Sugg. Retail: $1599 (CAN)
Distributor: Pioneer Electronics of Canada
300 Allstate Parkway,
Markham, Ont. L3R 0P2
(Reprinted from the Fall 02 Audio Ideas Guide)
I’ve argued that unless all DVD and SACD players are like this one, both formats will fail, or at best limp along for a few years like SQ surround sound did. The DV-47A combines both DVD-A and SACD multichannel capability, going a step beyond our reference DV-AX10, which offers only stereo SACD reproduction.
The newer Pioneer player also includes many video features, starting with PureCinema progressive scan output, and a “Super-Fine Focus Filter with 4:4:4 Video up-sampling”, according to a spec sheet downloaded from the internet. There are also numerous video adjustments and noise reduction features, including the dreaded “Mosquito NR”…it’s always nice to get rid of that annoying insect buzz.
In addition to the progressive component outs, the DV-47A offers S and composite outputs for the less well off. Audio outputs are many, including a pair of stereo outs in addition to the complete 6-channel array. Optical and coaxial digital outs are also provided for those who’ve bought this player by mistake.
Anyone who hasn’t will know that the real audio outputs are the 6-channel set that go into the analog multichannel RCAs on the receiver or processor. And for the younger set, the pirates who’ve gotten the poor, deprived record company executives so upset, this player will also play MP3 discs, thereby nicely covering all the bases from from awful to truly superb sound quality. And, of course, the player also decodes Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, which fall nicely in between.
The separate stereo outputs, of which there are two sets, offer quite extensive 2-channel analog options. First of all, they will provide reproduction of stereo discs up to a sampling rate of 192 kHz, and provide the full performance of 96 kHz discs like those from Chesky and Classic Records. There’s also a feature called Hi-Bit that turns the front channels from 16-bit digital to 24-bit, something akin to what can be done in our Meridian 518 digital-to-digital processor. Another enhancement circuit, Legato Link Conversion PRO, quadruples sampling rate (44.1-to-176.4 kHz or 48-to-192 kHz), providing selectable upsampling. It has 4 settings, these described in the manual thusly:
“Standard - Gives the sound a more forward, live feel
Effect 1 - Bright and lively
Effect 2 - Soft and Rich
Effect 3 - Solid and well balanced”
I guess nobody thought about having an Accurate setting.
Finally, for those trapped in a 2-channel universe (Flatland), the DV-47A offers TruSurround (by SRS), which “creates a realistic surround-sound effect using just two speakers.”
On the video side, in addition to all the discs listed above, the DV-47A also plays something called Super VCD, a new format that is said to be better than the previous Video CD that is popular in the Orient. The Super version apparently surpasses the DiVX format that downloaders use these days to get movies off such sites as Morpheus via high speed downloads.
Because I was being silly above, my conscience has forced me to quote the DV-47A manual describing “MNR (Mosquito Noise Reduction) - Adjusts the amount of noise reduction applied to mosquito noise (video artifacts on the edge of the image resulting from MPEG compression).” I guess it’s so named because the artifacts just buzz around the image and annoy you, the viewer, not to mention the image itself.
And this leads me into the extensive custom adjustment of video parameters possible with this player. I won’t go through all of them, and most users will opt for the PureCinema presets. But among the manual adjustments are Detail (”Adjusts how sharp edges appear in the picture”), White Level, Black Level, Gamma (”Adjusts the brightness of the darker images in the picture”), and Chroma Level (”Adjusts how saturated colours appear”), and Chroma Delay (”Compensates for misalignment of the Y [brightness] and the C [colour] components”); this last adjustment can be helpful if you have to run a long S-video cable to the TV, a situation where the Chroma can get out of phase with the Luminance information, causing blurred pictures.
Overall, this is the most customizeable DVD player I’ve seen, though many of these adjustments should really be done at the display device so all inputs benefit. No matter how you set up the sources, it’s the display that shows the picture, and it has to be optimum.
I set the player up to look as good as possible on the PRO-1000HD plasma set, which wasn’t difficult, as long as the picture was component video, and, at best, progressive scan. Looking at a number of DVD movies showed how good a picture was possible. The clarity and vibrant colour of Apollo 13 excited me, while the natural outdoor colours of The Messenger (a beautifully shot and truly terrible film from the director of The Fifth Element, Luc Besson) were remarkable, even in the carnage of Joan of Arc’s crazed campaigns of war. I watched numerous other films, in full or in part, and was always impressed by the picture quality.
I also listened to quite a few SACDs, DVD-As, and CDs, also with impressive results. Included were the dmp Multichannel Reference CD, the choral Ubi Caritas literally turning the room into a cathedral, while Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You had a lushness in its arrangement that took me into the soundstage where the album was recorded in DVD-A. And Duke Ellington’s stereo Blues In Orbit was pretty much like hearing the band live in SACD.
The DV-47A is a truly universal digital audio player, and a very good one. That the company could make a DVD player based on the $8000 DV-AX10, and actually improve it in some ways at a quarter the price is a considerable technological achievement.
ADDENDUM: Just after this review was completed, Pioneer announced a modification that adds proprietary digital audio connection capability to both the DV-47A and VSX-49TX models with the following press release: “i.Link is an advanced resolution digital audio interface, based on IEEE 1394, a high speed interface for digital audio, video and other data found on PCs, digital camcorders, and other kinds of audio and audio/visual equipment. A single i.Link connector can send and receive data at the same time, so only one cable is required to connect components for two-way communication.
The VSX-49TXi and DV-47Ai, are both compatible with i.Link Audio interface. With this interface you can enjoy digital audio from SACD and DVD-Audio disks, as well as digital audio from DVD Video, CD and Video CD discs.
With the combination of the VSX-49TXi A/V receiver and the DV-47Ai DVD-Audio/SACD player, you can enjoy the ultimate in high resolution audio, simplify your audio connections to a single cable, and reduce the potential for signal degradation by keeping the audio signal in the digital domain as far down the signal path as possible. Using the i.Link interface, it will be possible to connect several components together so that the digital audio and control signals from each component is available to other components in the network.”
If nothing else, this digital interface would free up the multichannel analog inputs on the receiver for an additional source, though the question remains what this might be, given the DV-47Ai’s ability to play all high resolution digital formats. Whether this “Firewire” digital interface might establish itself as a new standard is another question altogether, given the reluctance of Sony and other companies that provide both digital hardware and software to offer digital audio interfaces that might allow copying of program material.