CD Changer Introduction
I have over the years had many CD Changers most all of them being made by Pioneer, and at present have 1000 CD slots worth, some in use and some just sitting around, excluding 600 slots worth of DVD changer space! I have even been giving some of them away to friends & family just to make some space! Originally in 1994 when CD changers were very new, there were various different design schemes in use, some being two piece designs like early the JVC models which were the first to hit the shelves in the U.S.A. in 1993 with a hefty price tag of over $1200! Later in 1994 I decided to go ahead and buy a CD changer or changers to accommodate 200 discs which was sufficient for my CD collection at the time. The only thing I could find available in London where we were living then, was the Pioneer PD-F100, the first ever Pioneer 100 disc CD changer. So I bought two of them at a cost of 650 GBP each, which was about $1000 a piece at the exchange rate of the day! Wow!! $2000 for a 200 disc changer system, a $10 per disc overhead! Needless to say, at the time nobody else I could find had ever heard of such a thing and most people were bemused by how I would be able to find the discs that I wanted to play. Pioneer had a solution for this in the UK market by providing a mammoth remote with the PD-F100 that could remember all the CD titles, and a liner book to contain all the CD inlay cards. With two machines to manage though, this quickly became inefficient, not to mention the most annoying thing of all: If one of the players was playing in random track mode, if you were to hear a good track that you wanted to know the title of so you could play it again and you were in a different room, you had to run & get to the machine to see the disc number before it got unloaded and the next one was played. The same thing will happen with CD changers today. In some cases it took me months to work out which discs contained some of those elusive "good tracks"! The solution to this problem lead to the creation of my PCRemote control application that could display, manage and record all activity on the system. Of course, back in 1994 there was no such thing commercially available because of the newness of CD changers and their almost prohibitive price, so I just had to build my own. Now more ten years later, PCRemote is still and will always be the corner stone of my control system because it is so integrated with the whole home theatre system now. All those separate Hi-Fi components including the CD changers now act like one logical unit. This means that my wife can easily power up the system and select the CD she wants to listen to without any knowledge of the hardware implementation, just by moving the mouse around a bit! For this reason, the CD changers will always be in the core system and my beautiful old Technics SL-P1000 has now for many years been relegated to the vintage show case to save space in the main system. Even though the SL-P1000 is one of the best CD players ever, it can only manage one disc at a time and all those sexy buttons were never intended for girls to play with! Until you experience the true listening versatility of instant on-demand CD track loading (not to mention preloading and no-break-changes), you just don't know or are even able to comprehend what you are missing, and remember, I was at this stage in 1994! By comparison with a machine like the Technics SL-P1000 CD player for example, all of the Pioneer CD changer designs are cheap looking lumps of plastic junk with the PD-F1009 being at the lowest end out of the units I have had so far. Even the best Pioneer changer of all, the Elite DV-F07 DVD changer, is made like a plastic tooth brush dispenser by comparison. Considering how cheap the machines are now (PD-F1009 now less than $200!), I would gladly pay double or even more for a nice all metal case! Still, having said that, they are only used as CD (cheap plastic discs!) loading & transport devices and their construction makes no difference to the optical data they output, and at the end of the day they sound exactly the same as the Technics SL-P1000 when optically connected to a high end digital processor like the Marantz AV-9000. All of the CD changers have always worked perfectly and I have never ever had a single operational issue with any of them, and the original units from more than a decade ago still work perfectly, so I think I would have to say that they are very good value and extremely reliable! So, well done Pioneer, but please can we have a nice high end DVD/CD changer now that is more than a low end unit sprayed with glossy paint! Plastic is still plastic!
