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Pioneer PDR-19RW CD Recorder/Player Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 June 2000
ImageI was immediately impressed with the Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW as I removed it from its shipping container. This CD-R/CD-RW recorder weighs in at over 14 pounds, much more than the run of the mill CD player. In addition to its heft, indicating a serious power supply and a sturdy chassis, I enjoyed the fine aesthetics, including the well-finished face-plate framed by a likewise handsomely-finished wood side-plate. The PDR-19RW looks the part of Pioneer’s top of the line $1,200 CD recorder and evokes pride of ownership.

The PDR-19RW is chock full of features that allow it to serve as a topnotch single box CD player, in addition to its obvious use as a recording device. Its recording features include synchronized copying by track or entire disc, a sampling frequency converter to allow copies from digital sources other than CD, coaxial and optical inputs, and many other indexing and editing features too numerous to list here. The unit also features automatic level recording for analog sources, a handy feature for those wanting to convert their cassettes to CD. Additionally, the PDR-19RW features Pioneer’s Hi-Bit Legato DACs with 24-bit resolution, an acoustically dampened chassis and high-voltage power supply. Do these esoteric features really make a difference? In a word, yes. As discussed in more detail below, the unit performed fine as a recorder, but I was really impressed with its playback capabilities.
I utilized the PDR-19RW in my reference two-channel system. I was able to make a number of CDs, as well as listen to them over a revealing system. The system as used in the review consisted of a Bow Technologies Wazoo Single Chassis Amplifier, Rotel CD Transport, Theta TLC and Cobalt DAC, Sunfire Subwoofer and Martin Logan Scenarios. To connect it all, I used silver cable from Audio Analysis for all my analog connections. Although this cable is new to me, I have found it to be detailed and accurate, as well as enjoyable to listen to, making it a natural choice for putting a new piece of equipment through its paces. For digital recording, I utilized the coaxial outputs of the Cobalt DAC and Rotel transport. I also brought in a tape deck and my Toshiba SD-2108 DVD player from my theater system to try out as sources for recording purposes.

Recording And Playback
I was mostly interested in making recordings from digital sources. I found the PDR-19RW to be a bit finicky with some digital sources when trying to perform a synchronized recording. To make a synchronized recording, the source unit is paused or stopped. You select either single track or entire disc synchronized recording on the recorder, start the source and, voila, you are in business, at least in theory. I had some problems synchronizing to the Rotel transport, though none with the DVD player’s digital output. It appeared that my transport was still sending a signal out when paused or stopped, making a synchronization lock hard to achieve. To overcome this, I had to power off my source unit, turn it on and pause it as I was setting up the PDR-19RW to record. I found the recordings made from digital sources onto either CDRs or rewritable CD-RWs to be nearly indistinguishable from the source material. I made a few analog source recordings as well without a hitch.

The PDR-19RW really got my attention with its high-quality playback capabilities. I listened to many recordings back to back through the Pioneer and the Rotel/Theta setup and was thoroughly impressed by the Pioneer. While listening to one of my favorite jazz recordings, Bill Berry’s ‘For Duke’ (Realtime Reocrds), I noted the increased detail in the reproduction through the Pioneer. There was more air around the individual instruments and the soundstage was slightly expanded without losing definition. I also noticed a bit more presence on the horns, with additional body but none of the glare or harshness that often accompanies a strong presence. The natural presentation is accompanied by good dynamic skills and accuracy, which I also heard while listening to Dave Matthews Band’s ‘Under The Table and Dreaming’ (RCA). The vocals always sounded natural and the instruments never seemed to be lacking in dynamics or rhythm, a problem with lesser CD players. When listening to "Busy Child" on Crystal Method’s ‘Vegas’ (Outpost Recordings), I noted detected that the bass was not as pronounced as it was on the Rotel/Theta combination. The PDR-19RW seemed to bit a bit thinner and lacking presence in its deeper regions when compared to the Rotel/Theta combination. This difference in the lower registers was confirmed by listening to Janet Jackson’s ‘Velvet Rope’ (Virgin Records), which regular readers will note is a favorite album here at AudioRevolution for checking out low frequency capabilities.

Throughout all of the listening, I found the PDR-19RW to be smooth and natural. The soundstaging was consistently good, the midranges and highs were devoid of any grainy harshness, making for an enjoyable listening experience. My only sonic complaint was that I found the weight of the bass to be on the light side, but one has to take into account my current reference system’s Theta DAC is known for its strong bass response.

The Downside
As a recording unit, I find the $1,200 dollar price tag, lack of DTS and HDCD recording capability and finicky synchronization to be problematic. While DTS and HDCD discs can be played back, the unit cannot record encoded material, something many recorders half the price can do. The synchronization problems, while annoying, are not entirely the fault of the PDR-19RW, this just goes to show how important a good dealer can be. It is important to have a dealer who will let you try the unit out in your system to check system compatibility before purchase.

I find the PDR-19RW to be worth its $1,200 price tag, and then some. The PDR-19RW’s real strength is in its playback abilities. If you are looking for a topnotch CD player and have another digital source to record from, this unit is well worth examining. If you are looking merely for a unit to make recordings on, you will be missing out on the PDR-19RW. Looking ahead to what the next generation of recording devices will bring us, it may just be possible to combine top-grade recording and playback into one box. The PDR-19RW is already more than halfway there.

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