Pioneer CLD-V710 Laser Karaoke CD/CDV/LD player




Newspapers are shrieking, economists are freaking, and the general level of what Ken Kessler calls "Japaranoia" is peaking; no doubt about it, the Japanese have definitely turned up their acquisitive heat these past few years, buying up nearly everything but Stereophile's office at 208 Delgado Street. And coupled with scary Time articles describing a nation of supra-focused seven-day school-week robokids who can speak 12 languages by the first grade while American SAT scores continue to plummet, that spells F-E-A-R. Real fear. Fear of a foreign culture swarming over the water and replacing our analog with their digital, meat'n'potatoes with rice'n'fishheads, topless dancers with pearl-divin' geisha girls; our American Way Of Doing Things with theirs.

Crypto-racist nonsense, of course, but oftentimes the "Conventional Wisdom" is nothing but (footnote 1).

So just what is "their" way of doing things? Lessee...says here that, unlike most Americans, the average Japanese worker views his job as being more important than even his own family, often working 15-hour workdays with nary a complaint! And when that 1am whistle blows, does our average Japanese businessman hop the Bullet Train back to the wife and robokids? No. Instead, he does what any sane person would do having grown up in a centuries-old culture that fosters such intense competition that the #1 TV game show features contestants willing to don Rising Sun samurai headbands and wolf down frantically twitching cockroaches whole: he goes to a bar, gets totally plastered, and sings "Do Ya Wanna Funk?" to a group of complete strangers. For though he may in fact be totally oblivious to the neo-primitive urges beating within his tortured breast, our average Japanese businessman instinctively moves toward the light; he moves toward...KARAOKE.

Now, I don't know about you, but I've always scoffed at the whole idea of Karaoke (footnote 2); singing '70s schmaltz to inane synthed-out backing tracks just seems dumb. Besides, everybody knows that American Karaoke bars are for losers, amateur lounge-lizards, and those poor wretches who've been so numbed by "America's Funniest Home Videos" that they can't get off except through self-degradation and public humiliation. Right? So when Pioneer sent me their new Home Karaoke system, I figured it'd be good for a few cheap laffs and then back on the boat to Tokyo.

I was wrong.

The hardest-working Karaoke in show business
The Pioneer CLD-V710 is more than just a pretty Karaoke; in addition to the 8" Karaoke Laserdiscs, it'll play CDs as well, although there's no digital-out jack for hookup to an outboard D/A converter (footnote 3). Not only that, but you can feed it 8" and 12" Laserdisc movies, 5" CDVs (CDs with video), even 3" CD singles. And no matter what you feed it, the Pioneer figures out what it is, what it should do, and where it should go, all automatically.

As far as features go, this baby's loaded; Pioneer's manual proudly lists the "Rich Variety" of ways the 710 offers you maximum Karaoke flexibility. Can't quite sing in key? Push the "Vocal Assist" button, and a guide vocal comes on to sing along with! Is the song's key out of your range? The Pioneer lets you raise and lower the pitch four steps in either direction! Want to sing a tune off of a CD? Press "One Touch Karaoke," and the 710 will subtract the left channel from the right and "remove" the vocal on most CDs so you can be the singer! Does your voice sound too "dry" over your speakers? The Pioneer's got the coolest, cheesiest echo effect built right in; just crank it up!

While you can play the audio through your TV's speaker, you stand a good chance of smoking the li'l guy if you do; you absolutely need to feed the Pioneer's audio into your hi-fi rig. I mean, what could be more deliciously decadent than singing Karaoke over Krell-driven WATT/Puppies?! I set the Pioneer Karaoke up in my bedroom with a system consisting of my trusty G.E. TV, a self-built passive preamp, a Muse Model 100 amplifier, and a pair of NHT 2.3 speakers. If you need to know what kinds of cable I used for this review, you're sicker than I am and we should get together.

