Pioneer DVL-919 / DVL-919E
In some instances this remote was also supplied with players originating in HK..
The archive site has a copy of the Operation Manual for the DVL-919/DVL-919E. Please see the manuals page.
Pioneer DVL-919 LD/DVD/CD/VCD
(1) DVD/LD/LD-G/Video CD/CD/CD-G/CDV Full Compatible Playback
(2) High Quality Sound 96kHz/24-bit D/A Converter 96kHz/24-bit DAC wide-band technology is applied to offer superb 24-bit resolution, and sampling at a rate of up to 96kHz to exhibit a superior hi-response and perfect reproduction of the original sound quality of 96kHz/24bit data recorded DVD discs.
(3) 10bit High Accuracy NTSC Encoder & 10bit Video DAC IC The NTSC Encoder and Video DAC (digital to analogue converter) IC will provide a consistent D/A conversion process of 10bit video data into equivalent analogue signals to result in a high picture quality.
(4) Legato Link Conversion The CD and DVD recording process cuts off signals bellow 16 and 20-bits, increasing quantization noise and creating a jagged waveform, so that the reproduced sound is different from the original. The built in a Legato Link Conversion processor will restore the lost signals by expanding the original waveform using DVD/CD data. This expands dynamic range up to an audible level, smoothening waveforms to restore fidelity to the original sound, in all of its naturalism and subtlety.
(5) Two LSIs for High Quality Picture and Sound By inheriting Pioneer's State-of-the-Art technologies applied in its flagship model DVD-Video player, the DV-S9, a high quality picture and sound will be assured.
Viter-bi RF Decoder The data processing LSI contains Pioneer's original error correction system to improve correcting ability up to a maximum 1/ several-hundred data error level, by using statically analysed parameters through RF (Radio Frequency) data reading.
AV1 Chip MPEG Decoder The AV1 Chip MPEG Decoder combines the MPEG2 decoder and audio decoder into a single chip resulting to reproduction of a hi-quality picture and audio with no interference to analogue signals. (6) Other Features Digital Accurate Servo for a stable playback Self-Light-Up GUI Remote Controller with One-Touch Jog/Shuttle Control Video Noise Reduction FL Dimmer Virtual Dolby Surround (certified by Dolby Laboratories Inc.) Component Video Output Terminal DTS (Digital Theatre System) Digital Audio Output Terminal Automatic Digital Audio Output Switching Automatic 96kHz/48kHz Output Switching Transfer Rate Indication Condition Memory & Replay Memory Quick-Turn Both-Side Playback for LD Frame and Field Step Play
Second coming of the combi creation
If you have a laser disc collection and are thinking of upgrading to DVD, stop and think. The latest Pioneer DVL-919 plays 'em both, and offers DTS too. Bob Tomalski investigates the 'little and large' machine
If, like me, you're a home cinema fan of a certain age, chances are you'll have a laser disc collection. Long before S-VHS and VHS hi-fi were invented, LaserVision (as it was then termed) delivered 'broadcast' resolution (up to 450 lines) and stereo sound with superb dynamics.
For many quality-conscious viewers, it soon became the prime carrier for movies, thanks to Pioneer's undying efforts to market NTSC-compatible players in Britain, plus the availability of US titles - albeit 'under the counter' or via mail order. Recent years have seen the laser disc format re-invent itself to accommodate PCM stereo, then Dolby Digital and finally DTS digital multi-channel. Yet there's a limit to such development. In today's DVD climate, who wants an expensive 12-inch LD when a five-inch disc delivers so much more?
In the US, video stores are clearing shelf space for the coming DVD onslaught. Throughout the land, church bells are tolling as the format slips next to Betamax and the Sinclair C5 in the 'yesteryear's curiosity' display at the Science Museum. It's not dead yet, but its last kicks of life won't save it.
If you are going to preserve your investment in LD you have but two choices - sign a service agreement with an LD specialist such as Videotec in Oxford (% 01865 245566) who will nurture your optics for decades to come. Alternatively, you can upgrade that clattering ancient dinosaur deck for a shiny new machine that plays LDs and DVDs. The latest of this genre is the ?899 DVL-919.
The DVL-919 is Pioneer's second generation combi. Replacing the older DVL-909 it boasts compatibility with DTS DVDs, enhanced video and sound thanks to a 10-bit/27 MHz video DAC and 96kHz/24-bit audio circuit.
It also sports trick playback on all LDs - including CLV titles - thanks to a digital frame-store. Finished in satin gold, it looks visually similar to its predecessor, carrying the similar bulk - 420(w)x464(h)x146(d)mm - and weight - 9.1kg. In fact, only the DTS logo tells you it's a different breed. Up front are split/dual loading trays - one for CDs/DVDs/VCDs, the other for LDs. The larger tray has indents for 12-inch and eight-inch LDs. The smaller allows loading of three-inch singles.
Front panel controls are minimal. There's an A/B side selector, power and basic transport keys. A dimmer button reduces the intensity of the display and there's also a blue disc illuminator LED. The latter sounds sexy, yet is utterly inefficient - you can barely find the loading tray, let alone read the disc details in the dark.
