|Pioneer Elite DV-38A DVD-A/V Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Wednesday, 01 August 2001|
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I also utilized the DV-38A in my theater system, along with the Theater center channel speaker. The remainder of the system includes the following components: a B&K Reference 30 processor, an M&K MX-350 subwoofer, a Martin Logan Ascents, Theater and Scenarios, a Sony DVP-CX850D DVD player, a Pioneer CLD-704 Laserdisc player, three McIntosh Laboratories MC602 stereo amplifiers, Silicon Image’s iScan Pro line doubler, a Barco Graphics 808s projector, an 84-inch Da-Lite 1.0 gain screen, Monster Cable power conditioning, video and line-level cables and Audioquest speaker cables.
I connected the DV-38A to my B&K Reference 30 through both the 5.1 analog and the digital outputs. I experimented with all three video outputs: composite, S-Video and component. I found the component outputs to provide a far superior picture. My observations are based upon utilizing the component video connections, unless otherwise noted.
I watched (and listened to) several movies including Gladiator (DTS ES 6.1 DVD, DreamWorks), Mission Impossible 2 (DVD, Paramount) and Saving Private Ryan (DTS DVD, DreamWorks). I switched back and forth between the processor in the DV-38A and the one in the B&K Reference 30. I found that both processors provide competent decoding, but the additional flexibility provided by the B&K allowed me to really dial everything in.
I found the DV-38A to make a good transport for movie soundtracks (as well as for two-channel digital output), but the unit really excels with DVD-Audio discs.
I did most of my DVD-Audio listening with my two favorite discs, Toy Matinee’s self-titled DVD-Audio disc (DTS) and Blue Man Group’s self-titled DVD-Audio disc (Virgin Records), and am amazed at the increased detail available through this format.
With the Toy Matinee disc, I was able to switch back and forth between the DVD-Audio track and the DVD-Video DTS track. I found that I preferred the DVD-Audio track. Both the DVD-Video and the DVD-Audio tracks were mixed in DTS. The difference between the two tracks is the format itself. I found the DVD-Audio track to provide noticeably more detail, which translates into enhanced spatial cues and a more palpable presence.
The Blue Man Group disc is definitely unusual and strange, but makes for a good demonstration of the format. Upon listening to this disc, it became immediately apparent that a well-produced DVD-Audio disc is capable of providing great sound far beyond the limits of traditional stereo CDs or even 5.1 music CDs. While listening to the Blue Man Group, it was very easy to close my eyes and be fully immersed in the performance. The performers sounded like they were in the room with me and all channels were extremely detailed and consistent to provide a smooth and realistic 360-degree soundfield.
I experimented with various settings on the DV-38A, including using the PureCinema progressive outputs and bypassing my iScan Pro line doubler, which normally feeds my Barco projector with the 480p video signal it craves. I found that I consistently obtained the best picture with the interlaced component output feeding my iScan.
On occasion, I did obtain an excellent progressive scan output from the DV-38A, but it was not consistent. The Pioneer, like most progressive scan players on the market, utilizes flags encoded on the disc itself to decode the video and provide the progressive output. The flag encoding is not always done well, which can cause problems with providing a good progressive scan output. With well-encoded discs, the picture is great, but soon as you find a disc that is lacking in proper encoding, you will find a screen with numerous artifacts. I preferred to run the component signal through the iScan Pro, which has better flag detection.
To Pioneer’s credit, the video quality on the DV-38A is a huge improvement over their DVD prior players and, indeed, over that of most players on the market. The interlaced outputs provide a wonderful picture, and if you are lucky enough to have a collection of well-encoded discs, so will the progressive outputs.
I have a few different test discs on hand, which I used in checking out the Pioneer. I found the performance of the Pioneer to be quite good in just about every area, with the exception of chroma upsampling. The chroma upsampling artifacts are generally caused by the MPEG decoding and are, unfortunately, quite common. Fortunately, this rarely intruded on the viewing enjoyment provided by the Pioneer.
All in all, the video quality was quite good, noticeably better than that of my Sony DVD player. The Pioneer provided a much sharper picture, which was especially evident on anamorphic discs, such as Mission: Impossible 2 and The Fifth Element. The colors were deep and rich which, combined with the great detail, made for an astonishingly good picture.
The remote is not up to the standards set by the player itself. When I first picked up the remote, it felt cheap and light. There are many similarly sized buttons, a lack of backlighting and poor tactile feedback, all of which combine to make the remote difficult to use in a darkened room. The chroma upsampling and progressive scan issues discussed above were less intrusive in actual use. Unfortunately, the progressive scan issues will occur in every flag-reading player (which most DVD players are).
At $2,000, the Pioneer DV-38A is simply one of the best DVD players on the market. The video, bearing in mind the caveats discussed above, is outstanding compared to other players above and below the DV-38A’s price range. As a DVD-Audio transport, the DV-38A is a winner as well. When using the MLP (meridian Lossless Packing) 5.1 surround mixes found on all DVD-Audio discs, the quality of the DACs is of the highest importance. Considering all of the other bells and whistles the DV-38A has, the DACs are surprisingly good, surpassing many of the DVD-Audio/Video players that were available at or around $1,000 one year ago. In the real world, you always have to contrast value vs. performance and this is where the DV-38A gets exciting. It wasn’t that long ago that a good line doubler cost $15,000. Now it is a feature in a $2,000 DVD player. You would have to spend thousands of dollars more than the DV-38A’s $2,000 price tag in order to elevate to the next significant level of performance. For many audio and video enthusiasts out there, the DV-38A will prove very alluring.