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PIONEER DV-515,  DVD player, 399 ****

 

Why's it here: Despite the fact that DVDs with DTS soundtracks are still rarer than rocking horse droppings it is rapidly becoming an essential feature on new season players, but why? Two reasons, firstly it is comparatively easy for manufacturers to incorporate a DTS digital output on players so it adds little to the price, and second, DTS sounds bloody great and it could happen big time! Pioneer has been behind DTS since day one, the DV-515 is actually the company's second DTS-capable player and the first sub 500 model from anyone to reach the UK.  

 

Any unique features: The DV-515 bears a clear family resemblance to the DV-717 (the first Pioneer player with DTS) in fact judging by the panel layout and display the two decks share a fair number of common components and features. Truesound-SRS is one of them; it's a 'virtual' Dolby Surround system that creates a pseudo 3D effect from two speakers. Other points of interest include a 96kHz/24-bit DAC linear PCM output and a small selection of user settings for picture and sound quality. There are three picture presets, 'standard', 'cinema' (optimised for contrasty film) and  'animation' (set for bright cartoon colours). It has two still replay modes (field or frame) and variable dynamic range compression (DRC) on discs with Dolby Digital soundtracks. The latter can help make dialogue more intelligible when there's a lot of effects or background noise. It has a twin laser pickup, (one for audio CD, the other for DVD), 10-bit digital to analogue video conversion for superior colour rendering and Viterbi RF decoding. This is an advanced from of error correction that compensates for dust, smears and fingerprints on the surface of the disc. Lastly there's the exotic sounding Legato Link Conversion, this is an audio enhancement that improves on the high frequency content of audio recordings. The DTS facility takes the from of a digital output only -- it would indeed be breakthrough to have an on-board decoder at this price level -- both RF (phono) and optical (TOSlink) connectors are fitted to the back panel, which also carry the Dolby Digital, MPEG and PCM digital datastreams.

 

How does it perform: The DV-717 was always going to be a hard act to follow but since the 515 shares a number of critical components it should be off to a good start. In fact picture quality on our sample was quite good but not as squeaky-clean as its stablemate. This could be due to the fact that the 717 has a more extensive array of video processing facilities, including digital noise reduction and additional filtration. It handled brightly-lit images well, provided there wasn't too much rapid movement, but on gloomy scenes -- the whole of Batman and Robin for example -- there's a fairly distinct background texture. The picture is clear of major motion artefacts but on some discs a fair amount of fine detail is lost during rapid pans. It coped admirably with all of our test discs, including double-layer recordings. Picture 'stutter' which can sometimes occur during layer change was negligible. Incidentally, this is a Region 2 only player but already adverts for 'chipped' players and DIY mods have already begun to appear so it would seem that multi-region conversion on this deck isn't a particularly difficult (or expensive) job.

 

 

Thus far our collection of DTS discs is a bit limited (mostly samplers and promos) but we're impressed with what we've heard, especially the extra grunt on the sub channel and highly detailed surround tracks. Dolby Digital and DPL soundtracks have a crisp open quality, again it's not a record-breaking performance but the 515 does compare favourably with its mid-market rivals.

 

Our Verdict:

The DV-515 is not going to sell on the strength of looks or widgets but that really doesn't matter when you take into account the very reasonable price, better than average AV performance and DTS. You probably won't have much use for DTS right now but it's a small and possibly useful bit of future-proofing in a technology that just isn't going to stand still!  

 

Pioneer, telephone (01753) 789500

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features            Region 2 only, Trusound-SRS 'virtual' Dolby Surround, DTS-enabled digital output, (also Dolby Digital, MPEG, Linear -- 96kHz or 48kHz), picture presets (standard, cinema or animation), condition memory, graphical on-screen display

  

Sockets             AV out (SCART & phono), S-Video out (mini DIN), digital out (phono and Toslink optical), control in (minijack)       

 

Dimensions            420 x 283 x 104 mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

 

Rival Buys

Pioneer DV-717, 600 Sony DVP-S7700 TBA

 

Critical captions

Another example of the black box school of front panel design, it's even more anonymous with the fluorescent display switched off

 

Controls are limited to the bare essentials, even the labelling is discreet

 

A fairly standard looking button-box, frequently-used functions are picked out with green labelling

 

A good assortment of connections, a second SCART might have been useful but it does have two AV outputs so there shouldn't be any problems with most setups

 

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1999, 0604

 

 

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