The Pioneer PD-F100 was the first ever Pioneer CD changer dating from 1993 and uses a design where the discs are loaded into the front of the machine, all in line with each other from one side to the other. The discs are divided into 4 rolling racks with each rack containing 25 discs. As each rack is opened (or rolled forward), all 25 discs in the rack can be accessed. When the player is idle, all the racks can be opened at once. When playing, the rack that contains the current playing disc can not be opened, but the other three can. So if needed, discs from the other racks could be changed out while the machine is playing! A feature not present in any other design. This may actually be useful if the whole rack could be removed with the discs in it like the Pioneer 6 disc magazine system, but the racks are fixed in. The actual player is vertically mounted at the rear of the casing in the same plane as the discs, and can travel from side to side within the casing in order to position itself behind any of the 100 discs. The loading mechanism consists of an arm that normally rests in the open position above the racks that arches down and rolls the required disc out of the rack and backward into the player mechanism, hence the name "Rolling Rack CD Changer". Looking at the front of the player, you can see the disc being rolled back out to be played. The player can be picked up with the discs in it and it is a good idea to tilt it forward a bit, but if it is tilted back too much, the discs will fallout into the body of the player! There are some nice lights that indicate which rack is busy and all the racks can be viewed through the big window in the door which in fact is the size of the entire front of the player. The whole thing looks a bit like a fish tank with the large viewing window. The two original UK market players had only analogue audio outputs and the CD-deck-synchro control port. In 1995, I bought a PD-F100 at Best Buy in Plano Texas for $400 as an open box unit without the remote. The American market version was just the same except that the florescent display was orange instead of blue like on the UK version. Also, it had an optical digital output and a Pioneer SR remote control in and out port. As well as that, it has a mysterious interface connector that looks like a keyboard socket! This connector was intended to be used by a Pioneer PD-AP1 controller unit that could connect to three PD-F100 players (and various other Pioneer 100 disc changers that have the port) to make a virtual 300 disc player that could be operated like a single unit. I have never seen the controller, but if you know anything about this, please let me know. I have never had any need to check, but I presume this to be a serial port (probably RS232) that uses the Pioneer CM 7 protocol similar to that described on my Pioneer DV-F07 page. This combination of ports makes the American market PD-F100 the best choice for use in an automated computer controlled system, as you have direct control via the interface connector and can also get the best sound quality because of the optical digital output, although the interface port is not needed by my PCRemote application as I had to come up with a solution that worked for all these players. Click here for information on how the Pioneer infrared remote control protocol works that is needed to control all these players in a complex system.
The most significant difference between the UK market version and the American market PD-F100 is the remote. The UK version remote is a CU-PD0074 and it's totally awesome! It is programmable with CD titles and artist names like modern day CD changers and it has a great LCD display with a very fine dot matrix to display the data! After programming is complete, you can just step through the titles in the comfort of your armchair without straining your eyes, and just press "Send" when you see the one you want displayed on the remote. It also supports custom file lists and has database search features! Although I never really used it as I have my PCRemote application, In my opinion this solution is simply years ahead of what is on offer now! The only thing that could improve the solution would be to add a keyboard input to the handset for loading the data. The American market remote for the PD-F100 is garbage (although much smaller) by comparison. You would be forced to use the CD liner booklet all the time and would have to keep pressing step or manually enter the disc number to select what you wanted. Another point worth noting is that the "TEST" name programmed into disc 11 as shown to the left, has been stored there in the remote for over ten years, and that's with no batteries!! These days Pioneer only claim 30 days backup for current players and often the storage time is shorter than that in case of power fail! One time in 1995 I was talking to a sales guy in RadioShack about remote control handsets and learning remotes, and I mentioned to him about the UK market PD-F100 remote. In RadioShack they had a "Realistic" cloned version of the Pioneer PD-F100 which had the same simple handset. He was very interested in the concept, but when I asked him why he thought the same thing was not on offer in the U.S.A., he held his head down and sighed, "The generic American consumer just isn't ready for that yet, they would be coming in here all the time, asking me to show them how it worked". Hmm.., maybe those RadioShack guys really do "Have Answers" to those remote questions of life!
Here is the only interesting link I could find on the web about the now quite old PD-F100 CD player, and shows how a coaxial digital output can be added to the UK market version, and discusses some aspects of the Sony CXD2500BQ DSP that is at the heart of the player! The same modification can also be made to the American market PD-F904 described below.
The Pioneer PD-F904 100 disc CD changer represents one of the stupidest things that Pioneer often does. They take a perfectly good design (a PD-F100 in this case) and they scale it down and cheapen it as much as possible in order to reduce the unit cost and increase their margin and market share. Whether Pioneer really do or do not achieve this by these actions is not clear to me, but I hate it! The PD-F904 has lost the nice rack lights & the disc step light rings and other cosmetic features, and is cut down to the bone! Only because there was nothing else, I have two of these which I bought to add to my three PD-F100's to make a 500 disc changer system. Like the UK market PD-F100, they do not have a digital output, but they do have SR remote control ports and the serial interface connector like the American market PD-F100 for the PD-AP1 controller. So as well as not looking as good as the PD-F100, their sound quality is limited as they can not be connected to an external DAC. There was an Elite version of this player although I don't know the model number and it may be that it did have all the ports! That's it! Dull!
