Some of the solid state players are better than others at playing DiscoVision. The Pioneer CLD-D703 is no exception. This player can spin up and play nearly every disc DiscoVision put out, including discs that no other player will even sync to. This a mixed blessing, since once the discs begins to play, there is no guarantee they will continue playing. The CLD-D703 has a real problem with Laserlock due to the Laser Diode pickup assembly that LaserDisc manufacturers have been using since 1984.

The next big drawback to the 703 is the video noise reduction. Pioneer has gone to great lengths to enhance the resolution and has also applied VNR (Variable Noise Reduction) to the video. The only problem is it makes any speckle defect worse. What might be a minor 1 line blip becomes a huge 3 line blip, that appears to float on the screen. This isn't isolated to DiscoVision discs, even current discs from DADC/Sony and Pioneer USA which may have a random speckle are often exacerbated by this player.

Pioneer CLD-D703 On startup, the player will always search for frame 0 for CAV and minute 0 on CLV/CAA discs. On DiscoVision discs, this usually begins playback about half way through the DiscoVision opening logo on side 1 and at the start of each side on the remainder of the program. Because of the players quick auto-reverse feature, side breaks often take as little as 5 seconds. The end of side signal on DiscoVision tends to be very small, and on many discs, you can search beyond the end of the side, going all the way to the outer edge of the disc before the player begins to complain. There is also a problem when this player searches for Chapter 0 on CLV discs. For some reason, the beginning of chapter 0 is not coded correctly, and searches will fail. However, time based CLV searches have no problem.

On General Motors and soft signal discs, the player incorporates a learning functionality to try and figure out how to play the loaded disc. It first sits at the "Play" prompt, simply spinning the disc at 1800rpm. After about 15-20 seconds, it appears as though the player starts turning off options to resync the disc, such as looking for TOC then chapter encoding, then CLV. Once it finally figures it might be a CAV disc, it will perform several speed adjustments, search attempts and synchronization attempts. After about a full minute, the disc and player will sync up and begin playback. It may be several hundred frames into the program, or several hundred frames before the program. If this is the case, you must scan in the proper direction to get back to or up to the beginning of the side. On GM discs, since they do not include the Philips code, you will not be able to pause, frame advance, search or any of the other special features normally attributed to CAV discs.

Audio reproduction is another weak point. In the current line of LaserDisc players from all manufacturers, the analog audio system has been toned down a bit. This is to give the false impression that because the digital sound is louder it is better. Due to some minor carrier shift in several of the early DiscoVision masterings, the audio may contain horrific amounts of static for the first 10-15 minutes of a CAV side. If the disc is played on a Gas Tube Analog Only player, the static may still be present, but to a much lessor degree.

The CLD-D703 does have a unique feature found in the entire line of Pioneer players for this model year, and the year following. The Automatic Picture Stop function can be disabled. Once a picture stop code is encountered, pressing the play/pause button on the unit for 2 seconds and then releasing will display PSC ON on the TV Screen. This stands for "Picture Stop Cancel". With this enabled, the player will ignore any picture stop codes stored on the disc. This is particularly useful when trying to play Frenzy Side 5. Pressing the play/pause button for two more seconds and then releasing will disable the cancel feature and the unit will again respond to the Picture Stop code.

In general, the CLD-703 is a fine LaserDisc player, on the current line of discs. It is not the best choice for DiscoVision discs.

Learning ability for soft signal discs
Auto Picture Stop signals can be ignored
Poor analog audio reproduction
Laser Diode based pickup
Video Noise Reduction actually enhances speckle defects

Updated: November 17, 1998
Copyright ©1998 Blam Entertainment Group