Around the back there's a bulge that serves as a housing for the laser mechanism. This jumps to attention as soon as a disc is loaded. Using a complex optical assembly it plays both sides of an LD and has dual lasers with different wavelengths to suit LDs/CDs (780nm) and DVDs (650nm). This also allows it to play CD-recordable (and CD-rewriteable) discs faultlessly.
Connectivity is fair. Dual Scarts allow for daisy chaining to a TV via a VCR or satellite receiver. Also, you have phono terminals for stereo audio and composite video - plus a 4-pin miniDIN for S-video. An AC-3 RF output provides Dolby Digital from laserdiscs and coaxial/optical digital feeds provide PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS and MPEG surround from DVDs.
There's also a separate feed for PCM audio to support hi-fi use alongside an external DAC. All fine and dandy. Yet there's something missing. For all their convenience, the scarts lack RGB outputs. And there's no component video output either - as on top-flight DVD decks such as the similarly priced Sony DVP-S7700. The rear panel also has a remote terminal, allowing control via other Pioneer products and a systems switch to suit the colour standards of your TV.
When playing, you have a choice of selecting Auto, PAL or NTSC. If you're using a DVD intended for NTSC TVs (for example Japanese R2) selecting PAL gives 'transcoded' PAL with 60Hz sync and a 4.43MHz sub-carrier. In layman's terms, this means you can play NTSC discs on a PAL-only TV. Alternatively, you can choose raw NTSC for those (indeed most) TVs that are multi-standard.
GUI GRAPHICS AND MORE
Basic play and track/chapter search are intuitive, using the handset or front panel controls. But as with all DVD decks, its the 'buried' features that are more important.
On the DVL-919, menu and mode keys bring setup and special functions - all displayed via onscreen graphics which vary according to the disc loaded. For DVD setup there are the usual menu languages, parental control, subtitle preferences and 4:3 letterbox/pan-and-scan or 16:9 display choices. More unusually you can set the colour of the background screen with red, green and blue 'palette' sliders which are adjustable in 21 steps.
Less obvious for the LD mode is a HQ (High Quality) mode for playing LDs. This engages a noise filter for shaving high frequency detail from the picture. Other modes include cinema, animation and standard picture presets (these alter the contrast and colour to suit specific subjects), field and frame modes for altering the still-frame conditions of DVDs and Virtual Dolby on/off. A further sonic feature for DVDs is dynamic range control of loud effects during late night listening.
For trick play there's slow motion at 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16th speed, frame-by-frame and pause. By changing the field/frame selector to field mode you ensure minimum blurring of motion subjects - although for best resolution the frame mode (which shows both fields) should be set. Although slow motion is well supported, there's not much by way of speeded-up playback. You don't have a x2 mode as with some competitors' machines and scan only gives single speed fast-forward/reverse.
You have a number of other ways of searching scenes. There's track up/down, direct keypad entry of chapters, selection via the DVD menu or time search. On LDs the search functions are similar with the addition of frame search on CAV discs.
Random play is provided too - this being more useful on audio CDs than movies - and you have repeat. Tracks, chapters or A/B sequences can all be replayed ad nauseam. Program playback up to 24 steps is also offered.
If you've used an old LD player you'll know that trick play has been disc dependent - only CAV titles allowing these features. Not so on the 919. A digital frame store gives these functions on CLV titles too. Even better, at the end of a side, the last frame captured is displayed until the next side starts up. A Quick Turn function shortens the time to change from side A to B. However, this function has the disadvantage of switching off the OSDs (onscreen displays).
As with the DVL-909 (and indeed all Pioneer DVD players) the display function is very useful. Set in five levels it shows elapsed time, chapter time, title information, subtitle details and, most usefully, a bit rate meter that allows critical viewers to look for digital artefacts at places where the bit rate level is at its lowest.
A further feature of the onscreen display is that you can optimise it for widescreen. Thus set, the operations indicators are always visible. You also have a screen saver that prevents tube burn should the same OSD be displayed for many hours. With the saver 'on', after five minutes a fading bar of colour scans the screen.
The addition of DTS has changed the menu mapping compared with the DVL-909. Using the DVD setup screen, the digital audio output can now be set for Dolby Digital, Linear PCM, MPEG or DTS. Another option is 96kHz/48kHz PCM. This is useful for playing DVD audio-only discs that use the higher bit rate for audiophile recordings - such as the small catalogue of titles from Chesky Records and Denon.
Also, when playing MPEG multi-channel discs you can select raw MPEG output for use with an external decoder or a PCM downmix which carries Pro-Logic information. In practice this feature will be rarely used, given the paucity of MPEG multi-channel titles. PERFORMING RIGHTS (AND WRONGS)
I heaved the bulky player from its box, connected it to my reference TV, Yamaha DSP-A1 amplifier and KEF THX speakers. Based on past experience with the predecessor DVL-909, the newcomer had to be good. First LD in the tray was a DTS version of Jurassic Park - one of my favourites.
