Sugg. Retail: $1200 (CAN)
Distributor: Pioneer Electronics of Canada
300 Allstate Parkway,
Markham, Ont. L3R 0P2
(905) 479-4411 FAX 946-7427
(Reprinted from the Summer 99 Audio Ideas Guide)
As owner of a PDR-05 CD recorder, I didn’t find too many surprises in its Elite successor, with all the same features and a few more to boot. The main extra capability is that of recording rewriteable CD-Rs, called CD-RWs. These can be erased starting with the last track recorded, or by erasing the whole disc for re-use. The main other difference from the earlier model is the disappearance of the Stable Platter transport: no more putting CDs in upside down.
The PDR-19RW provides 3 recording inputs, optical and coaxial digital, and RCA analog. It includes the same sample-rate converter as the PDR-05, allowing direct recording of either 48 kHz DAT tapes or 32 kHz digital broadcasts (which, by the way, have already started in the Toronto area; there’ll be more on this in our next issue). The PDR-19RW will not read or downsample 96 kHz DATs or DVD Audio discs, but will record them through its analog inputs.
Recording can be accomplished in bits (as well as in digital bits), track by track, either manually or using the Synchro mode, which automatically starts the recorder when it senses a digital source. In the latter case, you do have to be careful about extra tight Start IDs on the source CD, since these can cause clipping of the opening note on the recording. One idiosyncrasy of CD-R decks in record mode is that they will copy these IDs from CDs and DATs when copying digitally, but unlike DAT machines, they do not have the level sensing circuits that allow the creation of Start IDs when recording from the analog inputs. Therefore, if you make an anlog copy of a whole LP, you’ll either have to put these in manually, or end up able to access only the start of either LP side using the Skip buttons on the recorder in playback.
Ergonomically, the PDR-19WR is very easy to figure out and ultimately operate, and CD-RWs are, except for the erase function, identical to CD-Rs, even to the point of also being finalized or fixed up after recording for play on other machines. However, there is a fly in this ointment: CD-RW discs are basically a crapshoot as far as playback compatibility with regular CD and DVD players is concerned. There are a few CD machines that won’t play standard CD-Rs, and quite a few brands of DVD players that won’t, but with CD-RW, It’s as likely a player will not read them.
Of course, there’s no problem playing them on the PDR-19RW, but if you want to make CD-RWs for the car so you can re-record them every few months, you could be out of luck. More on this below.
Speaking of ordinary playback rather than recording for a moment, this recorder uses Pioneer’s own Legato Link high frequency interpolation process to mimic 88.2 or 96 kHz performance, and also “increases the dynamic range by resampling the 16 bit audio data from the disc at 24 bits”, according to the manual. This Pulseflow 1-bit DAC also “maintains extremely high conversion accuracy, even when there is system clock jitter.”
I did do our standard CD player tracking tests, starting with Verany disc’s calibrated dropouts. These showed the PDR- 19RW to have adaptive error correction with the 400-Hz sine waves. It played the single dropouts flawlessly through track 35 (2.4mm), and after a hiccup or two, all the rest through 38 (4mm). This performance was repeated on the narrow gauge dropouts until track 42 (2mm), which caused the transport to skip ahead seeking good data. In the double dropouts it ticked lightly at the start of track 49 (2 x 2.4mm), then played through, repeating the same routine on track 50 (2 x 3mm) with some audible ticking. Sine waves are a little easier to adapt to than the 200 Hz/20 kHz signal on the CD CHECK CD, of which only the first level was played cleanly, some ticks on track 2, and loud buzzing on 3.
Our random error disc was very well handled, with no ticking or skipping for over 2 minutes, but the player locked hard, repeating a phrase, at 2:04. I thought it odd that it did not skip ahead as on the Verany disc. Perhaps this player really does have a mind of its own.
On our partially transparent CD the PDR-19RW was similar to most players, ticking loudly on track 1, less so on 2, and clean on 3 and 4. These results indicate a machine that should cope with most dropouts and dirt, but may be sensitive to manufacturing flaws, but can adapt to some disc problems. I’m also concerned about the rather poor performance on the CD CHECK disc, which tends to contradict the superb playing of the Verany tests. Why this happened, I have no idea.
In the real world, the PDR19-RW was a very good sounding player, worth its price and more on this count alone. Never mind that it also records two types of blank discs! Bass was solid and deep, the midrange focused and dynamic, and the top end very easy and sweet. This player rivals single-box CD players at well above its price.
Recording on the PDR19-RW was a simple process, and I used a Pioneer CD-RW. Source was the analog output of our portable DVD machine, the Panasonic DVD-L10 playing the superb Classic Records reissue of the Gershwin works for piano and orchestra. This constituted the highest resolution recorded source we could find outside of live music.
I copied the 1st movement of the Concerto in F onto the CD-RW, and finalized it, a process that takes about 4 minutes, as the recorder writes the final TOC of the CD. Listening to playback on the PDR19-RW I noticed that the DVD’s highs had become a little more constricted, and the bass lacked the powerful drive of the 96-kHz original. But, all in all, it sounded surprisingly good, with much of the original’s rhythmic drive and tonal colour. This is a very good recorder, limited mostly by its 44.1 heritage.
Having listened to the CD-RW on its creator, I embarked on a survey of which machines in the household would or could play the disc. It played perfectly on the source DVD-L10 player, but surprise (!), my PDR-05 would not even recognize it as any kind of disc. The Elite DVL-90 in the home theatre room played it nicely, but the disc just didn’t want to TOC to my Sanyo portable CD player. So there we are: 50/50. Crapshoot!
I liked the gold-on-black styling of this Elite component, as well as its astonishingly good playback performance and excellent recording capabilities, and am still amazed that Pioneer can sell the PDR19-RW for only $1200. If you’re looking for a great value in a CD recorder or player, don’t pass this one up.