Elite DV-05 DVD player (SGHT Review)

When we reviewed Pioneer's flagship Elite DV-09 DVD player in our September 1998 issue, it blew us away so much that it garnered an Editors' Choice award (see the February 1999 issue) as the best DVD player we had reviewed up to that time. This opinion has not changed in the intervening months, but at $2000, the DV-09 is more than many home-theater fans can afford (or justify) for a DVD player. The Elite DV-05, introduced earlier this year, provides many of the features and most of performance capabilities of the DV-09 at a more affordable price.

As of this writing, the DV-05 is one of only three DVD players that are certified with the THX Ultra imprimatur. (The DV-09 and Denon's DVD-5000 are the other two.) This certification requires a DVD player to pass dozens of audio and video tests specified by THX. It's certainly possible for a manufacturer to produce a top-quality DVD player without the THX logo attached, but the fact that all three THX players to date exhibit outstanding performance cannot be ignored. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

You want features?
THX certification aside, the DV-05 has most of the features you'd expect in a high-end DVD player: all the outputs you're ever likely to need; compatibility with DVD-Video, CD, and Video CD (but not CD-R or CD-RW); and the ability to play those 24-bit/96kHz Digital Audio Discs (DADs) from its analog outputs and with full resolution from its digital outputs. (Full-resolution digital output can occur only if the disc is not copy-protected, and most 24/96-capable DVD players provide full resolution only from their analog outputs.) However, to use the 24/96 digital output, you must have an outboard D/A converter with 24/96 processing, which is still a rare (and expensive) bird.

In addition, the DV-05 properly routes a DTS signal to its digital output. It also has both Standard and Dark black-level settings. (See more on this in JGH's review of the Toshiba SD-9000, also in this issue.) The user parameters include sharpness, digital noise reduction, and block filter (which reduces the "blocks" that occasionally appear as MPEG compression artifacts in early DVDs). These controls are accessible from onscreen menus, as is a bit-rate meter. The scanning and slow-motion functions are typical of most DVD players but not quite up to the smoothness of the new Sony DVP-S7700. Layer changes are also typical of the competition: less than one second, but rarely undetectable. (The visibility of a layer change is most dependent on decisions made in mastering a specific DVD.)

I prefer the DV-05's remote control to the DV-09's: The most-used buttons on the DV-05 are easier to find, and the layout is less cluttered. The remote is not backlit, and many of the buttons are too small, but otherwise I have no complaints.

In the bells'n'whistles department are a screen saver; search by title, chapter, or time; full programming options; repeat play; and Condition Memory, a standard Pioneer feature that remembers specific parameters for up to 30 discs—too few to be very useful, in my opinion. Audio DRC (dynamic range compression) and Virtual Dolby Surround (which offers a simulation of surround from two speakers) are available only from the analog outputs. About the only things missing are a headphone jack and a built-in Dolby Digital decoder—features I find redundant, but they might be important to some buyers.

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