Pioneer DV-533K DVD Player

    The Pioneer DV-533K is essentially Pioneer's entry into a growing market segment, that of the "play everything" DVD player. It can play CDs, CD-Rs, MP3s, Video CDs, Super Video CDs, and of course DVDs. One of the pitfalls of this particular market segment is that some of these players come up a little short in their essential DVD playback function. Fortunately, the Pioneer DV-533K does not suffer this malady, and plays DVDs rather well. While I have not had the benefit of comparing it to previous Pioneer models, it does produce an image comparable to my reference player, the Toshiba SD-2109, which is good enough for me.

What's In The Box

    The following items were in the box when I opened it;     The model I evaluated was in a burnished gold colour, the only colour that this particular model is available in. The first thing I noticed about this player was that its height was significantly less than that of previous players I had seen, with the overall vertical height being just over half that of my reference player, the Toshiba SD-2109. A quick look inside the player revealed that there is simply less wasted space inside the player than is the norm, with the circuit boards and internal cables being bunched very closely together. The impression I was left with was that of a well put together player with the sort of quality one would expect from one of the "big three".

Front Panel

    The Pioneer DV-533K's front panel is somewhat cramped. This is partly because of the relatively low height of the player, but there is also a fair amount of unused space to the left of the disc tray, which could have been used to place larger, more user-friendly buttons. The left side of this player has a soft power on/off switch, which takes the player into or out of standby mode, something that can also be done via the remote control.

    In the centre of the front panel is the disc tray, which opens very rapidly and quietly when the eject pushed is pressed, either in power-on or standby mode.

    Beneath the disc tray, we have a series of basic navigation buttons, and this is my biggest gripe about the DV-533K: the buttons are too small to comfortably operate without strong light. The Fast Forward and Reverse buttons, which also double as the Chapter Skip buttons, are easy enough to identify, although they are very small, which makes me glad they are grouped a good distance away from the other buttons that are in this small rectangular shape: the Pause and Stop buttons. On the left of these four rectangular buttons is the Eject button, which is a round shape with the appropriate symbol printed on it. On the right of these four rectangular buttons is the Play button, which is also a round shape with the appropriate symbol printed on it.

    Finally, between the power on/off switch and the basic navigation buttons one can find a microphone input, a volume knob, and an echo effect knob. These are part of the karaoke functions of this player, which I didn't test.

Rear Panel

    The rear panel of this player contains all the basic functions you'll need from a player, and nothing that you won't. From left to right, we have the following:

    The arrangement of the video outputs is somewhat muddled, but careful attention when connecting cables should take care of that problem.

Remote Control

    My overall impression of the Pioneer DV-533K's remote, the VXX2700, is something of a mixed bag, for reasons I will get into shortly. It is the same model of remote control that accompanies the Pioneer DV-535, at least to the eye. The first thought I had about this remote was that it was a nice, sizeable one that I could easily get my hand around, thus using it one-handed, which is certainly a plus compared to the remote I am used to using. The perfectly rectangular shape of the remote and grid-like layout of the less-often-used buttons are certainly a plus. The raised spots on the Display, Return, Previous Chapter, Next Chapter, and Play buttons, as well as the central arrow key mechanism, make them very easy to locate.

    However, the relative positions of the arrow key mechanism and the Play button had me pressing Play often when I meant to press the down button, and the close proximity of the Last Memory button to the Power On/Off button had me frequently looking at the remote whenever I attempted to use a button in the top row. The location of the Audio, Subtitle, Angle, Setup, Menu, and Top Menu buttons was something of an annoyance for me, with these buttons being indistinct from several surrounding buttons, and therefore easy to miss. I presume that if one uses this remote in slightly better light than is normal for most home theatres, they will eventually become used to the locations of the buttons and these minor problems with the layout will become a non-issue.

    The operating range of this remote control was perfectly satisfactory, with the player responding quickly to all inputs within the quoted thirty-degree angles of the manual. I suspect that this is the sort of remote that gets easier to use over a long period of use, making it hard to evaluate on the basis of the short time I had it for. It is by no means perfect, but it is certainly a lot closer than a lot of other remote controls I could mention.

