Pioneer DV-344 DVD Player

    The Pioneer DV-344 DVD player supersedes the highly successful and well-reviewed Pioneer DV-535 DVD player. Let's get the burning question on everyone's lips out of the way first...

    "What's the difference between the Pioneer DV-535 and the Pioneer DV-344?". Not a lot, really, when it comes down to it.

  1. The PAL/NTSC/Auto switch has been removed from the back of the player - its functionality is now accessible via a sequence of front panel keypresses.
  2. The DV-344 is even more highly integrated internally than the Pioneer DV-535, but is otherwise fundamentally based around the same circuitry (including, importantly, the same MPEG decoder chip).
  3. According to the specifications for the two players, the height of the DV-344 is slightly less than that of the DV-535 (95.5mm vs 104mm). To be honest, I did not notice a specific difference in this area, but it has been a while since I last saw a DV-535.
  4. The DV-344 has a lower SRP - $549 (vs $649 for the DV-535).
    Other than that, the players appear identical, and not surprisingly, perform very similarly.

What's In The Box

    The following items are included with each player;     The Pioneer DV-344 is only available in Black.

Front Panel

    The Pioneer DV-344 has a basic and functional front panel.

    The left side of the front panel carries the soft power on-off switch. Pressing this button takes the player in and out of stand-by mode. Stand-by mode can also be entered via the remote control.

    The center of the front panel carries a smoothly-operating and relatively quiet disc tray mechanism and an orange, non-dimmable fluorescent display. The disc mechanism recognizes the type of media inserted relatively quickly.

    The right side of the front panel carries basic DVD navigation buttons. The buttons have a slightly 'budget' feel about them, but are perfectly functional. Pressing either the Disc Eject or Play buttons whilst the player is in stand-by mode will activate the player and perform the appropriate function (as it should be for all DVD players but often isn't).

Rear Panel

    The rear panel of this player is equipped with a good selection of outputs. From left to right, we have;

    The output connectors are nicely spread out, with the audio and video connectors pleasingly spaced apart from each other. The precise arrangement of the audio connectors seems a little haphazard, with the analogue audio outputs immediately above the coaxial digital output, but this should not present any significant hook-up problems so long as care is taken when connecting the unit up.

    Those familiar with other Pioneer models will note that there is no PAL/NTSC/Auto switch on the rear panel. This functionality has been retained via a power-up front panel keypress sequence.

Remote Control

    The Pioneer DV-344 comes with an identical remote to the Pioneer DV-535. I was glowing in my praise of the remote in my review of the Pioneer DV-535, so it was with some interest that I re-acquainted myself with this remote control, to see if the same enthusiastic response was forthcoming.

    This time around, I won't be quite so glowing about the remote control. Yes, it's still a very good remote control, but my response to it was not as positive this time. I don't know why this was - perhaps familiarity breeds contempt?

    The remote control is based around a circular arrow and enter key arrangement, with oft-used keys located around this mechanism. A small pimple on most of the critical keys aids in location of the keys in the dark, making this remote control a breeze to use in the dark. A small criticism is that the arrow keys are a tad too narrow for completely comfortable operation.

    The AUDIO, SUBTITLE, ANGLE and MENU buttons are placed badly and are difficult to locate, but that is the only significant negative aspect of this remote control.

    The operating range and angle of operation of this remote control were excellent. In particular, I found that the unit would respond to remote control keypresses from quite extreme lateral angles, certainly well beyond the 30º angle claimed in the manual.


    The manual for the Pioneer DV-344 is easy to read, comprehensive and often very politely phrased. It is presented in a seemingly out-of-order fashion, with discussion of the "Setup Navigator" - an aide to setting up the DVD player for novices - coming before discussion of the basic operation of the player and before in-depth discussion of the Setup menu options. In the context of the Setup Navigator's intended function, this is probably fair enough. As a consequence of the early coverage of the Setup Navigator, some of the latter part of the manual is repetitive, but this probably also cannot be helped.

    Pleasingly, every option available on this player, no matter how esoteric, is given adequate, detailed and understandable coverage in this manual.

Set-Up Menu

    The set-up menu for the Pioneer DV-344 is essentially the same as that which can be found in previous Pioneer DVD players. Text-based but well laid-out, first time setup of the player is made easier with the Setup Navigator function referred to previously.

    More advanced users will be pleased to find full control over the digital output of Dolby Digital, DTS, MPEG and Linear PCM audio, even to the extent of this player allowing the output of 96kHz Linear PCM digitally, something that many DVD players do not allow.

Video Playback

    All video playback tests were performed with the player set to 16x9 output mode, utilizing its S-Video output.

    I have found that Pioneer DVD players in general are capable of producing a very film-like image from film-based source material. The Pioneer DV-344 is no exception, producing a very smooth and yet detailed image from film material which is very pleasant and non-fatiguing to watch. I noted no MPEG decoder anomalies.

