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The new high, is of course : DVD Audio.
This was the over riding factor when I was looking to upgrade from my older Marantz CD player and Sony DVD player. I wanted a unit capable of playing standard audio CDs, plus the gamut of DVD media, and this puppy has played everything I've ever thrown at it.
My old Sony couldn't even play multi region, let alone SACD or DVD Audio, so when I visited a friends and had a multi region DVD, DTS, DD5.1, SACD and DVD Audio demo, my musicians ears told me pretty sharpish that DVD Audio was *probably* the nearest thing to live sound I had ever heard. I worked in the Pro Audio industry for several years, and I know good sound when I hear it ! I also ran my own recording studio, and had a feel for that "live" ambience you can only hear when there is nothing "in the way" - This is what DVD Audio offers, and the Pioneer offers it very well indeed.
This was the first item I bought when I ran through my last major AV upgrade, followed by the Denon amp, and the surround speaker system.
It was not as simple to install as I thought. For a start, one can only decode DVD Audio in the DVD players itself, not (at the time) in any AV amps. So, this meant getting hold of a 6 way phono to phono cable assembly - a VERY chunky piece of cable ! I could have made one myself, but couldnt be bothered, so good old Salop HiFi came up with the goodies once more. I found a very nice, not too pricey, QED 6 way phono/phono cable, with gold plated phono plugs. I didn't want a very long cable, as the DVD was only 18" away from the amp, but 1m was the shortest I could get, so there is a bit of length left over for expansion if I ever upgrade the HiFi cabinet.
The other cables were a mix of coax, phono/phono, and optical, all good quality. 6 channel audio output phonos are needed for SACD and DVD Audio. In some instances the DVD players' own decoder *may* do a better job than your amplifier, so it is useful to be able to switch to external input occasionally. I sometimes do this, and am often surprised that the DVD's DD5.1 or DTS decoder *is* better sounding than my Denon AV1803 ..... But I have not yet figured out any common denominator ......
It was a hands and knees setup, and it took quite a while to get all of the video and audio cables sorted, routed, tidied and cable tied. Eventually, after an hour or two, I had a fairly neat cable bunch.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS :
Video : Clear and sharp, but with some very minor colour fringing on non Region 2 DVDs - maybe something to do with PAL Vs NTSC ? Not sure, but my R2 Superbits played beautifully clearly, with "The Rock"'s opening sequence in the rain showing the finest details possible (Criterion copy DVD). It features 2x SCARTs, S-Video out and component video outputs so if your TV has the same then even better clarity may be achieved. Mine was multi region out of the box.
Audio : ** Audio CD - Not as good as my old Marantz, but then again, I really wasn't expecting it to be. I guess that if this was your first audio CD player, you would not be too upset. My reference CD - the Sony 20 bit recording of Janacek's Glagolitic Mass and Sinfonietta proved to be *almost* as good as I'd ever heard it, so - use the best source material and it will not disappoint. Analogue or digital outputs.
** SACD : Considering that the whole SACD (to be at least) seems to be a bit of a let down, the Pioneer did its best with the material provided. Not having another SACD player to compare with hampered me slightly in a clear judgement. Not even the latest multi channel recordings got my heartbeat up as much as *any* DVD Audio disc ! Six channel ext outputs only.
** DVD Audio : WOW ! Queen "Night at the Opera". I felt like I should be dressed in a tuxedo and sipping champagne - but I settled back in T shirt and jeans with a glass of Islay Malt and just slid gently into this totally amazing album. It had always been one of my fave CDs to start with, but in this medium, well - I'll never play the audio CD again, that's for sure. Things were coming out of the surround speakers I had never even heard on the original CD, and the 5.1 mix was just stunning. I was so impressed, I wrote a review for DVD Answers website ! Next - Emerson Lake and Palmer, "Brain Salad Surgery" : Similar wow effect, and even more stuff that I wasn't even aware was on the master tapes. Overall feel - CLARITY !
Having said that, not *all* DVD Audio discs are that good. The Silverline "From the front row" live concert series including Pat Benatar and Bachman Turner Overdrive are (to be brutally honest) crap ! But that is because they were bad recordings to start with, and as they say : garbage in, garbage out.
Six channel ext outputs only.
** Other Media types : It playes the following with equal aplomb - MP3 CDs, VCDs, CDRs, DVDRs, DVDR/Ws. The one feature I really fancied - DVDR MP3 discs, cuz I could make a compilation DVD and leave it on all day, is sadly not available :-( Oh well, can't have everything I suppose.
The handset is pretty good as handsets go. Everything is where you would expect it to be, and it fits the hand quite comfortably. I've had it since Nov 2002 and not had to change the batteries yet ! Mind you, I didnt use the ones they supplied.... :-)
The onscreen menu is clear and easy to understand, except for some of the complex audio options, which may need some explanation, but the handbook is VERY good and will guide you through this with ease.
OVERALL : As this upgrade was primarily intended as a DVD Audio biased one, it has succeded. If I wanted JUST a multi region DVD Video player, there are others for a lot less with more features, so choose carefully based on your own requirements.
This machine won several awards in its day, but it is now on the edge of competitiveness. Only get one if you really want DVD Audio, but for ordinary DVD Video, look elsewhere.
Yes Sean, MP3 CDR = about 10-13 hours :-) depends on compression rate, but I use 190kbps, which give me about 10 hours worth. Still cant make DVDR MP3s though, Ive tried every which way, no go... :-( DH
Kingseany 18.05.2004 10:42
Great write-up. If it plays DVD-R and MP3, wonder why not MP3's on a DVD-R? Sounds like it should. Still a CDR with MP3's will still last quite a few hours.
stevethesleeve 15.05.2004 20:50
Very comprehensive review...some of which is beyond my technical understanding, if I'm honest. Cheers ~ Steve
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