Manual

    The manual is sixty-three pages in length, and the most interesting thing about this particular manual, compared to numerous others I have seen for DVD-Video players that I have used or considered purchasing in the past, is that it is all in English. Some interesting tidbits are shared in the early pages about how the player handles CD-Rs, especially those containing MP3s, one of which is that the player is not compatible with some variable bitrate MP3 files. The manual is rather comprehensive, explaining everything one needs to know about connecting their player to their receiver and display unit, as well as little points of interest such as how to set the TV Size option or how to make use of the MP3 playback functions.

Set-Up Menu

    The set-up menu is mostly textual, based around a large, thin sans-serif font that I found somewhat unpleasant to look at. It is easy to navigate, although the method of selecting and changing the options took a little getting used to. Thankfully, the display also shows which keys to press in order to get the desired effect, which makes sorting out the functions one wants to perform noticeably easier.

Video Playback

    I performed all my tests of this player with the player set to 16x9 mode, utilizing the S-Video output. Note that this player is not capable of passing an NTSC blacker-than-black signal.

    The Pioneer DV-533K produces a smooth, highly detailed image that I enjoyed watching, with fine details and subtle steps of colour rendered well. Fields of colour tended to be very smooth and clean, with no detectable chroma noise in The Ultimate DVD Platinum's purity test. Rather than compromise on the video quality in order to provide a player with numerous features that may never get any use, Pioneer seem to have elected to make sure the image this player produces is of high quality.

    The Pioneer DV-533K is marked as a Region 4 player, and it would only play Region 4 DVDs.

    The Fast Forward and Fast Reverse functions of this player were quite reasonably implemented, with speeds of 1X, 2X, and 3X being possible. One aspect of these functions that pleased me on the Pioneer DV-533K is that the point in the title indicated by the picture on screen and the actual point where the disc was searching closely matched, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of fast forwarding to a specific scene, especially on DVD titles where there are an inadequate number of Chapter stops.

    Layer changes were handled acceptably on this player, with a slight pause and a brief pop in the soundtrack keeping me fully aware of when the player was negotiating the change. Suffice it to say that this player is no better or worse in this regard than other players in a similar price range.

On Screen Display

    The on-screen display is restricted to a small panel across the top of the image, with minimal information contained therein. The first page displays the Title and Chapter information, along with the Time Elapsed, Time Remaining, and Total Running Time of the disc that is currently inserted. Pressing the Display button again replaces the latter three elements on the first page with the Time Elapsed in the current chapter, and pressing it a third time replaces the Time Elapsed with the Time Remaining in the aforementioned current chapter. Pressing the Display button a fourth time brings up the total bitrate of the transfer. It is not possible to view the video and audio bitrates separately on the Pioneer DV-533K. Overall, I felt that this information could have easily been compacted onto two, or possibly even less, pages without losing anything.

    Popular subtitle languages such as English, Dutch, Swedish, or Portuguese, are rendered with their full names on the on-screen display. Slightly less common languages such as Finnish, on the other hand, are displayed as "fi", making it hard to tell exactly when the right language has been selected for viewers of some nationalities.

Standards Conversions

    The Pioneer DV-533K is capable of converting NTSC DVDs to PAL-60. However, unlike previous Pioneer players, this functionality is only accessible via a sequence of front panel keypresses - there is no NTSC/PAL/AUTO switch on the back of this player.

CDR & Video CD

    The Pioneer DV-533K will play back CD-Rs and pressed Video CDs.

Audio Playback

    I used this player with its coaxial digital output and encountered no problems.

    Subjectively, there were no discernible problems with audio sync. I viewed passages from several films where I felt any difference from how the film was meant to be shown would be noticeable, and I found no lag between movement and sound. I was unable to objectively measure the audio sync, but I don't think anyone is going to notice a problem here.

    DTS Audio bitstreams can be set to be output to the receiver in their native format or be turned off altogether. There is no provision for downconverting DTS into Linear PCM, or any other format for that matter, on this player. MPEG Audio bitstreams can be set to either output in their native format, or be converted into Linear PCM for those who do not possess an MPEG decoder. The Pioneer DV-533K does a good job of converting such bitstreams, which makes a nice change from the deafening silence I normally hear whenever my reference player encounters an MPEG soundtrack. 96 kHz Linear PCM output is supported by this player, and it can be set to either play these soundtracks back in their native form, or to downconvert them into 48 kHz, depending on your preference.

