This is my best Laserdisc player, the Pioneer DVL-919E. This is the latest, greatest and last of a long line of players from Pioneer and was manufactured in December of 2001. That's right, no more Laserdisc players! Ever! It is the main player in my current system at Chester River and there will never be a better or newer player! I purchased it new from Leading Edge Concepts in the UK in March of 2002 and with shipping to the U.S.A. it cost just over $1000. Of course, there are many great older Pioneer Elite Laserdisc players still around and some change hands on eBay for many thousands of dollars, but none of them have newer electronics or firmware or the features of this unit. The "E" in the name stands for "European" and it has one vital feature that the black American market version is missing: It has super cool gold paint! Just kidding, although it does look great! The key feature is that it can play both PAL and NTSC laserdiscs in their native form which means that it can play any laserdisc there is! When I first started collecting laserdiscs while living in the UK, I was mostly focusing on music video and concerts and I have quite a collection of them, all PAL of course and I now also have a large collection of American NTSC discs, so I need a player that can do both to save space. Previously, I used (and still have) a Malaysian market PAL/NTSC CDL-S315 with AC-3 RF output for Dolby Digital, and before that I used a PAL UK market CLD-1200 (from 1990) and a US market NTSC CLD-S201 (from 1993) together to cover all the discs. All of the previous machines were single side play whereas the DVL-919E can play both sides of the disc by flipping the playing head to the other side of the disc which takes it just a few seconds. I also have an older CLD-S502 from 1993 that can do that, but it is very slow by comparison. The DVL-919E has an RF output for Dolby Digital AC-3 sound and optical (and coaxial) outputs for PCM/MPEG/DTS. Because my Marantz AV-9000 processor is rather short of digital inputs (only 2 optical, 2 coaxial and 1 RF AC-3 like most receivers), The RF AC-3 is connected but the PCM/MPEG/DTS is not, so normal laserdiscs play through an analog connection. This doesn't make any difference as the DVL-919E has top of the line 96Khz digital to analogue converters. Then again, not much of that gets used with standard digital stereo PCM laserdiscs. One problem is if I want to play a DTS laserdisc, although I only have two of those, Aliens 4 and Austin Powers both of which I got as parts of larger lots on eBay, but in both cases I already have the DVD. To play a DTS laserdisc I have to swap a plug on the Marantz AV-9000 to make room to plug in the digital output from the DVL-919E. With a DTS laserdisc, the signal is recorded in place of the digital stereo sound track and there is no room for an AC-3 track. So this means it's DTS or nothing! As far as I can see, they may as well have just stuck with AC-3 as there is room for an AC-3 track and the digital stereo. On the video side, the DVL-919E has both composite and S-Video outputs. I connect the composite to the Marantz AV-9000 so I can view the menus on my computer if I need to and the S-Video directly to the Sharp XV-Z9000U projector. I can tell you that it makes no difference weather you use the composite or S-Video output and that the picture is fantastic in either case! As the chroma and luminescence signals that make up a color TV picture are already mixed together (the components that are kept separate in S-Video) on a laserdisc like broadcast TV, this is no surprise and is an indication that the so called comb filter in the DVL-919E is as good as the comb filter in the Sharp XV-Z9000U projector. Hmm, I could have saved myself some cable there!
One of the main aspects that separate this laserdisc player from a machine of a decade ago is its digital video processing features. Quite apart from the fantastic picture, this means that it can play a CLV disc and give it all the slow-motion and still picture features of a CAV disc. In previous years many people paid double the price to get their films on CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) discs where the disc has one frame per revolution rather than the standard CLV (Constant Linear Velocity) discs where the signal is recorded in a spiral like a CD where the speed of rotation slows as the recorded track moves towards the edge of the disc. The constant angular velocity was the only way the old players could play the sane frame over & over to give a still frame. Now the digital memory can freeze an image from any frame regardless of the type of disc and progress smoothly in either direction. Having said that, CAV discs also have reduced noise over CLV discs because the adjacent tracks are complete frames synchronized in the same position on the disc whereas with CLV the adjacent track is just a random part of the spiral. The modern laser in the DLV-919E is however narrower and this reduces this crosstalk from adjacent tracks on a CLV disc giving the DLV-919E superior CLV performance close to that of a CAV disc. This now makes any CAV version of a film redundant if a CLV is available, and in most cases means you won't have to get up and change a disc. The CAV boxed set of Jurassic Park has 5 sides! It is however one of the best quality laserdiscs I have.
