Elite DV-09 DVD player (SGHT Review) Page 2

The DV-09 also provides extensive video controls, which are accessed from the remote's Mode button. Separate video adjustments are available for luminance noise reduction (YNR), color noise reduction (CNR), overall noise reduction (NR), horizontal and vertical sharpness, black level (Normal and Dark), color level (C level), and Y/C timing. In addition, three memories are available for various user-established combinations of these settings, along with three factory defaults: Standard, Sports, and Art. As usual with such features on products from the Far East, the manual's descriptions of them are colorful but not very helpful: "Black Level: For correction of floating black color and for reproduction of sharp 3-dimensional pictures." "Art: Picture quality with abundant expressive power." A lot has undoubtedly been lost in the translation.

I dabbled a bit with these controls, but I generally came back to the standard settings. All my observations of the Pioneer's image quality, both here and in the group review of three DVD players elsewhere in this issue, were made with the standard settings, modified only by a reduction in the YNR and CNR settings.

The DV-09's remote strongly resembles those furnished with Pioneer's now-discontinued top-of-the-line laserdisc players. In this case, the jog-shuttle dial is limited to slow scanning and stepping between frames. (This dial is not duplicated on the player's front panel.)

However, the locations of the individual buttons on the DV-09's remote are actually very different from the LD remotes, and many of the buttons are inconveniently small and too closely spaced. In particular, the Chapter Skip buttons are annoyingly hard to locate, especially in the dark. (The remote is not illuminated.) The Fast Scan buttons are much larger and easier to use, but they're needed less often than Chapter Skip, in my opinion. As with any remote, you become accustomed to the DV-09's over time, but it isn't the best DVD remote out there. (Note to manufacturers: see Toshiba.)

Those who have read my review of three other DVD players in this issue already know something of how I feel about the Pioneer DV-09. Its superiority is not in its massive construction, cosmetics, or slick operation, though all these things weigh heavily in its favor. Instead, the DV-09's edge is where it counts most: performance. Simply put, I have not seen better picture quality from any DVD player, regardless of cost.

It isn't hard to see the Pioneer's quality in a direct A/B comparison. The picture is simultaneously smooth and detailed, its colors natural yet richly satisfying. The images are amazingly sharp while remaining free of grain and artificial-looking edge enhancement; I'd certainly call the picture filmlike.

Until recently, I had the stunning Vidikron Vision One projector in my home-theater system, but it had to go back to the manufacturer after I'd finished reviewing it. In its place is a more modest but still rewarding Dwin HD-500 (with a Faroudja VP250 line doubler). Of course, swapping the Vidikron for the much more affordable Dwin involved a loss in sharpness, brightness, and color accuracy. The Dwin is a fine product fully capable of immersing you in a movie, but the overall video experience has less "Wow!" than before.

Then the Pioneer arrived. As I watched L.A. Confidential with a group of friends, I was entranced with the quality of the projection. Crisp and finely detailed with superior color saturation, the vibrant yet natural-looking image from the DV-09/Dwin/ Faroudja combination actually reminded me of the Vidikron, with which I had lived for many months. Of course, the new setup isn't quite as good as the Vision One—I suspect that using the DV-09 with the Vidikron would be heart-stopping—but I no longer missed the bigger projector quite as much. There's plenty of pleasure to be had from more affordable projectors with the right equipment driving them. The "Wow!" was back.

Switching from the Pioneer to the less expensive Denon DVD-3000 provides a less pristine presentation. Indeed, switching to any of the other players reviewed in this issue makes the overall experience less compelling. The differences are not extreme; many of today's good DVD players and better discs will produce pretty amazing results in such a system.

However, much of the Pioneer's visual advantage disappears when anamorphic discs are downconverted to a standard letterbox on a 4:3 screen. The DV-09's advantage doesn't evaporate entirely, but my preference in a direct comparison with the Denon player in this setup varied from disc to disc and scene to scene. The Denon also displays fewer motion artifacts from the downconversion process than the Pioneer. Similarly, using S-video connections (instead of component video) slightly reduces, but does not eliminate, the Pioneer's visual lead.

Pioneer Electronics
2265 East 220th Street
Long Beach, CA 90810
(310) 835-6177