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Pioneer CLD-1750

Thanks to Hartmut Hackl for the pictures.
Thanks to Peter LŲf for the pictures at the bottom of the CLD-1750 page.

Pioneer CLD-1750 Review 

Pioneer has sprung a new player on us earlier in 1992 than custom usually dictates. Conventionally one would look to a new model introduction around the autumn/winter period, so the June arrival of the 1750 is a decidedly novel event. 

The machine replaces the long running 1450. Nobody - least of all Pioneer UK -had any particular complaints about the 1450. It was still selling steadily, hence Pioneer's relative satisfaction) despite being nearly three years old, sales or the 1450 far overshadowed any of the other models in the Pioneer range a statistic not wholly unrelated to the fact that it has been the only player capable of NTSC laserdisc replay.

Beyond its open declaration of NTSC capability the CLD-1750 does not mark a dramatic rocking of the boat. It expands on the concept by providing both a transcoded output for feeding to PAL only TVs and a true NTSC 3.58 one that needs running into a multistandard (or NTSC) TV. Previously the NTSC 3.58 option has only been available to 1450 owners via special modification by Videotec in Oxford. Now Pioneer does it for us. (Historical note: the 1450 prototype originally had a direct NTSC output too but Pioneer got cold feet about introducing an NTSC player into a PAL area and removed the option on the production run.) The other major addition is that of a digital optical output which will please those who have a matching digital pre amp/amplifier (though one suspect this to be still a minority of the market). There is of course other differences, but in essence the 1750 is just a better 1450 rather than a major upgrade. (In saying that the new 16:9 function hasnít been overlooked but more on this later. Consequently it will not be an imperative upgrade for an existing 1450 owner. These folks will also be quite pleased that Pioneer has stuck with the same £499 95 price of its predecessor, thereby protecting the value of the older model to a degree. By now one might have expected Pioneer to be reducing the price slightly - such is the convention with established electronics components - but it figures it probably doesn't have to when there is no competi≠tive product in the market place. £500 is not cheap for a player that in its basic NTSC configuration in Japan or the US lists for under £300. European consumers are being charged a hefty premium for the PAL addition to such a machine. But, as we said, nobody else does it cheaper - yet. 

The 1750 is a basic CD/LD combi also offering full compatibility with CD-V/VSD discs. It is capable of CAV operation. The machine will accept either NTSC or PAL videodiscs and is able to exploit all the functions found in the consumer versions of these, with the exception of the recently introduced LD-G laserdiscs. On the audio front the player will not decode the graphics on CD+G discs but hopefully the addition of an outboard box of electronics to the digital output will achieve full compatibility with both these species. Theoretically the new CD-I disc can be played with an outboard decoder fitted to the same output but so far there is no sign of such hardware and one is now warv of whether we well see any. At present then, these three formats are out of bounds to the 1750. 

External Features 

The design of the CLD-1750 is a straight cloning of last year's CLD-1600. In fact one now suspects that the 1750 is not an early debut of this year's model range but a tardy arrival of "the 1650". This year's Pioneer range should really have the more rounded drawer design exemplified by the wretched CLD-700 and as found on the current Japanese F-series and US CLD-D/S or M models. Though the 1750 design is obviously newer than the 1450 it is not the newest design Pioneer has on the blocks. Cosmetically there is no problem with that. The player looks neat and stands up to a reasonably close inspection without revealing any major shortcomings in the finish of its plastic facia. There is a rotary scan control on the front of the machine, which is duplicated on the remote. The remote also has conventional scan buttons. If you use the new remote with an older player without the rotary scan control it will not go into scan - you have to use the buttons in this situation. 

Permanent Power 

The eject button is no longer at the top left of the remote - it's been moved to the top fight position. That takes a bit of getting used to - particularly as its place has been taken by a power on/off switch. If you don't make a rapid adjustment to the new layout you'll be turning the player off all the time instead off ejecting a disc as intended.

Once the mains are connected to the 1750 it is permanently powered up. Pushing the power switch on the player (or remote) will only alternate the player between full operational mode or a resting, semi-inoperative position. If you want the power off completely you have to pull the mains plug out. Pioneer gives a reason for this method of powering. It enables the machine to be remote switched from the comfort of one's chair; logical but of dubious actual merit when one contem≠plates the typical playing situation. A laserdisc player - whether playing CDs or LDs - is useless without a disc loaded. If you're sitting in your chair and decide you want to watch or listen to something you still have to manually load the player. If you sit at arm's length from it (the recommended position for single-side play machines) you can obviously just lean across and plonk a disc on. But if you can do that you can also push the on/off switch on the player at the same time. If you site your player further away and have to get up to load a disc then you still end up in physical contact with it and can obviously just as easily hit the power switch at the same time. So what's the point of the remote switching?  The disadvantage is obvious - the player is on 24 hours a day, using up current for no practical purpose. Not very green, Pioneer. 

