Elite DV-09 DVD player (SGHT Review) Page 3

Returning to full anamorphic playback, I compared the Pioneer directly with the Meridian 586.2 (reviewed in the March/April 1998 issue). There is a considerable difference between these two players in color saturation, and a significant increase in the Meridian's Color control is required to balance things out. This is not a negative in itself, but it does make direct comparisons between the two players difficult.

This one difference aside, however, the two players are very comparable: They are about equally sharp, though I think it's significant that the Pioneer can run neck-and-neck with the Meridian while the latter is producing higher color levels. The Pioneer's picture also looks a little more three-dimensional. The DV-09 and the 586.2 both produce excellent pictures, and you're unlikely to be disappointed with either. But I prefer the Pioneer by a slim margin.

On the test patterns from the Video Essentials DVD, the Pioneer performs as well as, or better than, any other player I've had in my system—with one exception: The DV-09 will not do below-black on a PLUGE pattern. This is interesting, because the Pioneer DVL-909 combi player does. When I asked a Pioneer representative about this, he said the designers decided to use a video processor that would not do below-black because it produces a better picture in other important respects than the chip used in the DVL-909. Based on what I've seen, I can't disagree with this argument. (You're not supposed to actually see below-black on a properly adjusted monitor, but seeing a below-black PLUGE bar makes it easier to perform a proper setup.)

The Pioneer's sonics are good, but not necessarily better than the sound of the other players with which I compared it in my home-theater system. Against any of the other three DVD players reviewed in this issue, the DV-09 sounds a little warmer, richer, and less open. However, the DV-09 sparkles a little less than the rest when it comes to sound effects and music with lots of high-frequency detail. The upside of this is that it improves slightly bright or lean program material, and it reproduces soundtracks with a little more sonic bloom and richness than most DVD players. These characteristics are audible but not dramatic, even in comparison with the Meridian 586.2, which remains the DVD player to beat for overall sound quality.

When I used the DV-09 as a CD transport from its digital outputs in my two-channel music system, it sounded a little more forward in the midrange and fizzier in the highs than the Pioneer DVL-909 combi player under the same conditions. The DV-09 performs respectably in this application, but I cannot convince myself that it's quite the equal of the DVL-909. This is a significant point, given the price difference. In addition, this is a little inconsistent with my observations using DVDs in the home-theater system, a discrepancy I can explain only by the differences in systems, program material, and formats (CD vs. DVD).

The DV-09 also exhibits an annoying quirk that affects many DVD players when playing CDs from the digital output: a tendency to fade into the first fraction of a second of music rather than starting at the beginning. Pioneer's DVL-909 does not do this. (Neither does the DV-09 from its analog outputs or with DVDs.)

>From its analog stereo outputs, the DV-09 is a very competent CD player. The top end is sweet and clean, the midrange is detailed, the bass is solid. Overall, it's a little more forward and full-bodied than the DVL-909, which compensates for this with a little more soundstage depth and a bit more air on top.

There are a few audio-only DVDs on the market that use the two-channel, 24-bit/96 kHz recording mode included in the DVD format specifications. The DV-09 can play these recordings at full resolution, and it performs well enough on the few such discs I have on hand. But more program material is needed before any substantive comments can be made about 24/96 audio. This is not specifically a home-theater topic, so keep an eye on the pages of Stereophile for the ongoing story. I'm more eager for the real multichannel DVD-Audio format to make its appearance.

The Pioneer Elite DV-09 might not be quite up to the very finest DVD players in approaching that delicate balance of sonic detail and refinement needed for the best CD playback, but it is as sweet and clean as they come for DVD sound-for-video. And its incredible image quality makes it a smash hit in the DVD video wars. The less expensive players simply aren't as good as this one, and there's nothing better—in some respects, nothing as good—for even a great deal more money.

This isn't everyone's ideal DVD player; I'm not certain the improvement it offers fully justifies its expense for those with anything but the best video displays. But put it in a big, high-quality projection system, or with the best PTVs, and you'll see what I'm talking about. The DV-09 gets two big thumbs up from me—way, way up.

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