Pioneer DV-563a DVD-Audio disc compatibility issues have become a hotly debated topic during the week across many Internet forums. The furore stems from the machine’s inability to replay the high-resolution content of numerous recent pop/rock releases, primarily from the Universal Music group of labels.
The DV-563a is a popular, entry-level ‘universal’ DVD-Audio/SACD player that retails for approximately $140 (MSRP $250).
Problematic titles include Steely Dan’s ‘Gaucho’, David Sanborn’s ‘Natureboy’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’, all from Universal imprints, while some users are also reporting issues with WMG titles such as Neil Young’s ‘Greendale’ (Reprise), Brian Wilson’s ‘Live at the Roxy Theater’ (Rhino) and ‘Electric Warrior (Expanded and Remastered)’ from T-Rex (Rhino).
An anonymous Universal employee who the company will not officially identify but describes as a “reliable source”, posting under the pseudonym of “jimby”, has stated that their investigations led them to uncover a possible incompatibility between the latest revision of the Sonic/MEI DVD-Audio Creator software used to author the discs and the firmware of the Pioneer DV-563a. High Fidelity Review approached all four organisations for their comments…
Dietrick Hardwick, Director, Technical Resources (Professional Products Division) and Product Manager at Sonic for their DVD-Audio Creator package believed it was too early for his company to comment directly, although he could tell us that the issue was being actively investigated. “This week, we received incoming reports of the playability issue with the Pioneer DV-563a unit and are moving to identify the problem.” Dietrick continued, “Thus far, what we can be sure of is that we have not had reports of any other player exhibiting this issue.”
Paul Bishow, Vice President, Marketing (New Formats) at Universal Music Group is justifiably pleased with his label’s high-resolution output “We take a lot of time creating our discs, their menus and supplementary material, and because of this we are very proud of them” he told me. “We know our discs are within specification, we do quite a bit of testing and our discs play on pretty much every player.” It would seem therefore, that this is an issue that needs to be addressed by Pioneer.
Similarly, Rhino Records issued the following statement: “We have documented compatibility issues with the T-Rex and Brian Wilson discs and the Pioneer DV-563a. Unfortunately, this is a problem with this particular player not being able to read the discs.” Rhino are offering to replace the problematic titles for those of a similar value (not including selections from the Rhino Handmade catalogue). Send the discs, along with a short explanatory note to:
Rhino Customer Service
Attn. Mac Dunlop
3400 West Olive Ave. 5th Floor
Burbank, CA 91505
United States of America.
Aaron Levine, Public Relations Specialist for Pioneer USA stepped up to the plate: “US-based consumers experiencing problems should contact Pioneer service who are aware of this problem,” which he suggested may be related to updated Content Protection for Pre-recorded Media (CPPM) data used upon the troublesome discs (this might explain the lack of audio but successful menu navigation). A firmware update, which can easily be installed by the end-user from a CD-ROM, was suggested by Aaron as one possible solution, and he also ensured us that going forward, all production stock of the DV-563a would be supplied to retailers already updated. At this point, it is not expected that players (with or without example discs) need be returned to Pioneer, but procedures may vary from one territory to another. Pioneer UK Product Manager John Bamford was unaware of any non-compatibility reports regarding the company’s region two-specific machines when he talked to High Fidelity Review earlier this week.
So what can we deduce from the information currently available? Both Universal and Sonic are conducting extensive compatibility testing, but so far have found that only the Pioneer DV-563a has issues with discs authored using the latest version of Sonic’s DVD-Audio Creator. It would therefore seem logical that the firmware in this specific machine is to blame, especially in light of Pioneer’s own response. It should be noted that the number of incompatible discs may increase as titles authored in a similar manner are released, so anyone suffering the aforementioned problems should alert Pioneer to their situation. In turn, they will endeavour to rectify the situation as soon as the specific cause is known. In the meantime, the disc’s lower-resolution lossy Dolby Digital and/or DTS tracks can be played as an alternative by forcing the DV-563a into DVD-Video mode, something that is possible with all Pioneer machines.