    Video-based source material did not fare quite as well as film-based source material. Scan lines became discernible when interlaced material rapidly panned, more so than with other DVD players that I have seen. This is really quite a subtle effect, and so only degrades the image quality ever-so-slightly, and seems to be a characteristic of the Fujitsu MPEG decoder solutions used in Pioneer DVD players.

    Chroma noise, particularly in deep blue areas of the image, is slightly more evident from the DV-344 than it is from some other DVD players. This is not normally a problem with most programme material, but does lessen the presentation quality of some music videos which exhibit lots of deep blues. There is no luma noise, so deep blacks are unaffected.

    The review player was marked as a Zone 4 player, and only played back appropriately zoned DVDs.

    The fast forward and fast reverse functions of this player are quite jerky in comparison to other DVD players. The functioning of the remote control for these functions is a little unusual, with the appropriate button needing to be held down for approximately 10 seconds before it locks into either fast forward or fast reverse mode. Otherwise, the mode ceases the instant the button is released. In some ways, this is a good implementation of these functions, with short rewinds or fast forwards able to be accomplished easily. In other ways, this is a little counter-intuitive. It's something that owners of this player will undoubtedly get used to soon enough. In the initial stage, the player seems to fast forward or reverse at x4 speed. When locked in, the fast forward or reverse speed seems to speed up to approximately x8.

    RSDL layer changes resulted in a short pause of the order of 1/4 - 1/2 second.

On Screen Display

    The on-screen display is text-based with a fairly blurry and utilitarian font utilized. It provides basic information on time elapsed/remaining, total running time, chapter running time/time elapsed and also offers a bitrate meter.

    The DVD player knows a fair number of full names for languages, so you either get the full name of the language displayed or a two letter abbreviation if the player does not recognize the language in question.

    Functional key-presses on the remote are accompanied by various text messages appearing on-screen.

Standards Conversions

    The Pioneer DV-344 is capable of converting NTSC to PAL-60.

CDR & Video CD

    The Pioneer DV-344  can play back CD-R media and Video CDs.

Audio Playback

    I only used this DVD player with its coaxial digital output and had no specific problems.

    Subjectively, there were no audio sync problems whatsoever noted with this player which could not be attributed to the source material being used. Objectively, the analogue vs digital delay in this player was 0 milliseconds, consistent with the observed lack of audio sync problems.

    DTS digital output is supported by this DVD player. MPEG audio bitstreams are output as either Linear PCM or native MPEG depending upon the setup of the player.

Disc Compatibility Tests

    No DVDs that I personally tried on the Pioneer DV-344 had any specific playback problems. Two specific DVDs are known to be incompatible with the DV-344; The Cell and The Main Event. Both of these DVDs cause the player to crash on start-up.
Specific Tests
What Is Tested
The Matrix R4
Follow The White Rabbit
Tests active subtitle feature, seamless branching, ability to load hybrid DVD/DVD-ROM and audio sync.
Pulp Fiction R4
Audio Sync
Opening scene tests audio sync.
Terminator: SE R4
Menu Load
Tests ability to load complex menu
Independence Day R4 Seamless Branching
Tests ability to handle seamless branching (Chapter 3)
The Patriot R1
Tests ability to handle RCE protected DVDs in Auto multizone mode (if applicable).

User Convenience Features

Screen Saver


The Good Points
    Great looking image, especially for film-based material.

    No audio sync problems.

    Decent quality remote control.

    Fast, responsive and quiet tray mechanism.

    Plays CD-Rs.

    Outputs 96kHz Linear PCM digitally.

The Bad Points
    The fluorescent display cannot be dimmed.

    Moderate degree of chroma noise.

Features At A Glance

Video Component Output RGB Output
Audio DTS Output MP3 Playback
Plays CDRs
Conversion PAL-60
Inbuilt Decoder None

In Closing

    The Pioneer DV-344 is basically the same DVD player as the Pioneer DV-535, with some minor design changes allowing it to be offered for sale for less than the previously already good-value-for-money DV-535. It adds no new features or functions, but neither does it lose any, either. Not surprisingly, since the two players are based around the same design, they have similar levels of performance, with particularly good performance on film-based source material and no significant flaws. Pioneer are onto another solid winner with the DV-344.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality
In Operation
Value For Money

Technical Specifications (Manufacturer Supplied)

Product Type: DVD-Video, Video CD and Audio CD player
Region: Zone 4 (Australia/New Zealand & South America)
Signal System: PAL / NTSC
Serial Number Of Unit Tested: AECP011657AU
MPEG Decoder: Fujitsu MB86373B
Audio Frequency Response: 4Hz - 44kHz (96kHz sampling)
Signal to Noise Ratio: 118dB
Dynamic Range: 103dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0016%
Dimensions: 420 (w) x 281 (d) x 95.5 (h)
Weight: 2.7kg
Price: $549
Distributor: Pioneer Electronics Australia Pty Ltd
178-184 Boundary Road
Braeside  VIC  3195
Telephone: (03) 9586 6300
Facsimile: (03) 9587 1495

© Michael Demtschyna
29th July 2001