Pioneer DV-610AV DVD Player Review
Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) is an optical disc storage format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs (CDs) while having the same dimensions. It has taken more than a decade to perfect the DVD player. The early DVD players all suffered from the same problems that plague Blu-ray players of today. They were plagued with slow loading times and they came locked – region coded. Even today, there are a lot of DVD players out there that are region coded and they need to be hacked (hardware or software unlocked), if you intend to play international DVDs.
Pioneer Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation that specializes in digital entertainment products, based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan. The company was founded by Nozomu Matsumoto in 1938 in Tokyo as a radio and speaker repair shop. I bought the Pioneer DV-610AV-S (‘S’ stands for silver colour and ‘K’ stands for black colour) from B&H Corp., New York, USA, for USD 120. The total cost worked out to USD 250 (equivalent of INR 15000) inclusive of shipping and customs.
Specifications & Features
Out of the box, this player comes unlocked. It plays DVDs from all 6 DVD regions.
Universal power supply, it works on 110V – 220V. It comes with two power chords, one is the North American flat pin plug and the other one is the Asian (Chinese) round pin plug. It can be plugged anywhere in the world with the help of the right pin / plug adaptor.
It plays almost all formats other than High Definition formats such as Blu-ray. It even plays DVDA and SACD audio formats.
Available in both black and silver colours. This surely adds up to the universal appeal that many other DVD players lack.
All the video / audio connections you would ever want – HDMI, component video, composite video, S-Video, coaxial audio, optical audio and 5.1 channel analogue outputs.
The optical output jack is one of the best I have seen on any device at this price point. It even comes with a removable dust cap just like the ones found in Musical Fidelity gear.
The above points actually make the Pioneer DV-610AV a true universal DVD players in the market right now.
Body & Design
The build quality of this DVD player is nothing to boast about. I really wish the build quality of this DVD player was at least close to Pioneer’s own Elite DVD players. And may be a little more quiet operation would have helped.
Random play is good but shuffle play would have been better for CD playback. Almost all universal Blu-ray / DVD players suffer from this. This is where a dedicated CD player still has an advantage.
It would have been great if we could change the player menu settings without stopping the DVD / CD, a la (in the style of) Oppo.
I don’t have SACDs or DVDAs but I do have HDCDs. If this format was also included then this would have been the universal DVD player to beat.
Auto turn off is good, but a 12V external trigger would have been a dream come true.
Setup & Performance
I have the Pioneer DV-610AV connected to an Onkyo TX-SR604 A/V Receiver (AVR), Mirage Os3-Sat Omnipolar satellite speakers and a Panasonic 42-inch G10 Plasma HDTV using HDMI cables.
The video upscaling of the Pioneer DV-610AV is much better than that of the Panasonic G10 plasma TV. I found that a little hard to believe at first, especially when the DVD player cost just 1/8th the price of the HDTV. It’s a very simple test, all you have to do is to output the DVD player at both 480i and 1080p. If the DVD player’s output at 480i appears to be better than the output at 1080p, then the video upscaling capabilities of the HDTV is better than that of the DVD player and if the output at 1080p is better than the output at 480i, then it’s the other way around. You should try this simple test with every video source you may have in your A/V playback system before deciding on which device to handle the responsibility of upscaling videos.
A unique selling point of the Pioneer DV-610AV is its capability of playing home-made / burned DVDs without a hiccup. This function is important to me as I make a lot of Windows Media Videos (WMV). This DVD player is especially very good at playing WMVs and DVDs that contain it. There are far and few DVD players that can boast this capability.
The Pioneer DV-610AV sports a 24bit/192khz Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) due to its ability to playback DVDA and SACD audio formats. The Pioneer DV-610AV analogue output sounds a little warmer than the internal DAC used in the Onkyo TX-SR604 AVR. The performance is actually very close and hard to determine. The sound quality is actually nowhere close to the modern after-market DACs. As such, I decided to leave the sound processing responsibility with the Onkyo AVR for convenience of using a single HDMI cable over 5 analogue RCA interconnect cables.