Jurassic Park? More like Jurassic Murk! On screen it became a disappointing wishy-washy image, lacking anything that could be called 'resolution'. It was worse than a worn VHS print. I presumed a fault, reached for the phone to complain to Pioneer, but beforehand, swapped the LD for a DVD. To my amazement it looked terrific.
To cut a long story short (in fact the time it took to read the instruction book) the problem was the 919's LD default of the HQ (highly questionable?) mode. Basically, such processing reduces noise at the expense of resolution.
And how. In the lab I made some tests. At 4.8MHz without HQ I measured a fair -9.84 dB from a reference disc. With HQ engaged the spectrum analyzer displayed a wholly unsharp -18.67dB. When HQ was switched off, my Jurassic Park DTS LD returned to normal, with razor-edge resolution and lush colours. The moral of this tale is to avoid HQ totally. In fact, why isn't there a front panel switch to defeat it, as on Pioneer's classic CLD-925 LD-only machine? Indeed why has Pioneer bothered with this image-destroying feature at all? It's totally crazy.
On to sharper things. Given that there are currently no DTS Region 2 titles distributed in the UK - a matter of movie rights so I'm told - Digital Theatre Systems have supplied a small number of DTS trailer DVDs to HCC and other manufacturers. It carries clips from Titanic, Dragonheart, Daylight and many others.
The few minutes of Titanic were stunning, both visually and audibly. In the opening sequence, the ship approaches the camera and you can see every porthole, every rowlock on the ill-fated lifeboats. That's assuming you're using an S-video connection. Viewed as composite, the resolution is sullied by cross-colour bleed.
The same is shown on a DTS clip of a Mahler symphony recorded by France TV. Close-ups of a French horn shows considerable detail in the instrument, but via the composite feed it appears as a brass mush with purple interference at the edges - all the detail disappears. If you want to know why, check out our lab measurements box overleaf. Sonically, however, this player does an excellent job, especially in DTS mode.
The Dragonheart clip had me looking around for signs of leathery wings beating over my coffee table. The separation is stunning. Sean Connery's vocals are locked to centre, yet the whoosh of the wings and sound effects of the water meadow engulf you in surround. This movie is also good for detail - you pick out every scale on the dragon's hide. Yet strangely, composite and S-video didn't show the same difference, compared with the Titanic and Mahler sequences.
Onto The Borrowers - a Dolby Digital DVD. Again, the soundtrack is stunning. Chapter 7, the Hidden Document, brings lifelike surround. As John Goodman taps his way along the walls listening for the concealed safe, you hear the reverberations behind you. Who said that THX dipoles are impossible for DD stereo effects? On this player, with this disc, you hear just how true-to-life THX stereo surround can be.
And criticisms? Yes there are a few. As DTS LD signals lock up, we hear a low level crackle for a split second. DVDs seem less susceptible. My existing CLD-925 (LD-only player) doesn't do this, so why does it appear on this combi machine?
Then there's the changeover time from the A to B side. Even with Quick Turn engaged you wait around 9-10 seconds for it to happen. And if you've been playing the B side of an LD then want to play a DVD, you can wait even longer before a picture appears on screen. Digging deep into the mechanism revealed why. Although the optics are in place smartly, the CD/DVD laser does a double focus job. Once to establish if a CD is in place, and again to recognise a DVD.
Finally, there are some embellishments that we might reasonably expect on this machine, given that it's a third-generation DVD player and a second-generation combi device. Why doesn't it play both sides of a DVD? Many discs have 4:3 on one side and 16:9 on the other?
And with the advent of 'flippers' where you MUST change disc side, surely this machine should cope with them? Then there's the lack of RGB on the Scart output. Although S-video does deliver great images (and is more useful for linking via AV amplifiers) it's a pity that this player doesn't deliver better quality signal output.
Compared with the older DVL-909, the new DVL-919 sports some welcome enhancements. For a start, it delivers DTS audio and has higher-tech DACs, which improves both S/N ratio and colour noise.
Yet the chroma crosstalk - a measurement of colour bleed from chrominance to luminance channels - is no better. And although good, the resolution is not significantly superior either.
In summary, there's little point of upgrading from a 909 to a 919 unless you specifically have need to play DTS DVDs. Upgrading from LD, though, is another matter entirely. If you have an old machine that's creaking at the edges, this Pioneer is clearly for you. It grants an upgrade to DVD whilst also allowing replay of your existing LDs.
But what if you have a more modern LD deck, such as the CLD-925? Chances are it has both-sides play and all the features (sans DVD) offered by this deck. In which case the DVL-919 becomes a difficult (read pricey!) choice. You could purchase the Pioneer top-of-range DV-717 for ?550 (or less), retain your existing LD deck and have money to spare for a pile of the latest DVDs. Also there's the issue about this player handling R2 discs. Unlike the old 909 there's no simple solder-blob hack. That said, 'chipped' versions are becoming available, but of course they cost more cash.
This is a fine machine, placed in context with combi players. Yet ranged against other DVD decks it's a tad too expensive and bulky. The choice is yours. Performance? Or convenience and LD compatibility? This player delivers both - but only up to a point.