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Laserdisc basics ... any pointers?


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36 replies to this topic

#1 of 37 RobertCharlotte

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Posted February 22 2002 - 06:40 AM

If I were looking for a good, basic laserdisc player today, what should I look for?

Obviously, it would be used.

I'm thinking in terms of something I could purchase and use to enjoy movies not yet available on DVD (e.g., the original Star Wars trilogy).

Based on the little bit of research I've done so far, I've been able to figure out that I think I would want one that can read both sides of the disc, has s-video output, and maybe has digital audio output. (That last one I'm not sure of, because I also thought I'd read that LD uses analog audio, so it seems to me that digital audio output would be an unnecessary analog-to-digital conversion, but I would be happy to be educated on this point. Posted Image)

(added something obvious)
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#2 of 37 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 22 2002 - 08:34 AM

I'm going to move this to Audio/Video Sources, where it's more likely to attract attention from some of the resident LD experts.

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#3 of 37 RobertCharlotte

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Posted February 22 2002 - 09:29 AM

Thanks, Michael!
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#4 of 37 Sean Dayton

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Posted February 22 2002 - 09:58 AM

Well I dont know jack about LD players but I can save you a lesson I learned two days ago when I purchased a used LD player. Be prepared to spend another 100$ to what ever the market bears ? that week for a Dobly Digital demodulator or a preamp that will handle the Dobly decoding for a LD player and output it digitaly for a modern receiver.

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#5 of 37 Scott Andrews

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Posted February 22 2002 - 10:18 AM

Robert, Great question! You would want to find a Pioneer 704 Laser Disc Player. This player has many of the same features as the more pricey Elite series.
Of course you can do the e-bay thing, but beware many d.o.a. players are being sold these days. I hope this helps.
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#6 of 37 greg_t

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Posted February 22 2002 - 10:55 AM

Robert,

You want to get a Pioneer, like Scott said. The model really depends on what you're looking to spend. As quality goes up, so does price. You can get a good Elite 52 or 59 for $150 to $350 and will give you average picture quality. As Scott said, above average quality starts with the CLD 704. The CLD704 is a great player, and the CLD703 is the same except it cannot due Dolby Digital (AC-3). The Elite 79 is a fantastic player and has a gorgeous black finish to it. My first ld player was a Elite 52 which I got on ebay for $150. It works great and has a good picture. I recently bought a brand new Elite 79 off ebay for $600~ and it is far superior. If you only plan on buying a few discs, I would look for an Elite 59. If you plan on starting a LD collection, go for the higher end players.

#7 of 37 Philip Hamm

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Posted February 22 2002 - 11:13 AM

I'll answer some of your concerns then make my recommendations.
Quote:
I'm thinking in terms of something I could purchase and use to enjoy movies not yet available on DVD (e.g., the original Star Wars trilogy).
So, just for a few movies, and not for years. I'm going to assume that you're interested in the original Star Wars trilogy, as opposed to the bastardized versions so-called "special editions".
Quote:
Based on the little bit of research I've done so far, I've been able to figure out that I think I would want one that can read both sides of the disc, has s-video output, and maybe has digital audio output. (That last one I'm not sure of, because I also thought I'd read that LD uses analog audio, so it seems to me that digital audio output would be an unnecessary analog-to-digital conversion, but I would be happy to be educated on this point. )
*Forget about S-Video output. Only if you're willing to pony up the bucks for a Pioneer Elite 99 will you use it. Composite is better for LD, a composite format.
* Digital output may make you feel better about having an extra digital To analog conversion, but in practical reality I wouldn't make this an absolute, not even close. Even using a low end LD players' analog output will give you sound superior to VHS Hi-Fi, most DD2.0 DVDs, and cable/broadcast, as well as Satellite.
* Both side play - it's a nice convenience, but if you're only looking to play a few movies it's a significant added expense, even in the used market.

If I were in your shoes, I'd look for a good solid Pioneer single side play basic unit. Specifically I'd recommend the CLD-S104, CLD-S304, and CLD-S201 players. These are good solid players that can output a surprisingly good signal from LaserDisc. You'll have to get up and switch sides manually every 50 minutes to an hour, but that's really not that bad for just a few movies.

If you really want double sided play, then something from the 500 family or 600 family would be nice. The 600 family adds digital effects. On the lower end units you won't be able to pause while seeing a frame and do slo-mo with video - fast forward and rear scan will be fine.

If you're interested in AC-3 LaserDiscs such as the Special Editions, you'll need something x04 or higher (except the 104) and an RF demodulator, which will run you another $150 or so. Personally for your intended use, I think a minimum investment in modest gear can net you a really surprising home theater experience. Panasonic players like the LX-600 and LX-900 are also very good, but avoid Sony players if you can. If you see a Sony for an unbelievable price go for it, but in general avoid it. RCA, Zenith, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Yamaha, etc. players are mostly Pioneer and Panasonic clones, and should be OK.
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#8 of 37 Philip Hamm

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Posted February 22 2002 - 11:19 AM

Also, check the hardware archives here, there's a pretty good FAQ.
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#9 of 37 Jay Mitchosky

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Posted February 22 2002 - 01:04 PM

Quote:
I think I would want one that can read both sides of the disc, has s-video output, and maybe has digital audio output.

