25th Mar 2005

Home Entertainment Feature KCL VDR-2100

First things first; the KCL VDR-2100 may look like a DVD player but it doesn’t play DVDs nor does it record onto them. This recordable disc player, is a step up from a CD-Recorder with the attraction of being able to record video, too. It uses the Video CD (VCD) format that first appeared some years ago, way before the arrival of DVD. It didn’t hang around for very long but has continued to do well in the Far East. The reason it didn’t survive was simple; picture quality was pretty poor and it took two discs to hold a normal-length movie. Now it’s back, this time as an aspiring home recording format.

The KCL VDR-2100 video disc recorder, marketed in the UK by Lektropacks, is basically an audio CD-Recorder with a few extras. It can be used for making copies of audio CDs yet records video and audio on to blank CD-R and CD-RW discs, too. It has built-in MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video encoders that create VCD and Super VCD (SVCD) recordings to be played on the majority of DVD players. It’s not intended as an alternative to VCRs, however. There’s no built-in TV tuner or timer, and can only record from another video source, such as a VCR or a DVD player. It bypasses DVD’s Macrovision copy protection – but the picture is not of a high enough quality to really worry Hollywood. All the Macrovision seems to do is affect the brightness of the picture very slightly.

The VDR-2100 looks much like any normal budget DVD player and is extremely easy to use. Simply pop in a blank disc, select the recording format (CD-Audio, VCD or SVCD) and press the record button. Recordings can be made up to 74 minutes in CD-Audio and VCD modes and 37 minutes in SVCD mode. Like audio-only CD recorders, the discs need to be ‘finalised’ meaning no more data can be added to the disc before it can be played on another DVD or CD player.

MPEG-1 picture quality was pretty poor when VCD first appeared on the scene, and very little has changed. MPEG-2 (SVCD) picture quality is even worse. The image in both cases is riddled with severe motion problems. It’s okay when the image is reasonably static, where images manage to look very good indeed, but with rapid movement like a car chase or sports viewing the picture pixellates, with noticeable blocks appearing on the image. This can be very distracting indeed.

Sound quality during VCD playback is okay but is slightly out of sync with the on-screen image – just enough to be really annoying. Audio CD copies are okay but are analogue only as there’s no digital input – which means you can’t make near-perfect digital copies as with other CD-Recorders.

It’s unique, but the KCL VDR-2100 is a big disappointment. It costs five or six times as much as a VCR, yet picture quality is inferior and it has fewer facilities. If you want to make recordings onto cheap CD-R discs then it’s an option, but a proper DVD recorder is really the way to go for quality.

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