|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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The DV-38A is Pioneer’s eagerly anticipated top of the line progressive video DVD player. The DV-38A retails for $2,000, is THX Ultra Certified and supports both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio formats. With all of the hype of new formats swirling in the audio/video magazines, the DV-38A arrives just in time for those looking for an upgrade in sound and picture.
Upon unpacking the DV-38A, I found it to be finished in the traditional Pioneer Elite manner, with a polished black face with gold details and attractively finished wood side panels. The face plate, in addition to the drawer assembly, contains a small number of indicator lights, including one that has a cool blue light for illumination, and minimal operating controls. This give the unit an attractively clean, functional look.
The DV-38A weighs in at a fairly hefty 22 pounds. The construction of the unit is very solid, utlizing a triple-layered chassis and three chambers to isolate the various internal sections. The copper used for the isolation material adds to the unit’s rigidity, as well as isolating potential interference between different sections of the player.
However, Pioneer has elected not to incorporate the very cool air chamber train assembly from their former top of the line DVD player, the DV-09, into the new unit. The DV-38A’s tray assembly is a damped assembly, which emerges from behind a drop-down door but is not nearly as cool as the DV-09 assembly.
The DV-38A is full of features to maximize its performance, both audio and video. On the audio side, the DV-38A supports CD, CDR, DVD and DVD-A formats. The unit includes Dolby Digital, DTS and MPEG decoders, allowing the digital output to be completely bypassed. The internal digital-to-analog conversion process incorporates Pioneer’s Hi-Bit Legato Link conversion, Dual Analog Devices 192 kHz, 24-bit DAC’s on the front left and right channels, and Analog Devices 96 kHz, 24-bit DAC’s on the remaining channels. The digital outputs support Dolby Digital and DTS and are 96kHz, 24-bit capable.
The video performance features are too numerous to list in their entirety. Below is just a sampling. Most notably, the DV-38A is capable of producing a progressive scan output through its PureCinema, 10-bit, 54 MHz processing system with 3:2 pulldown. The player is capable of passing a below-black signal, useful for calibration and has more adjustments for noise reduction, sharpness, color, hue, brightness, etc. than most users could ever hope to figure out. While many of these controls will go unused by the majority of purchasers, they can prove invaluable to the trained installer in obtaining the best picture possible.
I utilized the DV-38A both in a two-channel music system, as well as in my multi-channel home theater system. My music system includes a Krell KAV-300IL integrated amplifier, Final 0.3 speakers, B&W CM2 speakers and a Sunfire Signature Subwoofer. In both my music and theater systems, I also utilize several of ASC’s Studio and Tube traps to optimize the room acoustics, as well as to experiment with loading the electrostatic speakers in a horn configuration.
The DV-38A was first placed into my two-channel music system as a CD player. I have previously used other Pioneer Elite CD players and was curious as to how the DV-38A would compare. The unit I had received had already been out on the review circuit for a while, and was consequently already broken in when I began my review.
I found my notes from prior listening sessions with Pioneer Elite CD players, pulled out some of the same discs that I used in the prior sessions and began to listen. I began with Bill Berry’s For Duke (Realtime Records). I found the DV-38A to be more detailed than prior Pioneer units, which is not surprising in light of the dual Analog Devices 192 kHz, 24-bit DAC’s. I also immediately noted slightly forward, warm midrange, something I had also noted previously on other Pioneer Elite digital products. I believe this to be a result of the Hi-Bit Legato Link. I had previously noted that on "The Busy Child" track on the Crystal Method album Vegas (Outpost Recordings), the bass was a bit on the thin side. On the DV-38A, this effect was much less noticeable, although the bass was still not as solid as when using the Theta DAC. This detail in the bass was confirmed by listening to Janet Jackson’s "Go Deep" from the Velvet Rope album (Virgin Records) and Paula Cole’s "Tiger" on her This Fire album (Warner Brothers), which regular readers will note is a favorite album here at Audio Revolution for checking out low-frequency capabilities.
The DV-38A was able to create a large solid soundstage with good imaging. Voices and instruments both were portrayed with proper timber and tone to create a convincing image. While the DV-38A is designed to be utilized in a multi-channel system with DVD and DVD-Audio material, it is more than capable as a CD player as well.