I echo Phil's comments. People tend to jump on s-video capability, but ultimately the choice between S or composite depends on where the best comb filter lies. Phil's reference to the Pioneer CLD-99 is right on the money. It's a fantastic 3D comb filter and unless you're spending a pile of dough on an external unit you will not do better. If your TV has a poor comb filter you'll need to carefully consider which player you will purchase as it will need to pick up the slack (ex. CLD-99). The comb filter will make or break your LD experience. So far as digital outputs is concerned you'll need this if you want to listen to DTS LDs and your receiver or pre/pro is equipped for DTS playback.

Good luck.
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#10 of 37 Jay Sylvester

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Posted February 22 2002 - 04:08 PM

I agree with pretty much everything said except for the digital output and both-side play being optional.

Quote:
Based on the little bit of research I've done so far, I've been able to figure out that I think I would want one that can read both sides of the disc, has s-video output, and maybe has digital audio output. (That last one I'm not sure of, because I also thought I'd read that LD uses analog audio, so it seems to me that digital audio output would be an unnecessary analog-to-digital conversion, but I would be happy to be educated on this point. )

Actually, in my short time collecting LDs, it seems that most discs released in the last 10 years have digital audio tracks. Every disc I own (close to 200 now) has a digital audio track. The analog tracks are usually reserved for running commentary or alternative language soundtracks. I just got a new CLD-79 on ebay as well (probably from the same guy as greg_t), and I'm amazed at the quality of the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks on some of the discs I've purchased. For Dolby Digital output, you'll need a player with an AC-3 RF output, plus an RF demodulator to convert the RF signal into a digital signal your receiver can decode. Granted, the RF demodulator you'll need for Dolby Digital is going to run you another $100-$200 depending on the model you pick up, but I can't imagine watching all of my wonderful DD discs in plain old Dolby Surround via the analog outputs. And I just watched Village of the Damned DTS tonight; trust me, you want DTS capability if your receiver supports it and any of the DTS laserdisc titles are of interest to you. For DTS, you need a digital output.

Believe this too: you will get annoyed while watching the original Star Wars trilogy if you have to flip each disc while playing. Each movie is three discs in CAV format, which is about 30 minutes per side (CLV format is 60 minutes per side). That means you get up every half hour or so to flip a disc. That's six trips from your couch to your LD player over the course of the movie. Blech.

I'm seriously getting into LDs though, and I've purchased many discs already. If you're only buying an LD player so you can watch Star Wars, spending $500 on a player doesn't really make sense.

Whatever you decide to get, enjoy Star Wars Posted Image Be sure to get both versions--the original Definitive Collection (no extra scenes or bastardized "enhanced" special effects) and the Special Edition set. The original trilogy is awesome because it's the real deal, while the Special Edition is awesome thanks to its superior video quality and remastered Dolby Digital soundtrack.

originaltrilogy.com - Because the special editions suck

#11 of 37 David Norman

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Posted February 22 2002 - 04:41 PM

Even though the discs have digital and analog audio tracks, they can both be output through the analog outs by selecting the appropriate audio option on the player. The digital outs on the other hand will only play the digital tracks so if you wish to listen to the commentary tracks, you must use the analog outputs as well -- I tried to watch the 1987 Criterion Mag. Ambersons a few days ago through the dig out and couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting any sound until it dawned on me I had to switch to the analog input on the receiver.

The digital outs are mandatory if you want to listen to DTS.
An RF AC-3 output on the LD player as well as an AC-3 input on your receiver or a separate demodulator is necessary to listen to the Dolby Digital soundtracks.

If I was getting a new player, I'd rank necessities:
1) dual side play would be a necessity
2) digital outs for DTS and possibly better audio quality than the analog outs.
3) AC-3 out

S-video out isn't a necessity unless you go with one of the truly elite players. Even if you are using an all S-video switching setup, there are some relatively cheap Composite to S-video converters.
 

 


#12 of 37 John Sully

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Posted February 22 2002 - 05:25 PM

Personally, I would stay away from the inexpensive comb filters such as the $99 Tributaries C2S. They will provide a considerably worse picture than any comb filter found in a half decent laserdisc player.

I have a Pioneer Elite CLD-59 and the S-video output is quite good (it has a 2-line digital comb filter built in). Also, I would recommned that the player you choose have both side play (many movies reside on two discs) and digital outputs. AC-3 is probably not a necessity, especially given the existence of DPL2.

Be aware, that although the picture provided by LD is better than VHS it is considerably worse than the image provided by DVD. You may be disappointed.
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#13 of 37 Jay Sylvester

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Posted February 22 2002 - 05:40 PM

Quote:
Be aware, that although the picture provided by LD is better than VHS it is considerably worse than the image provided by DVD. You may be disappointed.

