Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Those Cheap Chinese DVD Players: Real Hi-Fi?

Given that they managed to display exemplar sound quality despite of their cheapness, are those cheap Chinese made universal DVD players real hi-fi?

By: Vanessa Uy

For the DIY audiophile who cut his or her teeth on assembling AN214 amplifiers, bargain basement Chinese universal DVD / CD players may seem to be too good to ignore. Despite of their cheapness – some are no more expensive than a second-hand Kalashnikov – but do these 25 to 30 US dollar Chinese made universal DVD / CD players truly qualify as hi-fi? Bad news first – they won’t play the high-resolution audio layer of SACD discs, their DVD Audio performance can be crappy when you don’t use a good external 24-bit 96-Khz capable DAC – more on the Redbook CD performance later .

The DVD Video performance is a few notches below that of entry-level DVD players of leading brands like Pioneer, Sony, Philips, etc. But these el cheapo Chinese players make up for it by their capability to play uploaded Internet site videos without being converted first to Video CD or DVD Video. I mean it can play those despicable militant website rant videos and child porn videos that were hastily burned into CD-R or DVD-R that wont run major brand universal DVD / CD players.

Surprisingly, these cheap and cheerful Chinese universal DVD / CD players raison d’ĂȘtre is in playing your stockpiles of supposedly obsolete 16-bit 44.1-Khz Redbook speck music CDs – although you should avail yourself of a good external digital-to-analog converter in order to find out the magical properties that many have discovered with such players. The model we tested is a Hug DVD-H6757 DVD Video player whose primary raison d’ĂȘtre is to play those “pirated” compressed DVD videos – mostly illegal porn that supposedly illegal in my neck of the woods, some even has stars as young as me.

Sound quality wise, this particular lowly Hug DVD / CD player managed to play CDs like a thousand-US dollar CD player from 1995 – especially when hooked up to external DACs that were languishing unsold for years in our local second-hand hi-fi shop. But first select the digital SPDIF out mode to raw. It sounds so gorgeous at this setting when connected to an external DAC when playing Redbook spec CDs. It made the Orelle DA-88 DAC and the Audio Alchemy Digital Decoding Engine version 2.0 that were sitting idly by since 2003 sound as if their processor chips were upgraded so that the anti-aliasing filters of the analog output stages can be configured to a lower-ordered configuration. Making it sound as if the still-audible –to-me phase and group-delay distortion near the 20-Khz roll-off point had been magically removed. In short, the Hug DVD Audio Alchemy DAC combo or the Orelle DA-88 DAC combo sounds as if it was a thousand US dollar CD player from 1995 – considering the current price (2010 that is) of the set up is still a few dollars less than a brand new Kalashnikov.

Sadly, given my political views when it comes to fair compensation of ones labor, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the Hug DVD-H6757 universal DVD / CD player that my older audio-buddies and I tested for a number of reasons. The company who manufactured the DVD player, probably based in Guangdong Province heavy industry district, has not reassured their buyers about their workers getting adequate 401-K plans, healthcare, and not being paid slave's wages. And also the company should be more forthcoming on the issue of using prison labor as often is the practice in the Chinese mainland – as in Free Tibet and Uyghur political detainees. Hard to recommend a product made by a company clueless about what happened in that notorious FOXCONN plant where the workers where defenestrating themselves just to end their suffering. If the American hi-fi loudspeaker manufacturer takes the time to remind prospective customers – and those fortunate enough to be invited in one of their plant tours – of their commitment to providing their workers a liveable wage and decent healthcare and dental plans.

Another thing that bugs me about initiating an audiophile equivalent of a carrot mob to promote the Hug DVD / CD player is that given the open business / close politics stance of the Beijing Communist Party functionaries, the company’s R n’ D budget might be siphoned off to develop a Green Dam Youth Escort-type electronic censorship device. One that could be installed in a latter generation of Chinese made universal DVD / CD players. Imagine you being unable to play your Tiananmen Square Massacre remembrance DVD documentary because your newly-bought Chinese made DVD player has now an automatic Green Dam Youth Escort-type electronic censorship device. Same goes with your Minzhu and Dalai Lama / Free Tibet DVDs or anything referring to that tragic June 4, 1989 massacre on Tiananmen Square.

Or given if the DVD’s e-censorship system is like the Green Dam Youth Escort internet censoring tool in capability, you can’t watch your Garfield DVDs anymore because this cat’s fur looks like the color scheme of the Dalai Lama’s tunic. Your Uyghur friends’ home movies will be censored because it will use the Green Dam color-based censorship excuse and classify it as hardcore pornography. Yes according to the Green dam Youth Escort color-based censorship scheme, it doesn’t discriminate between pink skinned farmed pigs and Uyghurs. Maybe Taylor Swift was fortunate enough not to be playing near Xingjian Province during the Uyghur riots because the Chinese authorities probably can’t tell her apart from the local Uyghur population.


