Pioneer DV-563A Universal Audio/Video Player
Its been rough
sailing so far for the DVD-Audio and SACD formats. The music industry has been hesitant to
invest in them without strong assurances that they wont find the contents of the new
discs uploaded to the Internet and downloaded free worldwide. The prospect of a format war
meant that no one was too excited about investing in either until there was a clear
winner. Then there was the high price of the players and the lack of software titles.
Unlike the advent of DVD, few people were buying. Who could blame them?
History has shown that new consumer-electronics formats
dont gain widespread acceptance until the price of admission drops below $300 USD.
As with all new technologies, the early players were geared toward true audiophiles, who
consider a price of $1000 or more "reasonable." The average consumer, and even
the budget audiophile, laughs at such lofty prices. Manufacturers such as Pioneer
recognized this early on, and the inexpensive universal audio/video player was born.
Enter the Pioneer DV-563A, the first consumer-priced
universal-format DVD player. With a list price of $250 and a common street price of $180,
the DV-563A falls well below the threshold of consumer tolerance -- and because it plays
both DVD-As and SACDs, any format war holds no threat. When I tell them the price, friends
whove investigated the new formats raise their eyebrows. "Really?" they
say. Others, who dont know much about the formats, stop what theyre doing and
start asking questions. Suddenly, a whole group of people who used to shrug and go back to
their business are showing interest in DVD-A and SACD. Welcome to the true birth of a new
format. I hope.
The Pioneer DV-563A looks like a standard consumer-grade
DVD player. Its attractive silver slimline styling should fit nicely into most
entertainment centers and décors. While I wouldnt call it rugged, it feels solid in
the hands -- unlike some players, whose cases flex easily when handled. The remote is
simple but effective, and reasonably well laid-out.
The features list is concise but complete. There are one
each of component, S-video, composite, optical digital, coaxial digital, and analog audio
outputs. The inclusion of both optical and coaxial digital outs is a nice touch in a
market where most players include only one or the other. Theres also a 5.1-channel
analog output for passing DVD-A and SACD signals along to a receiver equipped with
matching inputs. Unfortunately, all of these connections are crammed into a narrow section
of the rear panel; its difficult to tell if youre plugging the right cord into
the right jack. Make sure you have a clear view of the rear panel when youre
plugging everything in.
The formats played are SACD, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, DVD-R,
DVD-RW, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, Video CD, and MP3. The DV-563A also features Dolby Digital and
DTS decoding, along with SRS surround. Rudimentary bass management is included for all
formats, although you can choose only between Large and Small speakers, and whether or not
theres a subwoofer in the system. Its not much, but it will do for most
people. The DV-563A is what it was designed to be: simple but complete.
Setup was easy enough, but it took me a few tries and one
or two four-letter words before I realized that pressing Enter while adjusting the speaker
levels would throw me back to the main menu. (My habit is to press Enter to validate an
input, but with the Pioneer, thats a quick way to raise your blood pressure.)
Channel-level adjustments are buried in the Initial Settings menu, under the Variable
Channel Level setting. Selecting Variable and then pressing Enter brings up the level
menu. This is far from intuitive -- I suspect many people will never know its there
unless they stumble across it.
That settled, I went on to complete the basic setup. I had
to hunt for a few things, such as where to turn on the progressive-scan output, but once
these were found, completion of the setup was done quickly enough. Well, there was one
little thing. When I switch between my Sony DVP-NS755V and Panasonic CP-72 DVD players,
only minor tweaking of the video settings is required. But when I broke out the Avia
test disc and did a full-blown recalibration, I found that the Pioneer DV-563A required
vastly different settings. Part of this may have to do with the fact that Pioneer has
three configurable picture parameters of its own, and its default settings seem to be a
bit high in comparison to my other two players. That said, after a full calibration the
picture looked fine.
One thing that has been an annoyance from day one with my
Panasonic CP-72 changer is its slowness at recognizing and loading discs. Im not
patient when it comes to user interfaces, and response to input from the front panel is
equally painful. Mold grows faster. Thankfully, the Pioneer responded quickly, loading
most discs in a few seconds, though DVD-As seemed to take longer in general.
The DV-563As CD playback was about what I expected:
decent, but the sound was a bit lackluster and two-dimensional from the analog outputs.
This was evident on "Aint Misbehavin," from Peter Cincottis
self-titled debut album [Concord 2159] -- the horns lost a bit of their sparkle, and the
sax was missing some of that airy quality. Imaging was good, but wasnt locked down
as tightly as the same material played in my reference Adcom GCD-600 CD player. The
DV-563A fared much better when I fed its digital output to my Anthem AVM 20 processor
for decoding. This is not at all uncommon among budget DVD players; in fact, my Panasonic
CP-72 suffers from the same malady. I suspect most people will use the DV-563As
digital output and will never notice that two-channel decoding is lacking in any way.
The DV-563As DVD-Audio playback was about on a par
with the $279.95 Panasonic CP-72s. The instruments and voices on "Never Going
Back Again," from Fleetwood Macs Rumours [Warner Bros. 48083-9], were
properly placed in a large three-dimensional soundfield. Though Im not crazy about
hearing instruments all around me, the Pioneer faithfully reproduced what the producer
intended. Extension at the frequency extremes was on a par with the Panasonics;
i.e., excellent. Subwoofer integration using the marginal bass management of both players
was acceptable, though the subwoofer was occasionally localizable with both players.
Overall, there was little discernible difference between the Pioneer and the Panasonic
when playing DVD-As.
SACDs were a slightly different story. The $249 DVP-NS755V
is my multichannel SACD player of choice these days; while the Pioneer did a credible job,
the Sony retained a slight lead in this area. The differences werent huge, but with
the Sony there was a slight sense of increased space and tighter control over images. The
difference between the two players could arguably be attributable to the fact that while
the Sony processes the native DSD signal, the Pioneer converts DSD to PCM before
processing. Pioneer does this to save the cost of making a player that includes two
processors. While this may have a slight negative impact on performance, its one of
the things that has allowed Pioneer to drive down the DV-563As cost to something the
mass market can afford.
On the SACD version of Weather Reports Mysterious
Traveler [Columbia 65112], the image pans were nearly pinpoint through the Pioneer,
but the cymbal ringing in the right surround seemed a bit harsh when compared directly
against the Sony. However, without doing a direct comparison youd never notice the
difference -- this is a very minor issue for a universal audio/video player costing less
A successful voyage
If youre looking for the Holy Grail of DVD players,
look elsewhere -- that was never Pioneers goal for the DV-563A. This is a basically
solid DVD-Video player with DVD-Audio and SACD capabilities added -- in other words, a DVD
player for the masses. In that light, its an extremely successful player that hits
the mark with good if not perfect picture quality and reasonably good performance with all
three main audio formats. What it lacks in ultimate resolution and detail it makes up for
in versatility. While a number of players offer comparable and sometimes better video and
audio performance, none anywhere near this price offers the ability to play both DVD-A and
SACD. And that, my friends, makes this a GoodSound! Great Buy.
...Jeff Van Dyne
Price of equipment reviewed