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Apex AD-600A DVD Player

Models marked "Manufactured 9/99" and before in the back of the player can be made region codefree and have macrovision disabled just by using the remote control.

These sell at Circuit City for about $149-169. It is being replaced this year with an updated model. If you can't find one at one of your local CC stores, there are reports that the central region warehouse still has hundreds left. The salesperson can order it for you at no additional charge. Ask for model number "APX AD-600A" or "APX AD600A". I've also found a lot of them on eBay, but, as of February 2000, they have been auctioning for $227-285 each.

This player does not have a decoder built in, so you will need an A/V receiver with Dolby Digital 5.1 and/or dts decoding. If not, you can use the analog audio plugs and just be content with regular stereo or Dolby pro Logic.

Pros:
Permanently disable region coding using remote
Permanently disable macrovision using remote
Permanently disable CSS using remote*
Component video output (Colorstream)
Audio output has both Dolby Digital and dts
Plays CD's, CDR's, and CD-RW's
Plays MP3 files (CD, CDR, & CD-RW)
Plays VCD's
Plays Karaoke discs
Dual Karaoke Microphone inputs
Plays both NTSC and PAL discs and outputs to NTSC and PAL displays
Comes with S-Video and composite/analog cables when bought new
90 day labor/1 year parts warranty on new machines
Fast menu

*(if you disable CSS, it will not play non-Region 1 DVD's; however, if you keep CSS enabled, it will play a DVD from any region if you have set it with the secret menu instructions)

Cons:
No optical digital output
No longer being manufactured

Region Coding:
Worked fined with a couple of Region 2 DVD's. I initially had CSS disabled, which gave a massively pixelated picture. After enabling it again, it played the Region 2 DVD's fine.

MP3:
It does indeed play MP3 files, even with discs with subdirectories by pushing the "Program" button.  You can either play them straight through (no rewinding or fast forwarding within a MP3 file) or shuffle (random) through them, but playlists are not supported. Low bitrate MP3's (24 or 32 kbps) do not appear to work, but 128kps or higher had no problems. File names with more than 8 characters are truncated (i.e. TENCHIN1) on the display, but they play fine.

Technical:
Video Outputs:
Color difference (Y, Cr, Cb) (aka YUV) - 1
S-Video (Y/C) - 2
Composite Video Out plug - 3

Audio Outputs:
2 pairs of Analog audio out plugs - 4
DTS/PCM/Dolby Digital (AC-3) Audio Out (Coaxial only) - 5

Inputs:
2 Microphone inputs for Karaoke (in front of player)

Info Links:
http://www.nerd-out.com/apex/
(unoffical unit home page)

http://www.ugeek.com/hwswrev/conel/apex600a/apex600a.htm
(general review, does not discuss secret menu features)

http://marcyu.tripod.com/secret_menu.html
(the secret menu commands to permanently disable region coding and macrovision)

http://forum.arstechnica.com/forum/ubb/Forum3/HTML/004377.html
(Apex player message forum)

http://www.vddv.com/products.htm
(VDDV AD-600A information; this player is supposedly its twin)

Miscellaneous:
The menu is very fast - the fastest I've ever seen. The remote doesn't have a toggle switch (surprise, surprise), but at least it's better than the Pioneer remote. Heck, anything is better than the Pioneer remote. Go to the unofficial unit home page (first entry under "Info Links"). It has more information and pictures than you can shake a stick at.  By all reports, this company does not even have a web site yet. Still, by far, it is one of the only true bargains I have ever bought in my life. And that includes getting my Toshiba 3107 for $500 below MSRP.

Marc Yu
marcyu@yahoo.com
Northern Virginia Anime Anonymous
http://www.animeclub.org
130 members

We meet at 1pm one Saturday a month for anime fans in Northern Virginia.  We show DVD, LD, and VHS anime at the Fairfax County Government Center on a 61" rear projection TV and/or a 10 foot screen via an LCD projector.  Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is provided at selected events.  We also discuss:  plans for attending future conventions, manga comics, hot upcoming animes, and many other topics.  Some food is provided; snacks are appreciated. Admission and membership are both free.  Walk-ins are welcome.  Look for our commercial in the upcoming Gundam Wing episodes on Fairfax County's Cox Cable.