Universal Players Bothell WA
DV-79AVi Universal Player
as reviewed by Ed Kobesky
Just a few short years after the term "universal player" was coined, it's already obsolete. A true universal player would have to read a veritable alphabet soup of new, old, dead and soon-to-be-deceased formats including HD DVD, Blu-Ray, SACD, DVD (Audio and Video) and, of course, CD. In that sense, the Pioneer Elite DV-79AVi is so 2003. Let's call it a multi-format player instead and focus on what it can do, which is play everything except the new hi-res video formats.
The DV-79AVi ($1000) is the current flagship in Pioneer's Elite DVD line, and it's one hell of a nice piece. Though it's not as stout as the company's products that are more legendary (the massive DV-09 comes to mind), it's built like a bank vault compared to mass-market machines. More good news: it's $600 less than the model it replaces, yet it features a substantially beefed-up chassis, and added features like up conversion to 1080i (but not 1080p).
Speaking of features—where to begin? The DV-79AVi has just about every connection you could possible want, and certainly 90% more than I would ever use. I can't imagine bypassing the analog outputs on a player this good, but those looking for the simplest route from A-to-B will appreciate the HDMI output, which transmits the digital signals for everything except SACD, or better still, the i-Link connection that lets you ship everything, including SACD signals, directly to compatible receivers and processors.
A 'Pure Audio' mode goes a step further than most 'video-off' functions. It not only shuts down the player's video circuitry, but it also kills the front panel display, making a significant, audible difference every time I used it. Once engaged by a button on the front panel, it stays engaged until you eject the disc; it can only be activated or deactivated when the player is stopped.
Two processing modes—Legato PRO Conversion and Hi-Bit—can be accessed only via the on-screen menus. That's unfortunate because it makes them virtually impossible to navigate in an audio-only setup like mine. Legato PRO Conversion upsamples, Hi-Bit increases the bit depth, and both operate only during CD playback. You have to experiment to get the best results. Sometimes, using only one o...