Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi Universal Disc Player

by | Nov 8, 2005 | Component Reviews | 0 comments

 
 
Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi

Universal Disc Player


MSRP: $1600 (available at around $700)

 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
SPECS:

Power consumption: 18 W


Weight: 12 lb. 2 oz.


Dimensions: 16 9/16 W x 4 5/16 H x 10 15/16 D


19-pin HDMI output


4-pin i.LINK output


75-ohm component video output (Y, PB, PR)


D1 & D2 video outputs


75-ohm S-Video output


75-ohm composite video output


Audio output: stereo, 200 mVrms level


Audio output, multichannel: L, R, C, SW, LS, RS


Audio characteristics: 4 Hz to 44 kHz at 96K,


4 Hz to 88 kHz at 192K, 108.8dB S/N ratio


THD: .0008%, Wow & flutter: limit of measurement


Digital outputs: Optical and digital


Control In/Out: Minijacks

 
Pioneer Electronics USA Inc.

Box 1540


Long Beach, CA 90810-1540


800-421-1404

www.pioneerelectronics.com


Features a Go Go

Pioneer’s flagship universal DVD player has been well-received in many
quarters for its variety of features not to be found on most DVD
players.  The i.LINK outputs allow the player to keep the hi-res
multichannel signals from SACDs and DVD-As in the digital realm 
between itself and a matching Pioneer i.LINK preamp or receiver. 
Chances are it might also connect with a Denon or other unit featuring
i.LINK, but that’s not guaranteed. The other feature many DVD players
are just beginning to include is the HDMI digital output, standing for
High Definition Multimedia Interface. It carries the video signals in
digital form as well as the two-channel audio signals (but not
SACD/DVD-A).  It also incorporates copy protection and has a
smaller connector than the previous digital video connection option.


The analog video outputs feeding the component cable – which those of
us not yet possessing video displays with HDMI inputs will be using –
employ a 14-bit/216MHz D-to-A converter. (It seems like just yesterday
it was considered a great step forward to see 10-bit instead of 8-bit
video processing in a player.)  Other features include Pioneer’s
own NSV (Noise Shaped Video).  NSV uses oversampling similar to
that used in digital audio to display images at higher resolution; it
also incorporates multi-bit Sigma-Delta processing to reduce
quantization noise.  The front of the unit includes a Pure Audio
button which disables both the video and digital audio circuits when
listening to SACD/DVD-A from the analog 6-channel outputs.


Two other special Pioneer options offering on the 59DVi are Legato Pro
and Hi-Bit. The first has been part of Pioneer audio players for some
years now and is their version of upsampling.  I recall when I was
younger and my hearing extended a bit further at the high end, I could
hear a subtle difference with Legato Pro and I didn’t like it, so
disabled it. Now I confess I hear no difference, so if you’re young and
still wide range of hearing (if you haven’t lost it already from rock
concerts or excessive headphone levels) listen, compare and decide for
yourself if the feature is worth it or not.The Hi-Bit feature increases
the word length of standard 16-bit audio to 24-bit.  It’s
definitely worth it and should be left on (its default setting).
Neither of these two options affect SACD/DVD-A, DTS or Dolby Digital,
by the way.


Both Dolby and DTS decoders are built into the 59DVi in case your
receiver or preamp lacks them.  SRS TruSurround is also provided
in case you don’t have a  surround speaker system and want to
achieve an impression of surround sound using only your stereo front
speakers. However this virtual surround field will only be created from
either Dolby Digital or Dolby Pro Logic encoded source material – not
from normal stereo.  It is output from the stereo audio
jacks.  PureCinema is Pioneer’s version of the circuit in most
displays today which matches the frame rate of the progressive scan
display to the frame rate of the original source.  For example,
film shot at 24 frames per second will have some frames scanned twice
to match the 30 frames display on the screen. This results in less
flicker and a more stable image.  If your display has this feature
you should select Interlace on the 59DVi, and compare this combination
to reversing the settings between the player and your display – to see
which offers the best quality screen image. There is also a Super Fine
Focus digital filter which reduces video noise and claims to up the
horizontal resolution to 540 lines for NTSC TV.


As with even entry-level DVD players today, the DV-59AVi plays just
about every imaginable sort of video and audio disc – although the
“universal” designation refers primarily to its ability to output the
six channels of both multichannel SACDs and DVD-Audio discs.  My
modified Sony SACD player was excellent on standard CDs as well as
SACDs, but it couldn’t play CD-Rs or MP3 discs, and more labels have
been sending me advance review discs burned as CD-Rs which were
therefore unplayable. The unit played several CD-Rs with no problems,
including those I burned on my two Macs. For MP3 playback I tried a
commercial disc of original audio dramas titled Soundings, which has
nearly eight hours of programming on it in stereo.   Without
having to display any menu on the screen the disc began playing
immediately upon insertion with the beginning of the first audio drama,
and it sounded really good – wouldn’t have known it was an MP3
file.  One disc it wouldn’t play was a collection of JPEG photo
files I had put on a CD-R with my Mac, making it cross-platform. 
However, that’s such an arcane operation I wasn’t surprised.  I’m
fairly certain it would be able to display the files on the CD of JPEGs
you might request from a photo finisher.


