We have definitive proof that the dueling Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio high-resolution formats have finally entered the mainstream. Exhibit A: Pioneer's $199 "universal" player, the DV-578A-S, available for less than $150 online. This little dynamo plays both high-res music formats, as well as regular DVDs, CDs, and most other kinds of 5-inch disc. No, its audio won't wow the golden ears of serious 'philes, but for less than $200, it's the only one of its kind. Whether you're an aspiring audiophile or just curious about the glories of high-resolution, multichannel music, the versatile DV-578A-S makes a great case for treating your ears right.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The 2.2-inch-tall, 4.6-pound silver plastic Pioneer DV-578A looks like a virtual twin of last year's DV-563A. Neither one poses much of a threat to brawny higher-end models; the 578A looks and feels like an entry-level model. The front-mounted menu and cursor controls came in awfully handy after we misplaced the remote. One gripe we had with last year's 563A was that we weren't always sure exactly what type of disc was in play, but the 578A's entire display reads out "SACD" or "DVD-Audio" when you insert a disc or stop play.
The 578A's bass management can cope with demanding tiny satellite speakers, such as our, which we successfully blended with Energy's matching S8.2 subwoofer. The Crystal Method's killer DVD-A disc, Legion of Boom, had just the right amount of room-shaking oomph without forfeiting bass definition. Most universal players are nowhere as adept with their bass management.
We liked the 578A's small, gray plastic remote, mostly because its minimalist button contingent doesn't cram in too many keys.The 578A's main claim to fame is compatibility with numerous formats. It handles DVD-Audio and SACD discs, plus DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, and CD-R/RW, in addition to MP3, WMA, and JPEG files. We were surprised by its amazing memory: if you stop playing a DVD in the middle of the movie, listen to a few CDs, then reinsert the same DVD, the 578A will return you to the point where you stopped watching the movie.
Although we appreciated the ability to control lots of picture characteristics, such as contrast, brightness, and even gamma, we left them in the middle position for evaluation.