Were this a run-o'the-mill review, I'd spend four or five pages detailing the operation and performance of the unit, sharing my innermost thoughts and opinions with you in that beautiful reviewer/reader luv jones normally seen in these pages. But Karaoke isn't like a preamp or a turntable; you feed it a disc, hold the mike in front of your puss, and follow the bouncing ball. There's no such talk like, "I was immediately drawn into the music's finely woven fabric"; you just sing along with the background music and have a blast! I will, however, make special mention of the accompanying videos on these Pioneer-produced Karaoke discs, which all look like sexless pornomovies and have little or no connection with the story-line of the songs they represent. I loved 'em, especially the one for "La Bamba," which consisted of nothing but random footage of some Hispanics walking around East LA. So instead of a blow-by-blow account, I've condensed my time with the Pioneer to the following.

Reasons why Karaoke trumps high-end audio
• Nobody gives a damn about hi-fi gear except audiophiles. It's true; my friends are always asking me what I'm working on for the magazine, and no matter what piece of gear I tell them I'm listening to, the reaction is always the same: "Oh. That's interesting." As in, "Oh. You're a nerd. I keep forgetting." Face it, real people just don't care about cables, DACs, and tube amps; it's all geekspeak to them.

But when I told people I had a Home Karaoke, they flipped: "YOU HAVE A KARAOKE?! Oh man, you gotta bring it over!" I have never once heard any of these people cry, "YOU HAVE A HAND-WOUND MOVING-COIL CARTRIDGE?! Let's party naked!" Everyone wanted to see it, to sing along to it, to caress it in wonderment. I've had gear in my home that's made music hang there unfettered in the moist Texas air as if alive, but nobody ever gave a damn before. Before the Karaoke, that is.

• The Hi-fi Experience gets worse the more you drink, but Karaoke gets better. A lot of you will argue that you like nothing better than to roll a fine single-malt scotch around your tongue and let all that glorious, tweaked sound waft over you like the breath of Aphrodite, but that's not really the "true" audiophile approach; clinical studies have shown that alcohol actually slows down the response-time of the ear, thus reducing the ability to hear all that extra-fine detail you laid out all that long green for in the pursuit of ever-higher fi. And if your critical sense of hearing is progressively dulled by all that hooch, well, that defeats the whole purpose of high-end audio, doesn't it?

Karaoke, on the other hand, all but demands that you get wasted, because not only do most people need to get drunk before they'll get up in front of a crowd and belt "Green-Eyed Lady," but you sing better, too. All those soul-man vocal curlicues that seemed to come so easily to Otis Redding just roll off your swollen tongue, believe me. In fact, I can cut Otis's ass on "Dock Of The Bay," and after 15 Miller Genuine Drafts, so could you.

• Everybody Is A Star. I'm pretty sure Sly Stone wasn't singing about Karaoke, but the idea's the same. Unlike listening to your hi-fi, which puts you in the position of passive receptor/spectator, Karaoke puts you in the center ring! You know you've always wanted to croon like Tom Jones; with Karaoke, you are Tom Jones! Go on, stuff your pants, get hotel keys and panties thrown at you by hysterical women, get a Mr. Brady perm and GO DOG GO! My friend Tracy's a stone Patsy Cline freak, and I don't think I've ever seen her happier than when she's singing "I Fall To Pieces" on a bellyful of white wine. And just the fact that I was able, with Pioneer's Home Karaoke, to make her that happy, well, it makes me happy, too. I myself favor the Elvis catalog, naturally, but a few times I stepped out on "Mack The Knife" and at least one blurry rendition of "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" at Tracy's slurred request.

True Story: Tracy and I went to The Common Interest, Austin's own Karaoke bar, and when I was walking back to our table after singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight?," a drunken 60-year-old woman grabbed my crotch and squealed. This ever happen to you with your hi-fi?

I rest my case.

• It Takes Two To Karaoke. I'd wager that most audiophiles are Lone Listeners. It seems almost a prerequisite of hi-fi that listeners be alone. Alone to lose themselves in the sonic splendor and private emotional experience of the music, sure, but the operative word is still ALONE.