Video Playback

The images on my Pioneer Elite 53” display from the 59AVi were nothing
short of superb – easily recognized as more detailed and crisp than
what I had been used to from my Sony 9000ES (with only 10-bit video
processing). The first source in which this improved sharpness with
standard DVDs was brought home to me was viewing the recent reissue of
To Kill a Mockingbird.  This B&W classic‘s highly detailed
long shots and widescreen panoramas seemed influenced by the
cinematography of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.  The result with the
59AVi was a veritable 3D quality I had never seen on my display except
with the best HDTV programming. The quality was the same whether I
selected the progressive and Pure Cinema processing to be done in the
display or in the player – which probably makes sense since they both
use the Pioneer Elite processors.  For color I had to pull out my
SuperBit version of that home theater favored test source, The Fifth
Element.  No matter what scene I chose, the color, clarity and
detail had a new impact and transparency that I hadn’t seen before.


Now to my primary interest in this universal player – its successes in
playback of both hi-res audio discs and standard 44.1 CDs.  First,
I can’t express how nice it is to be able to just slip any disc into
the tray and have it play properly without hassle.  I’ve been
living and working for years with three disc players: one for standard
CDs and stereo SACDs, one for multichannel SACDs, and a third for
DVD-As. With special switches and four different 6-channel cables
hooking them up. 


Listening Tests

Standard CDs came first in my A/B testing. The best sonic quality of my
three players is my Sony 9000ES with three of the four modifications
done by ModWright.  Its digital output is also run thru a Taddeo
Digital Antidote and it sits on a very substantial constrained-layer
MSB metal base with accessory feet and Shakti Stones on top. I gave the
59AVi a similar isolation, but without the Digital Antidote. I returned
to my still-favorite demo disc, Opus 3’s gold CD “Testrecords 1, 2
& 3” and the tracks of the Stockholm Guitar Quartet and Tomas
Ornberg’s Blue Five trad jazz ensemble.  I tried and compared the
analog out, coaxial out and optical out on the 59AVi, and most admit I
could hear almost no difference among them.


I also have a recent Opus 3 hybrid SACD with some of the same tracks as
a previous CD-only test disc from the Swedish label.  After
struggling a bit with the on-screen settings of the 59AVi, I was
finally able to restrict it to playing back only the stereo CD layer of
the SACD, thus giving me a direct A/B comparison between the
players.  Both with my favored two test tracks and the direct A/B
switching of the two players, I found the sonic quality very nearly the
same; which is to say excellent. Of course there are some CD-only
players around the $1000 point which would provide some serious
competition, but as I hear it, only by approaching the Wadia/Meridian
level of players would a clearly audible improvement be realized. 
The plucking of the four guitars in the guitar quartet was strong and
incisive and their layout across the soundstage was unmistakable. 
The impact and presence of the five players in the trad band was truly
remarkable – a 3D realism for sure.  The upright piano on the left
on the opening the track sounds exactly right – not oversized or
souped-up in any way.  And the solo banjo on the right channel a
bit later sounds more real with every system improvement I make.


The multichannel SACDs and DVD-As were compared with my modified Sony
CE-775.  Sonics took on more weight and smoothness and the
soundstage seemed to deepen and broaden considerably with the 59AVi.
For DVD-As I returned to a favorite Chesky disc of Bucky Pizzarelli and
his group in live concert.  My Rotel DVD-Audio player came out on
the short end of the stick in this cutting contest.  It had an
opaque sort of deadened sonic quality that opened up with much greater
transparency in the 59AVi player. I also had in house a $2500 universal
disc player of another manufacturer and it must be admitted that one
ratcheted up the improvements just described by another step, as well
as achieving an even cleaner and hi-res-sounding playback of standard
CDs.  But consider the cost differential, especially at the
attractive street price of the Pioneer Elite player. The main
competition is probably from the various Denon and Marantz universal
players, but they start at hgher prices.


Any Complaints?

Very few. I wish the chassis were just a bit more substantial (12
pounds isn’t much), but accessory feet and something non-resonant and
heavy on top can help correct that. (And it does sport that
super-glossy black piano finish of all Elite line components which
perfectly matches my Elite RPTV.)  I wish the remote were backlit
and that it didn’t require pointing at the player like a sniper in
order to operate it; all my other remotes are more forgiving
angle-wise. The on-screen settings could be greatly simplified. Such
might prevent serious mental breakdown of those poor souls for whom the
59DVi may be their first taste of the befuddling world of today’s home
theater.


Wrap It Up

My feeling is that if one is looking for a top quality under-a-grand
high end DVD player primarily, you couldn’t do better than the
DV-59AVi.  With hi-def DVD on the immediate horizon, it wouldn’t
make sense to spend more than this on a DVD-video player. It has just
about everything, and even if you don’t need internal DTS and Dolby
decoding, i.LINK or HDMI connections now, you may later and the image
and sonic quality is tops just as is – with the component video and
analog six-channel audio connections. The DVD-A playback is also the
best I’ve heard.  The SACD multichannel playback may be bested by
some of the top-of-line SACD-only players, but I’ve auditioned some
much more expensive universal disc players that fell short of the 59AVi
on SACDs.  Only if your primary interest is in standard CD
playback should you check out a couple of the competitors and perhaps
even consider having a separate CD-only player.  Then you can even
experiment with tweaks such as tubes and separate processors if you
want.
 
My Reference System: Sunfire
Theater Grand IV preamp, Pioneer Elite 510HD 53″ RPTV, Sony CE-775 SACD
changer (modified), 3 Opera Consonance M400S tube monoblocks, Parasound
HCA-2003 3-channel amp, Von Schweikert speakers: 4 VR-2s, LCR-15 center
channel & VRS1 subwoofer


– John Sunier
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