That's not really true across the board. While early releases can be pretty rough (Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to mind), releases from the last five or six years are as good as non-anamorphic DVDs, sometimes better. The resolution is a bit lower, so sometimes straight edges sloping diagonally look slightly aliased, but overall I've been pleased. I'm using a CLD-79 though, which is quite a step above most other models. I have an analog 4:3 Wega right now, and I can't wait to get a 16:9 HD set and see what a line doubler will do.

The Special Edition trilogy looks fantastic. Other than having to swap discs, I don't mind the lack of a DVD release at all. I can't wait to get a copy of Phantom Menace, which is supposedly gorgeous.

originaltrilogy.com - Because the special editions suck

#14 of 37 DennisRS

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Posted February 23 2002 - 12:45 AM

I'd also like to upgrade my LD performance. I presently own a Pioneer CLD-2080 which doesn't have s-video or digital capability that I know of. There is a Pioneer CLD-M90 on e-bay that appears to be an upgrade but I'm not sure if this is a good unit can anyone help! Since I'm a newbie I apologize if posting to Robert's thread is considered rude.Posted Image

#15 of 37 Rachael B

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Posted February 23 2002 - 01:15 AM

Dennis the M90 is a player with a very clunky, slow 5 disc CD changer incoporated into it. It's almost as old as the 2080. I wouldn't call it an upgrade. Get a player from the class of '95. CLD's 504, 604, 59, 704, 79, or 99. That was a very good year! Best wishes from Laserland!
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#16 of 37 DennisRS

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Posted February 23 2002 - 10:23 AM

Posted Image Thanks Rachael B I'll try to hunt down one of the units you specified. DennisRS

#17 of 37 Philip Hamm

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Posted February 24 2002 - 12:09 PM

Quote:
Believe this too: you will get annoyed while watching the original Star Wars trilogy if you have to flip each disc while playing. Each movie is three discs in CAV format, which is about 30 minutes per side (CLV format is 60 minutes per side). That means you get up every half hour or so to flip a disc. That's six trips from your couch to your LD player over the course of the movie. Blech.
Just to clarify, this is only true for the Definitive Collection box set. The movies are also available as CLV movie only versions (with brief George Lucas Interviews) in THX and glorious Dolby ProLogic. These versions have the movies on three sides, not six. Much easier. I watched Star Wars on CLV with my old 201 back in the day many times and it was HT nirvana to me then. Posted Image
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#18 of 37 ColinM

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Posted February 24 2002 - 02:35 PM

I am an LD newbie with an RCA LDR310(1992). Composite vid, analog audio only.

My question is this - Are there any discs that are not compatible with this low-end type of player? For instance, CAV / CLV - will they both work? I've scanned the manual and it mentions nothing.

Also, if I wanted a movie and all I could find was a dts version, would it play ok through the analog outs?

Collecting these LD's will be fun, but I need to know if there are things I should avoid. I'll use this player for a year or so, then I'll be looking for a nice Pioneer. Then all constraints are off....

Thanks in advance.

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#19 of 37 Rob M.

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Posted February 24 2002 - 02:52 PM

I'm a laserdisc (and HTF) newbie too, so I also appreciate all the answers provided here. I recently purchased a Pioneer CLD-D504 (yep, just to watch the pure, unadulterated Star Wars Trilogy), and I'm very happy with it. You guys are right, it's not DVD as far as picture quality goes, but the picture on the Holy Trilogy jumps off my screen in a way that was impossible only a few weeks ago with my worn and faded VHS copies.

I am using the S-video connector, to a standard 36 inch Trinitron, and from the answers above, it sounds like this is not the best bet. Would I get a better picture with the other connections?
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#20 of 37 Rachael B

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Posted February 24 2002 - 03:04 PM

Colin, the player will play any disc. Players that don't have digital outputs stille play digital (PCM), it's just you have to use the player's D/A converters and the signal comes out the L & R analog outputs. You can play DTS discs too, but you'll have to listen to the (non-DTS) analog soundtrack. You'll switch between digital and analog soundtracks with a button on the remote.

All players, play CLV and CAV discs or sides. Many disc sets have the last side or some key side in CAV. e.g.- the first side with the train wreck of THE FUGITIVE is CAV. The other two sides are CLV. The last side of THE EXORCIST is CAV which is more common. See Linda Blair's head spin, spin, spin...!

With CAV sides or sets you can actually see the frames of the film using the step button, frame by frame. That's the CAV advantage. The disadvantage is the sides are short, 20 to 30 minutes. All players can do CAV freezes. Players with digital field memory can freez frame CLV discs, but you're not seeing the actual frames, just a frozen spot. I doubt your player has DFM. BTW, your player is a Pioneer clone. I believe all RCA and Proscan players are. Best wishes rom Laserland!

P.S.- read the forum's LD faq's if you have not already.
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