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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 2/2/99



Pioneer DV-05 Elite DVD Player

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

DTS Digital OutTHX Ultra Certified

Pioneer's DV-05 DVD Player Performance Rating: A
The DV-05 is an outstanding player - there's no doubt about it. It's audio and video performance is excellent, as it should be, given the Elite and THX logos on the face.

Ease-of-Use Rating: B+
The setup menus are generally good, and are improved over Pioneer's lower-end models. The remote, in particular, is a blessing - very easy to handle.

Value/Overall Rating: B/A
Given the $999 SRP, you definitely get your money's worth here. And you'd have to pay a lot more to get the THX logo on another brand. If it's in your price range, I recommend it.

Specs and Features

Performance Features: Hi Bit Legato Link Conversion, Horizontal Sharpness, Dynamic Black Level Extension, Field Digital N/R (Y Luminance), New Video LSI (New Accurate Digital Servo for reduced Jitter, 10 Bit Video Processing, 10 Bit Video DAC), 96K / 24Bit Audio DAC, DTS Compatible, Twin-wave Pickup Assembly, Virtual Dolby Digital, Four channel D/A converter

Convenience Features: New Jog and Shuttle Remote, New Graphic User Interface Menu System w/Screen Saver, Parallel Video Out (Component & S), Condition Memory recalls set-up conditions such as Language, Subtitle, Aspect Ratio for up to 30 discs, Last Memory recalls last scene played and set-up conditions for 5 DVDs, FL On / Off, Bit Rate Display

Output Terminals: Component Video Outputs (DVD Only), AC-3 / PCM Optical Output, Gold Plated AC-3 / PCM Coaxial Output, Gold Plated Analog Audio Output x 2, Gold Plated S Video Output x 2, Gold Plated Composite Video Output x 2, SR In / Out

Other Features: Elite THX Certified, Urushi Finish, 2 Years Parts and Labor Warranty

Review

After all the horror stories I'd heard about the early Pioneer DVD players (particularly the combo players) having trouble with DVD layer-switching, I was leery about trying the brand in general. But Pioneer has always set the standard in the laserdisc realm, and I've been using their DV-414 for several months now. Bottom line - I've been very impressed.

The advance billing for the DV-05 set a high standard for the player to meet. This is, after all, one of the only THX-certified players in the price range. And given the DV-414's absolutely tremendous value, I found myself wondering what you'd get for the extra $500 on the DV-05, other than the THX logo.

Right out of the box, I was surprised how light the player was. It's more solid than my DV-414, but not as sturdy as, say, a Sony S7000. Still, the construction seems fairly robust. Upon powering up the player, you're immediately greeted with the new Pioneer logo (which I happen to think is much improved over the old one).

I decided to forgo the setup, and popped a copy of Star Trek: First Contact in the tray. It spun up very quickly, a small rotating disc icon visible during the brief wait. I was a little surprised, however, to see the old "Squished Picture Syndrome". The DV-05 is factory preset to the anamorphic widescreen, or 16x9 mode - a big no-no in my book. I suppose Pioneer figures that anyone who pays $999 for THX-certified player, will know that the player's aspect ratio setting needs to be adjusted. Still, this has been a problem from the outset of the format, and has resulted in many player returns. Pioneer needs to change this factory procedure, and quick.

Setting the player properly wasn't too bad. The location of the aspect ratio adjustment in the setup menu isn't immediately obvious - it's hidden on the second page of Initial menu. But the adjustment is made easier, by a set of illustrative graphic symbols, a very nice touch, and one which is recommended by THX for DVD players.

With a properly set player, I started First Contact again. The player handles menu changes quickly, the importance of which cannot be overstated (my old Toshiba SD-3006 was ghastly slow in this respect). Very quickly, I was into the program material - the Borg attack scene. I had connected the player's video outputs to my Mitsubishi 50603, which accepts both S-Video and Component signals. Thankfully, no switch is needed, on the back of the player, to select between the two video outputs (as is the case on the DV-414). Simply plug and play (note that the DV-05 has dual S-Video outputs, as well as the component). The result? In terms of picture quality, I was extremely impressed, using both outputs.

The player reproduces very deep blacks, and rich, full colors. The S-Video picture seemed to be slightly sharper in appearance than the Component, but I preferred the latter, which tended to have richer color reproduction, and a more film-like image. In both cases, the fine detail was excellent, and I was surprised how well shadow detail was conveyed. First Contact is a very dark film, and I saw none of the artifacting, or lack of detail, that some players exhibit in darkly shadowed areas of certain scenes. The DV-05 also handles the anamorphic down-conversion (for 4x3 displays) as good as any player I've ever seen - there were virtually no obvious visual artifacts or "jittering effects" (which some early players displayed), yet the letterboxed image retained excellent clarity and sharpness. And for the record, the DV-05 handles RSDL layer-switches with ease, and only the briefest of pauses.

The audio performance was also excellent. The DV-05 is equipped with a standard coaxial digital output for Dolby Digital and PCM, as well as a Toslink (optical digital) output. The Toslink out can be used for better transmission of data to an outboard Dolby Digital decoder (required for 5.1 sound), or can be dedicated to DTS, if you have an outboard DTS decoder. The DV-05 outputs sound as well as most any other DVD player I've seen (note that it does not auto-detect the 5.1 soundtrack, like some Sony's).

The player's performance while playing audio CDs was generally good, and improved over the DV-414. Still, the DV-05 is not likely to blow anyone away as a CD player. It adds a slightly edgy quality to the sound - not nearly as bad as some DVD players, but still not up to most stand-alone CD units. That's a very minor complaint however - not many high-end audiophiles are going to use even a THX-certified DVD player as their only CD unit. And those with ears not so highly trained, will probably not mind the sound quality at all.

One thing I was really impressed with on the DV-05, was its remote. I have only one complaint with it - it doesn't have back-lit keys. And that is a very minor complaint. The remote is extremely easy to use. The key layout is very logical, and all the controls you commonly need are easily accessed with one hand. As the owner of a DV-414, I particularly appreciated the jog & shuttle dial on the 05's remote. The DV-414 has very awkward scan controls - you have to hold down a button to keep scanning, but if you hold it for too long, it keeps scanning even after you release the button. The result, is that it's very easy to skip past the scene you're looking for. Thankfully, on the DV-05, the dial allows for very easy control of the scanning process - a MAJOR improvement.

Some other nice features on the DV-05, include a screen saver option (which will protect your TV screen if the player is left on for more than 5 minutes without a disc playing), a good on-screen display that includes a bit-rate meter (which displays both a bar graph and a numerical readout), the ability to adjust still frame mode (from field to frame, or auto, for the best freeze-frame quality), video output adjustments (including sharpness, black level, and an MPEG-2 block reduction filter), and lots more. All that, and it plays Video CDs (VCD) too.

Bottom line

This is an excellent DVD player. You get THX-certified performance, in both audio and video (and this is one instance where I believe that makes a noticeable difference). The ergonomics are excellent, and the remote is a dream to use. For the price, this is a very solid player. If that THX logo is important to you, you'd have to pay a lot more to get it from some other player manufacturers. And heck... that new Pioneer logo is pretty slick too. Overall, a sexy player, and definitely recommended.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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