Pioneer Elite DV-09 DVD player

The new DV-09 is Pioneer's first DVD player in its Elite line. More than simply an upscale version of a standard Pioneer DVD player, the DV-09 was built from the ground up to be a flagship product. It's also the first DVD player I've seen to have been certified under THX's DVD-player certification program (see sidebar, "THX DVD Players").

The instant you take it out of the box, you know that the DV-09 is no ordinary player. The standard high-gloss Pioneer Elite cosmetics are clearly evident, but more significantly, the weight—nearly 35 lbs—is a surprise. This first impression of robust construction isn't misleading. A look inside reveals solid workmanship, including extensive use of copper and copper-clad parts for the chassis rear and bottom, internal partitions, and parts of the player mechanism.

The DV-09 sports all the important features currently offered by today's best DVD players and then some. These include 10-bit video D/A converters, component-video outputs, a complete complement of composite and S-video jacks, and digital and analog audio outputs. The DV-09 plays DVDs, CDs, and Video CDs, but not CD-Rs; in addition, it should not be confused with Pioneer's combi players (no laserdisc playback here). The DV-09 is also specified to be compatible with the upcoming DTS DVDs. (None were available for test when I wrote this review.) The capability to play DTS DVDs is announced by a cosmetically jarring red-and-white sticker on the front panel. (Fortunately, this sticker can be peeled off.)

The DV-09's variable dynamic-range compression for Dolby Digital sources is redundant when the unit is used with a high-end Dolby Digital surround processor or receiver, which typically includes this feature. And because this player will most likely be used in such a system, Pioneer has wisely chosen not to include a Dolby Digital 5.1-channel decoder.

The analog audio outputs incorporate Pioneer's Legato Link Conversion technology. It's claimed that this process extrapolates the extreme high-frequency overtones that are rolled off by CD's inherent 44.1 kHz sampling frequency.

The DV-09's thorough onscreen setup and operating menus are the same as those in Pioneer's DVL-909 (reviewed elsewhere in the September 1998 issue). In both cases, they include one peculiar design idiosyncrasy: To access some of the more important setup functions, a disc must be loaded into the player, and Stop mode must be engaged. This is not explained well in the owner's manual, which is relatively complete but not very well written or organized.

One potentially bothersome quirk is that if the player is on when the power is interrupted, some of the user's setup selections might be lost. I encountered no problems with this, but you might want to follow Pioneer's recommendation to turn the unit off before disconnecting the player from the wall; if your electrical service is prone to momentary power disruptions, they suggest that you leave it turned off when not in use.

All the usual DVD and CD operating functions are provided, including such things as parental control, aspect-ratio setting, normal programming modes, etc. The DV-09's fast scan is a little choppy, but that's almost universal among DVD players. It executes the layer change on dual-layer discs smoothly, with no glitches.

A useful bit-rate meter with a numerical readout appears in the last layer of the onscreen menus. This meter appears to indicate the total bit rate for audio and video combined. (To estimate the video data rate, subtract 1 Mbps from the total.) Pioneer's Condition Memory lets you store certain settings for up to 30 individual DVDs in memory; a particular disc's settings are automatically recalled when that disc is played again.

The Pioneer's factory default turns subtitles off when a disc's English audio track is selected. However, some DVDs override this, including a string of recent Warner Bros. titles: Passenger 57, Memphis Belle, The Last Boy Scout, Dave, Pure Country, Copycat. This is not a glitch in the Pioneer, but in the DVDs themselves. (I got the same result on the Meridian 586.2 player.)