Elite DV-05 DVD player (SGHT Review) Page 2

Setup of the DV-05 is straightforward, with one exception: To access all parts of the setup menu, you must first insert a disc, start it playing, press Stop, then enter the menu with the DVD still in the player. This puzzling procedure is standard on all current and past Pioneer DVD players. It's briefly addressed in the manual but easy to miss.

In Action
The Pioneer Elite DV-09, with its massive 35-pound chassis, feels as if it could survive a killer asteroid strike, and maybe even whip that sucker around and send it back where it came from. On the other hand, the DV-05 weighs in at just over 6 pounds, which feels like it's ready to have sand kicked in its face. When I picked up the shipping carton, I wondered if Pioneer had forgotten to put the player inside. They hadn't. Apart from its shiny black front panel—standard fare for the Elite line—it could easily be mistaken for a player selling for half the price. Can such an unassuming machine compete with the heavyweights?

It not only can, but its performance astonished me. In a home-theater setting, the seemingly undernourished DV-05 is, overall, every bit as good a performer as the DV-09—not as flexible, perhaps, and certainly not as imposing on your equipment rack as its gym-buffed sibling, but size doesn't always matter. For most of my viewing, I set the noise reduction, sharpness, and block filter to Minimum or Off and the black level to Dark. The effect of the DV-05's sharpness control is clearly visible; except for its Off position (or, at most, its first setting), it's far too heavy-handed to be useful. In this respect, the DV-09 is clearly superior; its separate color and luminance (black-and-white) sharpness controls are subtle in effect and thus genuinely useful on some DVDs (though I nevertheless turn them off most of the time). The noise reduction on both players is also relatively subtle and useful only on the worst discs. But with virtually all DVDs I tried, the DV-05 looks its best without any of these Band-Aids.

On the DV-05, the best DVDs—even those not anamorphically enhanced for widescreen—have the sharpness, detail, and three-dimensionality that are staples of the DV-09. A Bug's Life pops off the screen in a riot of near-psychedelic color. The Ghost and the Darkness is crisp and clean, though the subtle edge enhancement on this disc is definitely visible (but not distracting) on a big-screen display. But this enhancement is on the disc, which is the only real weakness of this non-anamorphic DVD and not a problem with the player. The Truman Show also looks terrific; the DV-05 clearly reveals the slight grain that crops up from time to time on this DVD, but for the most part, the picture is beautifully detailed.

Viewed on a 16:9 display, anamorphic DVDs are another big step up on the quality ladder with the DV-05, with remarkably sharp and almost three-dimensional pictures that leave little to be desired. It will take a high-definition DVD format to improve the quality of the image from this player.

The test patterns from the Video Essentials DVD revealed nothing to complain about. In the DV-05's Auto Pause mode, the patterns from this test disc are crisp and sharp. This is no trivial point. Some DVD players produce good pictures on motion video, but you can clearly see artifacts—slight jaggies in some frames, softness in others—with still frames. These can lead to misinterpretation of the test patterns.

The DV-05's luminance bandwidth, as judged from the high-frequency sweep pattern on VE (title 17, chapter 23), extends cleanly almost to its 5.5MHz limit. While viewing this pattern, it's easy to see the effect of the DV-05's sharpness control—and why you probably won't want to use it. Increasing this control boosts the response in the midband, which exaggerates gross details but does little or nothing to sharpen fine detail. The main effect of the DV-05's sharpness control is to make good DVDs look worse the more you advance the setting.

Fortunately, this is largely academic: Most DVDs really don't need any enhancement. But if you like to mess with such things, you'll be better off with the DV-09. The effect of that player's luminance sharpness control is concentrated at and above 5MHz, which makes it more useful for enhancing subtle detail without adding gross artifacts. Remember, the finer the video detail, the higher the frequency carrying it.

And unlike the DV-09, the DV-05 can pass below-black on a PLUGE pattern. This makes it easier to set up a video monitor, which makes it a desirable feature. But once the monitor is properly calibrated, below-black capability has no effect on the video performance of a player with normal (ie, not test) DVDs.

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