Although I only ever use it for laserdisc, another feature of the DVL-919E is of course that it is a DVD player too! One DVD feature that is missing compared to the US market version is component video output, so I guess they don't have that in Europe, but it does have those great "Euro Connectors" referred to as SCART which are crap! For Laserdisc, the component video doesn't work anyhow on the American market version. The DVD board in the player is the same as a Pioneer DV-505 and DVL-909 but with different firmware. Leading Edge Concepts were selling the player at the time with an additional firmware upgrade that allows the players region code to be set via the remote control and with disabled macrovision, both without adding any soldering straps. Click here to see how the same change can be done on a DV-505 or DVL-909 with a small hardware modification. As far as I know, these soldering changes do not work on the standard firmware version of the DVL-919E and only a firmware upgrade will enable this feature. Someone or other has also taken the liberty of changing the "NO DISC" display to "EXCEL" in this firmware version, anyone want to own up to this? Of course, the whole point of all this is to be able to play DVD's from any market and I have a UK Region 2 DVD of Thunderbirds to test it with as well as all the region 1 American market discs I have. This is the sequence to use with the remote to change the region and it works for either the hardware or firmware modified versions of the board. If you have a used unit it's worth a try to see if it works:
To change the region, do the following, using the remote control, before inserting the disc you want to play.
Features & Specs
The Pioneer DVL-919E is now used as the main & only Laserdisc player in our Home Theatre System at Chester River and has been working well since 2002. As there will never be a new replacement for it I take extra special care of it and I am thinking of buying another on eBay sometime if I see one. I should have just bought two in the first place! As it does not have a component video output I can't do a fair comparison of the DVD picture quality against my Pioneer DV-F07 DVD player but it can play both sides of a double sided DVD without taking the disc out, not that those are that common these days. As far as the picture quality on Laserdisc is concerned, it is totally fantastic! Believe me, if there were any issues, I would see them on my Sharp XV-Z9000U High Definition DLP projector! The progressive mode on the projector smoothes the interlaced frames of laserdisc together and gives totally smooth and clean picture that can rival the best DVD has to offer. As most people don't know much about laserdisc, I'll add these comments to explain why I even bother with a laserdisc player: If I was to rate DVD on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 was the best quality anamorphic DVD (examples are Starship Troupers & Terminator 4) and 1 was a cheap (or even expensive) compressed disc, the best laserdisc (Jurassic Park CAV boxed set) on the DVL-919E would rate a 9. Now the problem with DVD is that only 5% of discs rate a 10. Most DVD's only rate a 6 to 8 and this is because of compression artifacts in the picture and sound. With Laserdisc, although there is a limit to the maximum number of lines in the picture and so can never be a 10, there is never any compression in the picture or the sound. So an average laserdisc can still rate 6 or 7. So on average, laserdisc is just as good as DVD. The biggest negative is of course is that laserdiscs are no longer in production, but they were still being produced through 1998 or so. This means that there are still a vast number of discs available on eBay and I am often able to pickup large lots of discs and end up paying only $1 a disc where the DVD version would be $10 or more! Also as laserdiscs are larger (12" like an old LP) they have space for such fantastic artwork and are so much more fun to look through that those stupid plastic DVD cases! Because of all this, it will be a long time before I fill up the last 100 remaining slots on my Pioneer DV-F07 DVD player.
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