Audio Switching

The 1750 remote has a dedicated button for audio switching of laserdiscs so that you can now switch between the analogue and digital soundtracks. This was possible on the 1450 but only after a modification to the remote (call Videotec if you want it done). Apart from the merit of comparing analogue and digital versions of the same soundtrack (a margin≠al feature once the novelty has worn off) the switching is essential for the growing number of laserdiscs which carry discrete material on the pairs of tracks. The commentary discs are the best-known example where, for example, a movie director will speak about aspects of the production as the movie plays. There are also a few more conventional laserdiscs where the dynamic range of the digital track is intentionally extreme and is accompanied by a more compressed ver≠sion on the analogue. Examples of this are the widescreen versions of Days Of Thunder and Apocalypse Now. 

Digital Level Control 

Related to the dynamic range, there is a round button on the remote that Pioneer refers to as a Digital Level Control. The UK brochure for the 1750 offers this explanation: "... to adjust the audio output levels of digitally recorded sound from CDs, CD-Vs and LDs". The US brochure for a player with the same button says this:

"Equalises the audio output levels of digitally recorded sound of any discs". The US reference to equalisation gives the real reason for the button; to balance the volume of the analogue and digital tracks. There always seems to have been a minor problem with fitting the digital track on NTSC laserdisc at the correct volume (note how much louder PAL digital laserdiscs are?) so this button is a useful convenience for digital/audio switchers. That facility still applies with NTSC laserdiscs played in Europe but Pioneer here probably thought the correct explana≠tion would seem a bit obscure and has opted for a slightly different justification for its presence by suggesting it be used as a general remote volume control. If you don't have an A/V amp with a remote then it does serve this purpose quite well.

 On-Screen Displays 

The on-screen displays on the 1750 are more comprehensive than before. You will now be told whether a laserdisc or CD-V is NTSC or PAL as it progresses through its start-up routine. Like last  year's PAL-only machines, the 1750 also has what Pioneer calls a multilingual informa≠tion display feature. The Language button on the front panel can be cycled through a range of language options to denote all the player functions seen on screen. Provided one speaks English, German, French or Italian one can have  the language of your choice. Once set up the player will always come on using that language set; it isnít necessary to reset it each time. 

The front panel display no longer makes mention of the presence of CX. This is no great loss. CX status can always be determined by pushing the DA/CX button on the remote, which will stimulate a screen display. 

The 16:9 Button 

So what does the 16:9 button do? Pioneer says it enables easy playback of wide aspect video on next generationís 16:9 aspect television. In the sales brochure Pioneer UK is vague about what all this means (we suspect because they donít know for sure rather than any desire to be secretive). There has been mention about the possibility of special anamorphic widescreen software but so far there is none and no news of any. (Update: 1999 - Anamorphic laserdiscs did start to appear in Japan around 1995 onwards but never made it to the US or Europe). At a guess if it materialises, it will do so in Japan first and find its way to the US and Europe a year or so later. But who really knows. If you can't wait that long and are tempted to push the 16:9 button now, most probably nothing will happen to the TV picture. At the moment it would seem unneces≠sary to get panicked by the appearance of the 16:9 button and start thinking your existing hardware is now horribly obsolete.

 Odds & Ends 

Given its budget origins the 1750 is quite a slick player in respect of operating smoothness and general feel. The external noise is OK though the player doesn't have enough bulk to fully absorb the vibrations and whirrings of certain laserdiscs (such as a CAV disc running full tilt). A few timings were taken of basic disc loading and search operations and these proved to be similar to those of the 1450.

One compatibility Pioneer appears to have ironed out with the 1750 is that the player now appears capable of reproducing the sound on the handful of faulty coded digital audio laserdiscs produced by PDO during the early days of the (SD Video promotion. If you remember, several of these would just go quiet a minute or so from the end of the side. 

Picture & Sound Quality 

For both picture and sound quality the news is mostly encouraging. Sound first. Though measuring (according to Pioneer's specs) almost exactly the same as the 1450 the new machine is a noticeably better sounding beast. The digital sound is richer and more full-bodied and direct compari≠son with discs played on the 1450 made that often sound strained by comparison. The 1450 always seemed an OK player -it was a significant improvement on the hard-sounding CLD-1200 - but three years has obviously enabled Pioneer to improve matters further. Compared to a Video World Electro≠nics 1450 modified for NTSC 3.58 the clarity of the equivalent output on the 1750 is not significantly different. If anything the Video World 1450 was preferred because the 1750 displayed rather more prominent ringing. But the improvement in colour saturation is very evident; the 1750 must be several dB better. With PAL the improvement in colour seemed not so marked but, on the other hand, the clarity of the picture was increased. This was not so much from the point of view of absolute detail - as the 1750 appears to exhibit just about the same level of resolution - but it displays the picture more naturally. The 1450 looks more enhanced in comparison with accompanying texturing of the pic≠ture. 

One proviso regarding all the com≠ments on picture quality was the bulk of the reviewing was undertaken on a sample machine provided by Pioneer. Subsequent audition≠ing of a couple of production machines revealed a noise problem with the picture. It transpires that many of the first 1750s could have done with a better set-up than Pioneer originally managed. If you already have a 1750 and are seeing a similarity in the picture performance with the symptoms described here it might be worthwhile returning the machine to the dealer to get it adjusted. Other than this problem the 1750 does look and sound a nice player arid it follows on in a positive manner from the 1450.

Thanks to Morgan Dahl Simonsen for the manual details for the CLD-1750.

The archive site has a copy of the Operation Manual for the CLD-1750. If you would like a copy please send an email requesting the details.