, don't mind tinkering, and looking a cheap multi-format disk player or just want a cheap player for SACDs and DVD-As then you might consider one of these. This model has been discontinued but NOS and used units are still available at good prices.

For the non-technical I would recommend looking elsewhere. Sony, Oppo, and Yamaha all make reasonably priced DVD players with SACD/DVD-A playback capability. If you don't care about those formats and just want good upscaling and/or up-sampling capability then there are any number of inexpensive DVD and Blueray players that will serve you better than the DVD-89.

The DVD-99 that replaces the DVD-89 in Cambridge Audio's lineup is essentially the same player updated with a USB port and 1080i upscaling. The MP3 playback issue has been fixed, however several reviews around the web are complaining about poor documentation and firmware support.

It's a shame. Cambridge Audio has a solid reputation for quality, performance, and value, and my amplifier and tuner live up to that reputation. I can recommend them wholeheartedly. But I can't recommend the DVD-89.

I guess every family breeds a bad apple from time to time.
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