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Pioneer CLD-79 CD Player Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 November 1998
Image Unlike many manufacturers who are dropping laserdisc players from their product mix in favor of DVD, Pioneer still offers several models. The most notable are the three carrying the prestigious ELITE designation. Sitting firmly in the middle, is the CLD-79.

While it incorporates a well designed 1-bit DLC D/A Converter (DAC), this, unfortunately, becomes irrelevant in a state-of-the art home theater. To take full advantage of Dolby Digital and DTS encoded Laserdiscs you must bypass the CLD-79's internal DAC and use the DAC incorporated in other devices such as digital processors, decoders and A/V Receivers. For this reason, I didn't do an extensive review of the CLD-79's sound quality. I wish Pioneer would just offer a laserdisc transport at a lower price, though I can understand why they feel it is necessary to cover all the bases.

The CLD-79 provides two digital outputs (one coax and one optical), in addition to the RF (AC-3) output. I sent the CLD-79's digital output to the Millennium 2.4.6 for DTS decoding and the RF AC-3 output to the Kenwood Stage 3 KC-Z1 Controller which includes a Dolby Digital decoder. In this way, I could playback both 5.1 digital sound formats (The Audio Revolution has posted reviews on both devices' sound performance). The video portion of the CLD-79 was, for me, the heart of this machine. It provides a three line digital comb filter and a digital TBC (time base correction) to correct for video jitter. Digital NR (noise reduction) is adjustable with control over the luminance (brightness) and chrominance (color) to reduce noise inherent in Laserdiscs. Where possible, analog circuitry was eliminated in the CLD-79 in favor of digital processing. The results are evident in the higher resolution and increased video signal-to-noise ratio.

While Laserdiscs still provide only an analog NTSC picture, you can increase performance tremendously by transmitting the video via an S-VHS connection, of which the CLD- 79 offers two such output connectors.

You may have heard that DVD has an advantage over laserdisc because many DVD players offer component video (RGB) outputs. However, consider this: most CRT and projection TV's, including many new ones, don't have RGB inputs but they do offer S-VHS. So more than likely, whether you have the CLD-79 or a DVD player, you will be utilizing the S-VHS connections at least for the next year or two.

The good news about that is the CLD-79's picture quality closely resembled DVD when utilizing the S-VHS connection. Though DVD's colors are generally more vibrant, I was extremely impressed by the CLD-79's overall richness in picture detail and color saturation. Skin tones were consistent and natural. Edges were sharp and crisp. Colors were bright and accurate without any flaring, particularly on the more troublesome yellows and reds found in those big explosions.

Of course, the CLD-79 offers some cool features such as "both-sides play" and a jog shuttle wheel on the remote for that frame by frame analysis of your favorite special effects. Like a CD player, you can program specific chapters for playback or you can have one scene repeat itself indefinitely. There are two drawers, one for Laserdiscs and one for CD's.

However, the feature I found most thoughtful was the "film mode." When engaged, the display window is blank and the screen goes black when changing sides. By not reading the chapter TOC, the length of time to change sides is shortened. A minor detail, but it enhances the "theater-like" experience if you want to play the disc through without skipping around.

If you are a serious home theater buff, a laserdisc player is already an essential component in your system. However, you know DVD is going to be a critical factor in the home theater of the near future, which raises an important question...why would you need a new laserdisc player?

First off, any one with an existing and growing library of Laserdiscs with no way to play Dolby Digital and DTS encoding discs MUST seriously consider this upgrade. The CLD-79 is a perfect choice with the appropriate output connectors to incorporate both digital systems.

For the time being, many studios intend to continue delivering both the laserdisc and DVD formats. Moreover, at the current time, not ALL movie studios are supporting DVD, so there are a lot of new titles only available on laserdisc.

Once DVD comes of age, the laserdisc format may very well fade away. Still, if your current laserdisc player is not state-of-the-art, I highly recommend picking up the CLD-79. For $1,440.00 the increased enjoyment level is well worth the investment.

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