Review: Pioneer PD-F19 elite CD Player

Category: Digital

I am a dedicated amateur musician with a strong classical/jazz background on piano, guitar, etc.
My joy comes from music and audio systems that touch the soul with a rare combination of excitement, but without the overblown, etched sound often seen in poor recordings or equipment.

The Onkyo that this unit replaced was a dinosaur, yet it was capable of some decent sounds due to its superior transport, combined with the smoothness of the NAD and somewhat forgiving Vandersteens. Ironically, the Pioneer unit, purchased new within the last year, provides more detail while riding the thin line between accuracy and harshness in the upper region. The mechanics of the unit are incredible, and it would be fun to own just to watch it do it's light show, or to be able to store your collection and programmably access it. However, the fact is that it lacks the last degree(or two) of warmth and palpability that one hears on the Audio Note, or any of the tubed cd players. Still, considering it is playing through Class C components in the rest of the chain, it is still amazing. You will know if the recording is bad, but it will do a nice job on most well recorded CD's, with very little hint of tizz, and quite a bit of imaging magic, which the Vandersteens are capable of. Compared to analog, of course, it is a clear impostor as regards an unstrained, full-bodied presentation, but the lack of noise and improved dynamic range of the Pioneer are not a bad compensation.

If money were no object, a number of tubed units would be preferable - Audio Note, Shanling, or even Jolida's latest. Or the venerable Wadia for those who eschew tubes. Any of these would be a large step up. However, at a new cost of $ 175 during a local audio salon promotion, I feel guilty nitpicking.
At or close to the list price of $ 700, other candidates, like Jolida,Music Hall, Arcam,etc. will offer slightly better sound at the price of being single disc players.

Overall, a strong recommendation in its price and product category, but best used with components that are themselves not overly unforgiving. The Legato chip helps, but as they say, analog and tubes rule, as can be seen even when comparing cd players.

Associated gear
NAD 7225 Receiver
Vandersteen 1B speakers
Tributary solid silver cables
Linn LP12 table/Akito Arm/Linn K9 cartridge

Similar products
Onkyo R-1 CDP
Linn Ikemi
Audio Note CD-3
Toshiba S-5900 DVD/CDP
Wadia (several different models)