Do you remember a time when there were only two optical disc formats: the CD and the DVD? Ah, those were the good ol’ days. A CD player played only CDs and a DVD player played both disc types - there was no confusion among consumers. Fast forward to today and more disc formats exist than you can count on your fingers. Most consumers aren’t even aware of all the formats that are out there. But for those who are familiar with the benefits of these new formats, Pioneer has a new player that may be the only DVD player you need.
The Elite DV-46AV is a universal disc player from Pioneer aimed to please both video and audio enthusiasts because of its multi-format playback and highly tweakable audio and video adjustments. With a price of $399, it is currently the most affordable Elite DVD player. While it does not have all the features or the same build quality of the high-end Elite models, some of the higher end features certainly trickled down to the DV-46AV. Other than high definition video discs, you can place virtually any type of optical disc in this player: CD, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, WMA, MP3, DivX Ultra or JPEG. For video buffs, the Pioneer player offers a 108 MHz/12-bit video DAC as well as an HDMI output capable of up-converting the picture to 720p and 1080i. For audio fanatics, the player uses 192 kHz/24-bit audio D/A converters. It also allows DVD-Audio playback using the HDMI connection and SACD playback using its 5.1 analogue outputs.
As most modern DVD players, the DV-46AV is relatively small in size. It has a glossy black faceplate that is rather busy with various format logos and buttons. Basic disc navigation and setup menus can be controlled by the button on the front. The rear panel of the player offers four types of video jacks: composite, S-video, component and HDMI. Audio is delivered through HDMI, digital coaxial and optical jacks as well as analogue 5.1 jacks.
The supplied remote control has a matte black finish with white, soft rubber buttons. The buttons are well organized and the remote felt solid and comfortable in my hands. Unfortunately, the buttons are not backlit. Instead, they glow slightly in the dark. A small box at the bottom of the remote houses six TV control buttons. By default, these buttons worked with my Pioneer plasma but can be configured to work with other common television brands by entering a code from the manual. Speaking of the manual, it’s one of the best I’ve seen supplied with a DVD player - it’s clear and explains everything you need to know about this player. It would certainly be very helpful to someone buying a more advanced DVD player, like the DV-46AV, for the first time.
To carry out the audio and video tests, I connected the DV-46AV to our reference 43″ Pioneer PDP-4360HD plasma using both component and HDMI cables. Sound was supplied by Sinclair Audio Brighton Series speakers connected to a Marantz SR8500 receiver. My video test material included Digital Video Essentials (DVE), Star Trek: First Contact, Aeon Flux and Gladiator. To test audio performance, I used a Beck Sea Change SACD as well as The Latin Jazz Trio and Blue Man Group Audio DVD-Audio discs. As with all DVD players, I had to configure some initial settings of the DV-46AV such as screen ratio and select multi-channel audio output.
The Pioneer performed a good job of defeating jaggies in the waving flag scene on the DVE disc and a panning scene at the end of Chapter 12 of Gladiator. It certainly did a better job than the Pioneer plasma, which has really good video processing. A ‘progressive’ button on the player’s remote allowed me to switch from progressive scan mode to interlaced mode as the disc was playing. This allowed me to do some quick comparisons of video processing between the television and the DVD player. The 480p signal from the component and HDMI connections looked pretty well the same.
Where the DV-46AV did a really outstanding job was the up-conversion of video. Up-conversion is performed only when using the HDMI connection, so you will need a compatible display in order to use this feature. An ‘HDMI resolution’ up-and-down button on the remote allowed me to switch between 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i output resolutions while watching the picture. I found that 720p and 1080i up-conversion produced very similar results on the 768p Pioneer display that I was using. Standard DVDs gained a significant resolution advantage. The picture became much sharper, with many more details compared to the component output but without ever looking unnatural. It is actually quite incredible what a difference up-conversion can make. I noticed that when I switched the resolution to higher than 480p, the picture picked up a tint of redness. This was especially noticeable in actor’s skin colour. However, with the DV-46AV’s vast array of video adjustments it was easy enough to correct. Inside the Video Adjust menu the Pioneer allowed me play with the sharpness, brightness, contrast, gamma, hue, chroma level and block noise reduction. In this case, turning the chroma level down a few points did the trick. Most of these settings can be adjusted with the video playing - the menu disappears and only a small indicator on the bottom shows an adjustment scale. This was very convenient and made video adjustment really easy to make. Video enthusiasts will certainly appreciate the number of video adjustment that can be made on the DV-46AV. For less advanced users, an ‘HDMI color’ button on the remote allows for three preset color settings to help deal with some common television colour issues.
Some displays with DVI inputs may be able to accept the digital video signal from this player using an HDMI to DVI cable, although HDMI and DVI are not fully compatible. The problem is that you won’t really know until you connect the player to your display and see if it works correctly.
In some situations while watching DVDs, the dialogue coming from the centre channel may not be very clear or overpowered by the other channels - not by the fault of the DV-46AV. For this type of scenario, the DV-46AV includes three dialog settings in the audio menu designed to make the dialogue stand out from the other background sounds.
The DV-46AV has a screensaver feature that should be appreciated if you connect it to a plasma television. When a movie is paused, after a couple of minutes the picture is replaced with a Pioneer logo that jumps to random positions on the screen. This will prevent any burn-in from happening if you leave a movie on pause for too long.
On the musical side, the DV-46AV outputs both DVD-Audio and SACD through its 5.1 channel analogue outputs. It also outputs DVD-Audio through the HDMI connection, although you will need a receiver with an HDMI input to utilize this option. I performed my testing using the 5.1 channel analogue outputs because my receiver does not have an HDMI input. As with most universal players I had to play with the audio menu settings of the Pioneer. It turned out that I had to disable audio from being sent to the HDMI input before I could get proper sound from the 5.1 analogue outputs.
To start things off, I spun a few tracks from The Latin Jazz Trio DVD-Audio disc and quickly started to realize the audio potential of this universal disc player. The instruments from this 96 kHz/24-bit disc played with the definition and details of real-life instruments. String instruments and drums sounded crystal clear and clean. The DV-46AV produced a very spacious sound stage in all directions when tracks from the Blue Man Group Audio disc required. The dynamic range was great and never lacked room. All the recordings that I listened to were well balanced and nothing was lost in the quiet passages. Both the Blue Man Group and Beck albums exhibit lots of musical parts in the surround channels. The sound traveled with fluidity between the channels and contained the same details as the front channels.
I recommend the Pioneer Elite DV-46AV DVD player to anyone that is looking for a high performance, mid-priced universal disc player. Its video quality will be enjoyed by video fanatics and its audio capability will please audio enthusiasts. The DV-46AV offers audio and video adjustments that some higher priced universal players don’t even have. These reasons combined with its performance and $399 price make the DV46-AV an excellent machine.
Pioneer Elite DV-46AV Universal Disc Player
• Multi-format playback including CD, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, WMA, MP3 and DivX Ultra
• 192 kHz/24 bit audio digital/analogue converter
• HDMI with video upscaling to 1080i
• Advanced GUI (Graphical User Interface)
• JPEG Photoviewer
• Video outputs: 1 x composite, 1 x S-video, 1 x component, 1 x HMDI
• Audio outputs: 1 x analogue 5.1 channel, 1 x optical, 1 x coaxial
• Remote control: player/TV
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 420 mm x 51.5 mm x 215.5 mm (16-9/16″ x 2-1/16″ x 8-1/2″)
• Weight: 2.6 kg/5 lbs