  1. Taylor Swift a Uyghur? Maybe if she has darker hair. But seriously, there is a danger if Hug becomes successful because the Beijing Communist Party functionaries will surely insist insist that the famed "cheap" DVD maker must put a Green Dam Youth Escort style censorship device on their latest DVD players.
    Green Dam Youth Escort is a very indiscriminate censorship device because of the way it recognizes pornography and other content deemed "politically" objectionable by the Beijing Government. The censorship software recognizes pornographic images by analyzing skin-colored areas - causing the barring of the display of non-porn images, like pink-colored pigs. Are these directed at lighter skinned Uyghurs? We may never know, but some computer users with first hand run-ins with the Green Dam Youth Escort noted back in 2009 that it blocked promotional images of the movie Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties - mistaking it for a pro Dalai Lama / Free Tibet website.
    Given that I now have to fly for two and a half hours to Hong Kong or Singapore just to buy expensive hi-fi since the 9 / 11 attacks, I wonder why some leading hi-fi companies chose to be affiliates with some racist Catholic Han Chinese hi-fi dealers here in the Philippines who have Islamophobic and anti Uyghur views is beyond me. Ironically, Hug DVD players can be easily brought from Sikh, Hindu, and Indian Muslim appliance dealers here in the Philippines despite of the company not very forthcoming if they are using Uyghur political prisoners as part of their forced labor workforce.

  2. Uzbek-born Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum also has a daughter who looks like Taylor Swift - but with strawberry blond hair. Speaking of those HUG DVD players, if the next generation versions will be fitted with Green Dam Youth Escort-style censorship devices, does this mean they won't play my Tibetan Freedom Concert DVDs anymore? Isn't it sad how some - I mean some - Han Chinese hates us Uyghurs like The Borg of Star Trek: Voyager hates Species 8472?

  3. As a cute looking older guy, it is more than likely for General Dostum to have beautiful kids. Anyway, I do have concerns if a DVD player installable version of the Green Dam Youth Escort censorship software could become de rigueur on Mainland China manufactured universal DVD players. Newer ones would not play that Sino-Indian War epic called Haqeeqat citing political reasons or what about Star Trek episodes based on the Dalai Lama's flight from Tibet into Dharmsala, India after Tibet was unlawfully annexed by Beijing. Never mind that current models would even play those despicable downloaded child porn hastily burned into CD-R even though they are still in Adobe Flash format.

  4. This year, the 21st Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989 has gone yet again unnoticed thanks to the Beijing government's crackdown of anyone who still remembers their atrocities. The recent Foxconn suicides also highlights the need to improve wages in China. We should not promote cheap DVD players knowing full well they're made with slave labor.

  5. My dad had experimented with a similar set-up, a HUG DVD-H6757 being used as a Redbook CD transport (since its sound quality as a DVD player is so awful) while connected to an Audio Alchemy DDE Digital to Analog Converter. The sound quality has that "too good to be true" factor reminiscent of that notorious 1995-era CD player called the DPA Digital Renaissance. HUG DVD players are really cheap but they do deserve to carry a "Caveat Emptor" label because the company is not very forthcoming when it comes to labor law and corporate social responsibility compliance.
    And yet again, in 2010, the 21st Anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre had gone again unnoticed thanks to those despotic communist party functionaries at Beijing.

  6. If HUG does decide to place a Green Dam Youth Escort-type censorship device on their DVD players, the punk band Minzhu's DVD release will have to be played on a more upmarket player - like Pioneer. Most likely that will not play too are Star Trek DVD episodes that are reminiscent of the Dalai Lama's escape into Darjeeling, India or those Tiananmen Square Massacre awareness DVDs distributed by parents who lost one or more children during that tragic and infamous event back in June 4, 1989. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War did start in Mainland China - not in then divided Germany.

  7. Remember that Responsible Production Initiative - i.e. a law proposed to Capitol Hill during the late 1980s and early 1990s which prohibits the United States from importing products and goods produced under unsafe, non-environmentally friendly and slave-pay conditions. Sadly, it never got passed till this day because US Congress and the US Senate is already under the thumb of these despotic Mainland Chinese manufacturers that are notorious violators of proper worker safety and pay. Will a Green Dam Youth Escort equipped HUG DVD player ever play Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin?

  8. Does this mean that latter models of HUG DVDs won't play my Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square DVDs anymore? You should check out this Wang Shuibo documentary about the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

  9. The HUG DVD mentioned in this blog does sound good when connected to a decent value-for-money external digital-to-analog converter - like Audio Alchemy's DDE Version 2.0 or better. But if someone on your house is using another electronic item notorious for corrupting the 220-volt mains purity - Laptops, cell phone / mobile phone chargers and especially personal computers with switching-mode power supplies - the HUG DVD's sound quality gets very crappy as in loss of dynamics and a rolled-off high frequencies, emphasis indicator of the DAC blinks on and off erratically, etc.

  10. Still, unless HUG installs a Green Dam Youth Escort style device that makes their universal CD / DVD players no longer play Tibetan Freedom Concert CDs and DVDs. Let's just keep on playing Yungchen Lhamo, Nawang Khetchog and Chaksampa tracks on out HUG DVD players and the odd Beastie Boys Milarepa Fund benefit CD.