Singing Karaoke alone, however, is worse than drinking alone. In fact, it's about as depressing a scenario as I can conjure. I tried it when I first got the Pioneer home, and it was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my adult life; it's just no fun to stand there all by yourself and sing lyrics off a TV screen. Karaoke forces you to invite people over and have a good time, precisely because you can't enjoy it by yourself! So you call your friends up, they bring over some beer, and you wind up singing the corniest songs in the world all night long until your voice gives out and/or everybody passes out. If that doesn't sound like a kick-ass time to you, give me a call and I can probably help you work it out.

• Karaoke Makes Girls' Parents Like You. When Tracy told her pop that I had Karaoke, he immediately invited me to come spend the day at their beautiful lake house—"And be sure to bring that Karaoke, son!"—so we drove out Saturday morning with the Pioneer and a handful of Karaoke laserdiscs. Man, you should have seen him once I had the Karaoke hooked up in the rumpus room! He sang his butt off, handling everything from Jerry Lee Lewis to Hank Sr. with stunning aplomb. He got so into it, he set up the portable PA they had for the church-group retreats they host and belted his heart out through that! At one point, Tracy's whole family was singing at the same time; Rockwell himself would've gotten all choked up. I know I did.

It was dark when I finally boxed up the Pioneer and loaded it into the trunk of Tracy's T-Bird. Her father shook my hand firmly and smiled, one man acknowledging another, a private moment of what Bly calls "the unspoken bond between males," a gesture not of words but of hard-fought understanding and, finally, respect.

"Son," he said, "Can you get me a good deal on one of those things through your magazine?"

Up 'til now, I've held my tongue when it came to ranking gear under review according to Stereophile's "Recommended Components" list, but no more; I unhesitatingly place the Pioneer CLD-V710 Home Karaoke player at the top of Class A under "Fun." I've been seduced, reduced, and nonplussed; Karaoke is not only so utterly cool most mortals can't begin to comprehend the implications, but the Pioneer gives you a CD player and a Laserdisc player to boot! If you're even vaguely curious about how you'd sound singing "Midnight Train To Georgia" on a bellyful of malt liquor, you owe it to yourself to audition this very special product. Highly Recommended! (footnote 4)

Footnote 1: Contrary to this Conventional Wisdom, the Japanese are not the leading foreign owners of New York City real estate; actually, it's the British. But do we care about that? Hail, no! Cuz Brits mostly look just like us, plus they got them edge-yuh-kated–soundin' accents, too.

Footnote 2: Japanese for "Empty Orchestra." Really.

Footnote 3: Don't laugh; Mike Moffat's new super transport, the Theta Data, begins life as a Pioneer Laserdisc player (read Bob Harley's rave in the November 1991 issue). I bet if Mike took home a CLD-V710 for a weekend, he'd pump out the DSKaraoke in no time. And I'll be the first one to buy one.

Footnote 4: By the time you read this, dear readers, Pioneer will have replaced the CLD-V710 with the identically priced CLD-V820, which adds DSP (Digital Signal Processing), both-sides play, and special vocal effects to tailor the sound to match the appropriate ambience. The $850 CLD-V720 omits the both-sides play mode.—John Atkinson

Pioneer Laser Entertainment
Long Beach, CA 90810

remlab's picture

Classic Greenberg

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PeterPani's picture

I own high quality analog gear (Thorens TD 124, SPU-systems but also 2-track 15 ips Revox A700) and play high quality analog sources (owning up too nearly all Tape Project and Ultra Tapes). And I own a modified Laserdisc Player, where the analog signal from the analog LD-track is directly taken away from the demodulation circuit into my tubed preamp. The analog sound of several Laserdiscs is better than the 15 ips 2track tapes that I own.
With pure analog Audio-Laserdiscs (without digital audio tracks and without movie tracks) we could have a carrier of highest possible analog quality, if this system would have been further developed in the last 30 years. The DVD was the dead back than in the 90's.
All analog carriers are back today, but sadly not the Laserdisc. A pity, because it has the most potential of all analog carriers we know so far.