Published On: January 11, 1995

Pioneer DVL-919E Laserdisc and DVD Player Reviewed

Published On: January 11, 1995

Pioneer DVL-919E Laserdisc and DVD Player Reviewed

If you're one of the few people who still cling to their Laserdiscs, the DVL-919E is the culmination of a few decades of engineering, and is likely the last high-end LD player the world will ever see. Thankfully, it also plays back DVDs and CDs just as well.

Pioneer_DVL-919E_DVD_LD_Player.gifFor once, I've decided NOT to berate a company for upgrading a product so quickly. Why? Because only last week, I bought a computer game for my son and yesterday it was reduced from £34.99 to £24.99; the colour printer I purchased in February was replaced in April with a cheaper model with a higher speed rate; cars are replaced every 12 months, and you don't get a refund or re-fit if you own last year's model. So I refuse to fret because Pioneer updated a DVD/LD combi-player which I reviewed last August.

This review is a one-pager because it's part of our new method of dealing with upgraded products which don't involve complete re-designs. And the DVL-919E combi-player qualifies because it because it is essentially a DVL-909 with newer DACs and detail changes.

Additional Resources

My primary reason for loving the '909 is a need to access both DVDs laser-discs. Having both in one player (CD compatibility is a given) makes my life that much simpler, saves space and saves sockets. Despite exhortations that I would buy the '909, events overtook me and I grew utterly rabid in my hatred of regional coding, going so far as to propose European boycotting of coding. So, instead of buying the Region Two '909, I bought a Region One Pioneer DVD-414. But I've just learned of a cache of PAL laser discs for a tenner apiece and my LD player is NTSC-only. Plus, in my new role as resident film buff, I can no longer avoid Region Two if I'm to review A/V systems for this magazine.

So maybe the DVL-919E is the way to go?

Its solid aluminium fascia is finished in the same Marantz-y gold colour, the comprehensive remote is the same, and - most importantly - the price stays at £899.99. Standard again are both-sides-play for laser disc, twin pick-up design individually dedicated for DVD and CD/LD (which, if you remember, is why Pioneer's combi-player doesn't compromise on CD playback), 10 bit video DAC, 96Khz-48Khz down-converter providing PCM digital output from 96kHz music DVDs, independent CD/LD loading trays and fluorescent display dimmer and on/off.

Like the '909, the '919 will never face an A/V receiver or processor it can't access. The back contains two SCART connectors, one S-video output, one component video output (phono socket), the necessary AC-3 RF output for laser discs, a coaxial digital output each for PCM and AC3/MPEG/DTS/PCM, an optical digital output for AC3/MPEG/DTS/PCM and a pair L/R Analogue audio outputs. The Pioneer also features a socket to provide system remote operation in an all-Pioneer set-up.

Read more about the DVL-919E's performance on Page 2.

Pioneer_DVL-919E_DVD_LD_Player.gifWith a full name of 'DVL-919E', you've probably guessed that the
suffix means that this player is intended for the European market, hence
its dual-standard PAL+NTSC laser disc capability and Region Two DVD.
For DVD set-up, menus and interface, many of the features will be
familiar to owners of previous Pioneer DVD machinery, including
selectable frame/field pause with auto mode, 24/96 digital audio
streaming via digital outputs (which we know to be unique to Pioneer
DVD-Video players) and independent configuration of digital outputs
(Dolby Digital/MPEG/PCM/DTS).

What the '919 adds to the '909 are superior audio DACs, 24-bit
processing instead of 20-bit and finalised-spec DTS. Amusingly, the only
disc out of the inaugural batch of DTS DVDs covered in 'Headroom', May
1999, without regional coding was the King Crimson title, but it has a
glitch preventing access to the DTS soundtrack on the '919; Bamford got
it to work on the '414 by stabbing buttons at random. Still, it proved
useful because it's one of the only non-hard-core porno DVDs on the
market with multi-angle access. It was a hoot to choose angles, going
from, say, the drummer to a guitarist, to then hear the mix change so
that the featured player's instrument was fed to the centre channel.
Very cool.

Another ability which the '919 possesses is the playback of CD-R
discs, which can cause problems with some players. I'm not to worried
about this, even though some CDs we get for our music section arrive as
CD-Rs to facilitate pre-release reviewing; I have 'normal' CD players
which don't object to CD-Rs. If, on the other hand, you're considering a
combi like the '919 to deal with your optical disc requirements, you own a lot of CD-Rs (shame on you...), then score one more for the new Pioneer edition.

While the '919 is but a refinement of the '909, it does appear to be
warmer and more precise. But then the '909 was so good that the gains
may seem academic. OK, so the '919 is a tad nearer to the sound of a
CD-only player of high current approval level, and it comes remarkably
close to the Musical Fidelity for mid- and lower-mid-band naturalness
(especially vocals of the Lou Rawls/Barry White/Darth Vader basso
profundo variety), non-mechanical bass, and treble sweetness. Its
detail, too, is remarkably like that of a pedigreed CD player,
especially when it comes to preserving tiny sounds often swamped by the
chaos surround them. If this suggests a blurring of the distinction
between music-only and cinema audio, then you've pre-empted my
conclusion: the '919 is a player of note because Pioneer has made audio
and video a two-way street.

Quite clearly, Pioneer has learned that dealing with dialogue in the
midst of an rainstorm or during an explosion will tax a system in a way
that straight music playback might not. It may horrify some of you,
then, to learn that our music pleasure can benefit from what was
previously conceived of as a means of communicating grunts from Arnie,
Bruce, Sly and Jean-Claude. So, even when playing a music CD, the '919
sounds like it's putting that much more into keeping the dynamics in an
ideal relationship.

But should you ditch a nearly-new '909? No way: the gains are real
but hardly overwhelming. Conversely, the '919 is an even better device
than its predecessor if you're the sort who agonises about compromises
if buying a combi. But you won't really know it's better than the '909
unless you have load of Region Two DTS CDs, CD-Rs or an insatiable need
to have the latest of everything. So I guess it's good news for both
current 909 owners and potential customers. Nice one, Pioneer, even
though it ruins the joke about how many audiophiles it takes to change a
light bulb.

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