The DVD Player: Denon DVD-2910
While I could have used the DVD drive in the Media Center PC to play DVD movies, I opted for a rather high-end separate DVD player. The Denon DVD-2910 is a big, heavy, extremely sturdy DVD player with all the high-end specs that videophiles drool over. (And a cost to match; this puppy set me back $650, which is a heck of a lot for a DVD player these days.)
The most important feature to me is the unit's ability to upconvert standard DVDs not only to 480p (progressive scan) format but also to 780p and 1080i high definition formats. The difference in picture quality between the normal 480i and the two high-definition resolutions is staggering. Even though I know I'm watching a standard definition source, the upconversion is surprisingly effective.
The 2910 also functions as a player for SACD and DVD-Audio discs. I don't own any DVD-Audio discs, but I do have a few SACDs in my collection. On a disc like Bob Dylan's Blood On the Tracks or Derek & the Dominoes Layla and Other Love Songs, the SACD has a noticeably more transparent sound than the standard CD, with cleaner lows, crystal-clear highs, better channel separation, and a slightly wider soundstage. The addition of 5.1-channel surround sound is just icing on the cake.
I connected the Denon player to my Sony TV via HDMI for a completely digital video connection start-to-finish. The audio connection to my B&K preamp is via optical digital. (I also made the necessary six-cable analog connection to the preamp for the 5.1-channel SACD surround sound.)
BTW, the Denon player offers a mind-boggling array of audio and video adjustments, most of which duplicate similar adjustments on my Sony TV and B&K preamp. I opted to leave all the DVD player's settings at their default positions, and rely on my TV and preamp for any necessary corrections.