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Pioneer CLD-950

Thanks to Sascha for the pictures.

At £499.95 it is only £100 more than Pioneer has been charging for a PAL combi and £80 less than last year's CLD-1850, the previous lowest entry point for a dual standard machine Indeed, at £499.95, Pioneer has got back to the original price of the CLD-1450.  

Pioneer makes no bones about the new combi being built down to a price. It appears to have all the main features but is primitive in certain respects as a consequence of the price shaving. The first visible sign of this is the slimmed down remote (CCU-LOO92 Remote). 

Rather than clear the trout panel of controls, the 950 very much compares with the onboard features on the CLD-1850 an it is the remote that has lost functionality particularly the rotary scan control. Thatís not all that allows the new remote to he so small. Also missing are the numerical keys, thus denying the user any chance to do a specific search from the sitting position: the numerical buttons are on the front panel of the player. The only access the remote now permits is via the chapter/track skip and scan buttons. The 950 is fully CAV featured and the remote has buttons for these (but the player hasnít) as well as the usual repeat modes.  

There is always the argument for keeping a full set of controls on the player; that one is unlikely to misplay the player whereas it is very easy for the remote to go walkies. But there is also a very strong argument in removing all but the open and close buttons from the machine and doing everything via the remote if economy dictates only one set of controls can be afforded. 

A more agreeable economy is the loss of the optical digital output on the back panel. As those who have the appropriate digital pre amps/amps to accommodate these are likely to have expensive audio set-ups, then it might be reasoned they will not be too fussed by having to buy a slightly more up market combi (of which more later).  Also, while the digital audio quality of the CLD-950 is bright and detailed, it does sound rather more aggres≠sive than usual and therefore less likely to appeal to the more critical audio user. 

Operationally the other major economy is with the scan function This may be something Pioneer ha done before with its cheaper models but the 950 doesn't offer a conventional contiguous scan. Instead of the usual constant sam≠pling of images the 950 just grabs one picture (admittedly in a very stable way) and then drops into video black before revealing another. There is not that feel of being able to constantly monitor the content. Thus it can be difficult to locate short sequences; one tends to scan past them unintentionally. Additionally, the alternating brightness levels between the video black and the picture tends to be very tiring on the eyes after more than a few seconds. It came as a surprise too that this same ragged scan would operate with CAV discs. (However, in multispeed the usual smooth CAV motion was available.) 

With all that, it will come as no major surprise that Pioneer has not improved on the picture quality available from the 1850. The 1850 machine appeared to resolve black and white resolution gratings well but come the time to watch real pictures was found to be disappointingly unsharp or soft. The 950 is very similar. In other respects, though, the picture quality seems very satisfactory. In fact, apart from the economies already mentioned, the 950 comes over as a just a very spartan but otherwise competent unit. 

The only other possible niggle is that, while a mechanically quiet machine, it did emit a high-pitched whine when playing any type of videodisc. When this review was done Pioneer only had the one sample and so it was not possible to determine whether this was just an isolated fault. Hopefully so, as for anyone sitting close to their machine (which, without the full function remote is very probable) the noise, though low in volume, had that piercing quality that high-pitched whines tend to have. 

For anyone familiar with a combi of virtually any vintage, the features and controls on the CLD-950 should be easy enough to understand. 

Two features that were noticed which might be new (or have been missed on previous reviews of Pioneer machines) are the Last Memory and Autostop Cancel function. The former is something that has been encountered before on Sony players and enables a disc to be left in the machine and automatically restarted at the same point next time the thing is powered up.

The ability to cancel autostops on CAV discs (which Pioneer describes as a "Picture-stop cancel function") does not immediately strike one as an urgent addition to the array of functions. But if you do have any CAV disc you find a nuisance because it keeps stopping (at which point you are expected to push play or step to carry on), then this player is for you. However, during the review, it was found difficult to activate the function via the remote. The owner's manual instruc≠tions themselves are complicated to follow, but even after getting the hang of them the cancellation couldn't be achieved by pushing the same button combination on the remote as on the player itself. 

The essence of the CLD-950 was to bring PAL/NTSC capability to a new lower entry point. The machine might have been appealing to someone tempted by the LD concept who would otherwise be put off (mistakenly we'd say, because of being completely cut off from the NTSC cata≠logue) by the present £180 price gap between a PAL machine and the lowest price PAL/NTSC machine. £100 is a lot smaller gap. The 950 is not going to appeal to someone who has owned a previous Pioneer PAL/NTSC combi. 

Features List 

Basic Specification; PAL & NTSC LD, CD-V, VSD/CD Audio comb - all disc sizes.
Price:  £499.95 

General Features; repeat modes (chapter/track/A-B sequence/side); programme (up to 24 chapters/tracks); auto programme edit (dubbing func≠tion); compu programme edit (dubbing function); CD-Deck synchro (Pioneer brand audio cassette deck dubbing interconnect); intro scan (samples track starts); hi-lite scan (samples tracks 1 minute in); random play/program ran≠dom play; multilingual screen readouts (English/French/German/Italian); direct CD (separate CD tray & video circuitry bypass). 

LD Features: Pure PAL & NTSC playback; transcoded NTSC for PAL TV (absolute compatibility is TV depen≠dent); CAV capable (multispeed & step forward & reverse); digital/analogue switching (NTSC only); digital/analogue volume matching (NTSC only); CX (auto & manual); audio switching (L R/stereo); 16:9 switching for future software; last memory; autostop defeat. 

Rear panel sockets; Video (1) & Audio (2) phonos, Scant (2) and CD-Deck Synchro. 

Size:   420 x 122 x 390mm (w x h x d) 

Weight; 7.2kg 

Power supply; 240 volt, 43 watts consumption. 

Accessories; Remote (+ batteries);

Multilingual instruction manual.

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