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- Region: All Region DVD
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- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
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- Series: Hardware Reviews
Pioneer DVL-919 DVD/LD Player
April 04, 2002
Pioneer DVL-919 DVD/LD Player
What They SayThe Review!
Pioneer DVL-919 DVD/LD Player
Review By Dustin Blaine Javier
"LD is dead! Long live DVD!!"
As a Laserphile for the past 5+ years, I refused to believe that, but if you pick up a copy of The DVD-Laserdisc Newsletter (formerly The Laserdisc Newsletter) or Widescreen Review Magazine you'll see how the once steady flow of new LD titles has slowed to a minute trickle. I once said to my DVD player owning friends that I would not get a DVD player until LDs are no longer made. Well it seems I'll have to retract that statement, for I finally broke down and bought one. I got it not for not so much that LD is on the way out, but that they finally made a DVD playing box that fits my needs. That box is Pioneer's DVL-919 DVD/LD player.
The main difference between the DVL-919 and the previous model, the DVL-909, is that the 919 can play MPEG Video CDs. Which makes it the perfect DVD player for me who has a sizeable LD collection and a good number of VCD's.
As far as connections go the 919 has a fair number of options. For video, it offers 2 S-Video outs, 2 analog RCA outs and digital component video out. However, component will only work for DVD and VCD. Why not for LD you ask? We'll get to that later. For audio, it offers 2 pairs of analog RCA outs, 2 coaxial digital outs, 1 optical digital out and an AC-3 RF out for LD Dolby Digital (YAAY!! I can finally watch my imported Tenchi Muyo In Love! Spec Ed LD box set the way it was meant to be--in 5.1 surround!).
Now for the guts, playback. As stated before this is a DVD/LD/VCD/CD player. Yep, pretty much if you've got a disc that was made for moving pictures, this thing can play it. The only other disc based moving picture formats I can think of that the DVL-919 can't play (other than your ROM based discs) are the rare HD-LDs and ancient CEDs (anyone remember those? Capitron Electronic Discs? Didn't think so).
For playback of DVDs and VCD's, you are given a lot of the same options. When it comes to picture quality options you get "Cinema Mode", which enhances the onscreen blacks and other dark colors, "Animation Mode", which brightens light colors and "Standard Mode" with no enhancements. Just think of these as equalizer presets on a stereo where these control things like color and brightness. However, you get only "Standard" and "Cinema" modes for LD playback. The reason for this (and also for component video not useable for LDs) goes back to the old "analog vs. digital" debate. You see while part of an LD's soundtrack is digital the picture is an analog waveform (the analog information cannot pass through a digital component connections). The analog vs. digital issue revolves around analog offering "richness" while digital offers "clarity". Therefore, colors on an LD are inherently bright, so "Animation Mode" is not necessary.
The best example I found for this difference was when I compared my Tenchi Muyo OAV LDs to my friend's recently acquired Tenchi DVD Box set. While the DVD had an unbelievably clear picture (the clearest I've ever seen for an anime, most likely a result of the THX Certification) with clearly defined lines and deep blacks, the LD's colors were much more vivid. The DVD still was the better version though, picture-wise and sound-wise (Dolby Digital 5.1, YUMMY!!) However, from what I've read in Widescreen Review, when DVDs are viewed through a component video connection, colors are more vivid than normal, and, more than not, brighter than that on an LD. So bring on them HDTV's and coaxial digital cables!!
On the quality of video playback for each format on this player, I've owned no other DVD player before this one, so I can only compare it to others I've watched intently. From what I can surmise, this player can give a slightly better viewing experience, but I think that is only due to the different playback modes. For LDs, this player gives a much better picture than my old LD player, a Sony MDP-A3. Even though both players have "Cinema" modes, the 919 has deeper blacks than the MDP-A3. Also the A3's picture was a bit fuzzy, whereas the 919's picture is scads crisper. For VCD's, er . . . well for some reason my Sega Saturn with the Video CD card has a better picture than the 919 has. Yet the VCD's I have that played "glitchily" on the Saturn have no such problems on the 919. So there's a tradeoff of sorts there.
Although I haven't yet gotten any sound intensive DVDs to test the sound, not have I yet gotten an RF Demodulator to get Dolby Digital from my LDs (even though I do have a DSP and 6 channel capable receiver), this player does have a nifty little option called Virtual Dolby Surround Sound. Switch this on and it attempts to increase the spatiality and reverb of standard and surround soundtracks through a 2 speaker setup. That makes it work great with my old Front Surround Component stereo. Through that, the 2-channel stereo soundtrack on my DTS LD version of Jurassic Park sounded very nice, but it still paled to the DTS 5.1 surround soundtrack. Also, all my Matrix-encoded PCM Dolby Surround LD soundtracks that I tested were given an upgrade in sound quality through that setup (discs tested: Fierce Creatures, The Replacement Killers, Independence Day, The Fifth Element and Tenchi Muyo In Love!); sounds were much more spacious and "room-filling" than before. I imagine this would have the same effect for PCM Dolby Surround DVDs.
Other features worth noting: Epsilon turn for both side LD play; Condition Memory, so that any particular playback setup can be saved for up to 30 DVDs; Last Memory, for returning to the last scene played (stores up to 5 DVDs but works only with LD and VCD if you leave the disc in the player before you turn it off); Digital Frame Memory, for freeze framing and frame stepping CLV LDs.
All in all this is a great player. However, with LDs on the way out, I don't see this as a sound investment (especially at an SRP of $1200!) unless you already have an LD collection like me, or you neither have a DVD nor an LD player and want a DVD player while also being able to take advantage of all the numerous LD clearance sales all over the web (take heart in that, fellow Laserphiles!!)
Dustin Blaine Javier
JVC AV-27720 27" Color TV
Technics SH-AC500D Digital Surround Processor
Technics SA-AX720 Receiver/Amplifier
Aiwa XG-550 Front Surround Component Stereo