The Pioneer PD-F1007 is a 300 disc carousel CD changer. In this design which is now the definitive norm for CD/DVD changers, the discs are housed in a circular carousel that rotates around to move the required disc to the slot that leads to the player mechanism. The player mechanism is located in the center of the carousel and the required disc is guided into the player mechanism by a sliding guide. So in this design, the discs move and the player mechanism is stationary which is the opposite of the PF-F100/904 described above. This has the main advantage of making more efficient use of the space within the player case and means that 300 discs can be accommodated. Most Sony changers these days use the same scheme to house 400 discs. However, apart from that, everything else is more difficult. First, the discs have to be loaded one by one into a small opening at the front of the player which means holding the disc with two fingers one each side of the disc and the carousel has to be rotated each time to get the right slot visible. Also, the player does not support rotating of the carousel and changing discs while playing because of the possibility of a disc being loaded into the slot of the playing disc. Still, none of this is really of any matter because of the main advantage of increased density. In my main system, I now have two 300 disc changers that can provide 600 slots and have replaced five 100 disc changers that could only provide 500 slots, and now I can actually fit all the equipment in one vertical rack. The PD-F1007 supports CD text and displays the artist names & titles on it's large dot matrix display. However, the display is of course not wide enough and so the text is scrolled across, then only the first 12 characters are shown. In some markets a keyboard can be connected to enter data for the CD's that do not have text. I have heard that these players often loose all that data and as there is no way provided to back it up, I consider it a waste of time to enter it. Also, the player is often too far away to be able to see it anyhow and a much better solution would be an intelligent handset like the UK market PD-F100 has as described above. The US market version I have, does not have this feature. The PD-F1007 also has a scheme where two players can be connected together in a master slave setup to form a single logical 600 disc player. But, as there is no digital optical or coax support for this, there is little point in it in a high end system where the digital to analogue converters are located in a separate processor like my Marantz AV-9000. Also as I have PCRemote to manage the control system, having two 300 disc players is no disadvantage to having one 600 disc system. When working, the discs can be seen rotating around through the loading door/window and are illuminated with a backlight. In some markets the PD-F1007 comes in a gold finish like my Pioneer DVL-919E laserdisc player. If I can, I may try to get some of those as the finish is much better than the glossy black on the Pioneer Elite series.
The Pioneer PD-F1009 300 disc CD changer represents one of the stupidest things that Pioneer often does. They take a perfectly good design (a PD-F1007 in this case) and they scale it down and cheapen it as much as possible in order to reduce the unit cost to increase their margin and market share. Got déjà vu now? I wish I had got two PD-F1007's at the time! The PD-F1009 does not support the 600 disc master/slave scheme, has a crappy small display and no light to illuminate the discs and no CD-Synchro connection. It doesn't even have proper silver feet, just a molding that is part of the front panel. Well it sure is cheap, but with it's optical digital output, it can indeed produce the exact same performance as the other machines. It really does look crap though! I think I'll look for a couple of used Pioneer Elite units on eBay just to smarten the system up a bit! Even glossy paint & wooden sides with silver feet is better than this!
The Pioneer DV-F07 described in detail here, is Pioneers flagship Elite DVD/CD changer. As a CD changer it is the best solution for an integrated computer controlled system because it's serial port interface gives a computer controller complete command over CD loading & control, and allows exact disc loading progress and playing time & text information to be reliably uploaded to the controller at high speed for display at the host application. Having said that, this machine has only been available in recent years and I already overcame all the host/player synchronization issues that I needed to to make the operation of even the original PD-F100 machines 100% effective with PCRemote. So as the DV-F07 is effectively just the same plastic thing as a PD-F1007 but still costs around $800, I think I'll wait and see if something else that really is better made comes along!
For some time I operated a 500 slot CD changer system with three PD-F100's and two PD-F904's. Having five CD changers pretty much meant that they had to be housed in a separate cabinet or in a different room because of the space they took up and in most installations that's what I did. With PCRemote to control them, there is no need to actually see them while they were being used. In our current system at Chester River, I am using a PD-F1007 and a PD-F1009 to provide 600 slots in total. Sometime if I can be bothered, I'll upgrade them both to DV-F07 units to improve the appearance a bit, although it will make no difference to the sound. In recent years I have not been buying as many CD's as I used to, and there are still some spare slots available. In some cases for the most played discs, I copy the disc onto CD-R and load the copy into the other machine. This means that PCRemote can always find an idle player to pre-load an often played disc regardless of which player is currently playing which disc. This saves the time it takes a CD changer to unload the current disc into the carousel rack, rotate and load the next disc. The more of the most played discs that are duplicated, the more likely that the next track in the queue can be played with just a one second delay, rather than the ten seconds that it takes to unload, rotate the carousel and load another disc. So the five original 100 disc changers are no longer used, and I have given some of them away. I'll keep one of them as a collectors item, the rest I'll sell on eBay.