This DVD player comes with an ‘auto turn off’ function, it’s especially good if this player is ever to be used as a CD player / source for use with Zone 2 set-up. When activated, this function turns off the DVD player, 30mins after the CD has stopped playback. This is surely an option to have when you do not have a 12V external trigger. The 12V trigger is an impressive feature and one that I really like a lot. It may be used to synchronize all devices that have a built-in 12V external trigger to auto turn on / off all devices that are connected, to each other, with a single command. It is feature not to be expected in devices at this price point.
These days, almost all manufacturers are turning to ‘Black’ as their choice of colour, possibly due to reduce cost. Not that silver colour costs more, it’s just that making a product in multiple colour options adds cost. Gone are the good old days when most equipment was available in Silver, Gold and even Champaign. As much as black looks cool, it’s sad to see that customers are now being forced with no colour choice. Brushed Aluminium (Silver) used by Onkyo remains my all-time favourite finish for an audio equipment. It’s got a vintage and nostalgic feel to it. I’m glad that Pioneer at least gave a choice of both black and silver colour options for this DVD player.
Accessories & Tweaks
I replaced the internal 5X20mm 1.6A T (Time-Delay) nickel-plated stock fuse with a pure silver HiFi-Tuning Supreme fuse.
The tiny and stiff square stock rubber feet were replaced with Isolate It! 3/4” Sorbothane hemisphere rubber bumper non-skid feet.
The stock power cord was replaced by an Audiopolitan power cord consisting of a 14awg power cable, pure copper IEC and C7 plugs.
I covered all the unused RCA female sockets with Audiopolitan RCA caps.
I also added 3kgs of rubberised round dumbbell weights on top of the DVD player for improved stability.
All of the above tweaks have made a very positive impact on this budget DVD player. In fact, I feel like I have raised it to the next level where I could confidently call it – ‘The Transport’ in my A/V playback system. The above mentioned tweaks are very expensive and they cost more than the cost of the DVD player itself. I recommend them only if you want to wring out the very best from what the Pioneer DV-610AV has to offer and if you have a well tuned A/V playback system. If you are very particular about good looks then please do not add the weights on top of this DVD player. It really makes it look ugly.
Comparisons & Alternatives
Onkyo DV-SP506: This player came region locked and at the time, there were no known hacks for this machine. This player had the best build quality of all the budget DVD players I had considered. Brushed Aluminium (Silver) looks stunning.
Oppo DV-980H: This player is easy to hack. It was available only in black colour and I wanted it in silver colour. It had lots of issues with home-made / burned DVDs, especially the one consisting of WMVs. It also lacks auto off which is found even in the most basic DVD players.
Cambridge Audio Azur 540D V2: Very identical to the Oppo DV-980H, except that it is available in black and silver colours. The silver here looks more like raw aluminium. All other short comings of the Oppo DV-980H is applicable here.
Denon DVD 1940CI: It looked like a product with great potential but there were lots of reported issues with home-made / burned DVDs.
Marantz DV6001: Very identical to the Denon DVD 1940CI and it had the same short comings too.
I finally settled for the Pioneer DV-610AV which was cheaper than the above mentioned DVD players, and yet it had all the functions, features and performance that I was looking for in a budget DVD player.
I know my expectations are very high from a USD120 budget DVD player, but then that’s just me. With the DV-610AV Pioneer has managed to make a very practical universal DVD player at a decent price point. Unfortunately Pioneer could not perform a similar trick with their Blu-ray players which severely lags behind in today’s competition. Anyone who is not ready for a Blu-ray player yet and is still looking for a truly capable universal DVD player, should put this player right on top of their list.
This DVD player was especially made for the Asian and European markets. The ones sold in the U.S. come without a warranty. Now that’s a risk you will have to consider before buying the Pioneer DV-610AV universal DVD player. And it’s almost the same risk you will be facing, when you plan to buy an unlocked universal Blu-ray player.
Covers most A/V formats. Good video upscaling. Covers all types of A/V connections. Very good price to performance ratio. Very responsive to tweaking.
Flimsy build quality. Slightly noisy operation that is inaudible under most circumstances.
For more information on Pioneer Corp. and the DV-610AV DVD player please click on this – LINK.