MP3 Discs

    From an audio point of view, I detected no anomalies with this machine's MP3 playback. The DVD transport was quiet enough that no noise could be detected from it while the MP3s were playing back. One thing I did find a little disquieting was that the MP3s were significantly louder on this player than any other type of soundtrack I attempted to play on it, including uncompressed Linear PCM. Usually, it is the other way around. The only complaint I have regarding the way in which this player plays MP3s is that there is a noticeable pause between tracks as the player searches for the next one.

    The MP3 files contained on any MP3 disc are listed in a quasi-Windows style, with the file names in a scroll-down list that truncates the filenames into eight-letter representations. Those who intend to use this player as a quasi-jukebox are advised to keep the length of your filenames at or under eight characters. In spite of this one minor complaint, however, the graphical menu style for the MP3 function made locating and playing back one's preferred MP3s a real breeze.

    The Pioneer DV-533K played back 128 Kb/s, 256 Kb/s, and 320 Kb/s MP3 files with no apparent problems. It was also surprising to note that in spite of the explicit statement that the player would not do this contained within the manual, the DV-533K also found and played a Variable Bit Rate MP3 test file.

    The Random function also works quite well on the Pioneer DV-533K, with an amusing display of spinning track numbers whenever the player searches for the next file to play. This function is also useful at parties, although I do recommend using it with a disc that is absolutely filled to capacity.
 

Test Disc Format (all Princo CDRs)

Results

110 MP3s in root directory Found all files
110 MP3s in 5 subdirectories Found all files
128Kb/s, 256Kb/s, 320Kb/s and Variable Bit Rate Played 128Kb/s, 256Kb/s, 320Kb/s, and Variable Bit Rate files
Multisession CDR (4 sessions, each with one added MP3) Only found the first session.

Disc Compatibility Tests

    No discs that I tried on the DV-533K had any specific problems.
 
Specific Tests
Disc
What Is Tested
Results
Snatch R4 
Stealing Stones
Tests active subtitle feature, seamless branching, and ability to load hybrid DVD/DVD-ROM.
OK/OK/OK
Pulp Fiction R4 
Audio Sync
Opening scene tests audio sync.
OK
Terminator: SE R4 
Menu Load
Tests ability to load complex menu
OK
Independence Day R4 Seamless Branching
Tests ability to handle seamless branching (Chapter 3)
OK
Hollow Man R1 
RCE
Tests ability to handle RCE protected DVDs in Auto multizone mode (if applicable).
No

User Convenience Features

Screen Saver
Yes
Zoom
No

Overall

The Good Points
The Bad Points
    I was unable to find any major problems with this player, and so I am forced to pick on small issues that I had with it.

Features At A Glance

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

In Closing

    Prior to this review, it was my opinion that one could not get a decent DVD-Video player that also played all those other formats. The Pioneer DV-533K is a player that plays DVD-Video and CDs with MP3s on them very well. If you are searching for an entry-level player that is compatible with most everything that can presently be thrown at it, you can't go wrong with the Pioneer DV-533K. It is the sort of player that is capable of showing DVD-Video at its very best, and it doesn't do too badly with all those other niggly little formats, either.
 

Ratings (out of 5)

Performance SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)
Build Quality SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)
In Operation SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SGH.GIF (874 bytes)
Compatibility SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)
Value For Money SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SG.GIF (100 bytes)SGH.GIF (874 bytes)

Technical Specifications (Manufacturer Supplied)

Product Type: DVD-Video, Super Video CD, Video CD, MP3, and Audio CD player
Region: Zone 4 (Australia/New Zealand & South America)
Signal System: PAL / NTSC
Serial Number Of Unit Tested: AGMP000830CD
MPEG Decoder: Mitsubishi M65774BFR
Audio Frequency Response: 4Hz - 44kHz (96kHz sampling)
Signal to Noise Ratio: 118dB
Dynamic Range: 103dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0016%
Dimensions: 420 (w) x 284 (d) x 55 (h)
Weight: 2.6kg
Price: $749
Distributor: Pioneer Electronics Australia Pty Ltd 
178-184 Boundary Road 
Braeside  VIC  3195
Telephone: (03) 9586 6300
Facsimile: (03) 9587 1495
Email: sales@pioneeraus.com.au

© Dean McIntosh
November 23rd, 2001