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    The Pioneer CLD-2950 Laserdisc Player.

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    The Pioneer CLD-2950 Laserdisc Player.

    Post  DGTWoodward on Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:11 pm

    The PIONEER CLD-2950 Laserdisc Player.

    This is a review of my own personal player, acquired recently. Any opinions are my own, and made in comparison with my four other models of Laserdisc player.

    In the 1993-4 season, Pioneer must have been under some pressure. The previous, 1992, flagship player, the CLD-2850 seemed to have all the bells-and-whistles technically, but seemed to get marked down in the hardware reviews due to a seeming lack in the ability to resolve fine detail it its picture output….their answer? It appeared in 1994 and was the CLD-2950, priced at around £700, and an impressive and hefty beast it was too.

    Clearly, from the front panel, the ability to play both PAL and NTSC discs was retained, as was the `play both sides’ mechanism. In truth, these could easily be considered the two most useful features on any Laserdisc player, as it reduces the number of visits to the machine to change discs on a multi-disc film (like the CAV versions of STAR WARS, coming in at 3 discs per film, with both sides on each disc being used!) and you’d have the actual ability to play them, along with all the other output that the USA, Japan and Europe had to offer. It came with a host of connection options on the back, RCA/Phono sockets for video and stereo R/L, twin SCARTS for probably the easiest connection to a TV set, an S-video port and an optical/TOS-link output.

    Integrating Into A Pre-Existing Set-Up.

    This player, just like every other player I have ever used or seen, is very user friendly, and more-or-less anyone who has installed a CD player into their set-up, to sit with their previous HiFi components would be able to get good results. Even as far back as 1994, the various AV sockets have been colour coded, with yellow as video and with stereo L/R as red and white (always remember…`Left is White, Red is Right’).

    My own personal 2950, despite having been in storage for about 12 years, it was still in tip-top condition, and came with its remote, packing, instructions and outer box. I wanted this particular one because it had been AC3 modified which enabled it to play Dolby Digital 5.1 titles. It had become, in essence, a pseudo CLD-D925. A good thing as this was exactly what I was after.

    I connected the player directly to my Pioneer VSX-609RDS AV amp (I know, it’s ancient, but I love it!). All feeds went through the amp, video, analogue L+R, optical and the AC3 out – once routed through my Yamaha APD-1 RF demodulator - and with my Samsung HDTV set carefully calibrated, I began putting titles in to see how they looked.

    Picture Quality.

    One of my personal favourite titles is STAR WARS – THE PHANTOM MENACE from Japan because aside from having an incredible AC3 soundtrack (5 or even 6.1 depending on your HiFi system), as well as digital Pro-logic, it has a generally highly regarded picture quality which fellow members have described as “crystal clear”, it is an NTSC title and luckily mine is rot-free.

    When viewed in 4:3 letterbox mode, the picture is beautiful indeed. Rich colours and intense brightness and deep contrasts during the early Jedi Lightsabre battle, don’t flare or bloom in anyway. The reds and blues don’t bleed and flesh tones seem to be very stable. The Pod-Race and space battle sequences are other good examples of high speed action with extremely broad brightness and contrasts on screen but with little or no obvious loss of picture detail or colour instability. The 2950 played it very well indeed. I was beginning to understand why this model was a fan favourite for so long, and it understandably continues to sell well on the 2nd or even 3rd hand market. There was, of course, the obviously-noticeable-but-not-terrible drop in sharpness when I zoomed out the picture to represent the full 2.35:1 OAR of the film on my 46” screen.

    Next in was my PAL copy of WATERWORLD, the PAL and full CAV special edition of JUMANJI and the PAL version of TERMINATOR II – JUDGEMENT DAY: Special Edition. I chose these as they are a broad selection of some of the best that LD has to offer visually. Jumanji is widely regarded as the very best PAL release ever and has a lot of fast moving action against a jungle mix of browns and greens, the seascapes in Waterworld with all the reflective capabilities of water, and the stark white and blue lighting during the `hospital escape’ from Terminator 2, were all chosen to test the output of the machine with some high performance PAL titles. I am happy to report that the 2950 handled them brilliantly. Colour and detail resolution was top notch during the selections, but the T2 sequence looked stunning – In fairness, that may just be me, as I don’t really like Jumanji as a film and cannot stand Robin (if you’ve seen Mrs Doubtfire then you’ve seen absolutely everything he can do) Williams. Good test disc though.

    Sadly, this machine has no digital frame store, so whenever it gets to the end of one side, or if you press pause – to make a fresh bowl of popcorn – you see nothing except a blue mute screen. This is in itself not a problem as it does not affect the player’s ability to show you a decent film. It is just a nicety that, once you’ve had it, you kind of get used to. The other alternative on this machine, is to adjust the player’s Movie Mode setting, which turns off the front panel lights, mutes the screen to black during side changes and increases the overall speed of the change mechanism.

    Audio Quality.

    The machine spun up SW-TPM and up came the familiar FOX logo and fanfare, playing out in bright strong golden letters, against the now well established `night sky’ back drop. My AC3 Lock-Light illuminated on my demodulator and the “DOLBY DIGITAL” legend appeared in the display of my amp, the Lucasfilm pre-credit logo came and went and…..out blared the fantastic SW main theme (As this is not an `official’ feature of the machine, I shall leave its AC3 performance for a little later in the review). Its digital Pro-Logic output was very good too, great separation and directionality, though the sound effects did rather seem to drown out the fabulous music somewhat. Although, from what I have read elsewhere, this is how it was done deliberately. It makes no sense to me, but there you are. There was also a mono audio track on the left analogue channel, which I was easily able to select via the remote control.

    The PAL discs were, likewise, very good. The personal standout for me though was, perhaps not surprisingly…T2. Though the actual mix itself is not brilliant (it seems that a lot of bass had been taken out of the sound field) it is still very active and things are really going off all around you, especially during the `breaking into Miles Dyson’s work place’ sequence.

    There was very little to choose from between the digital and analogue tracks. They all sounded very good, but the edge in separation must go to the digital tracks.

    However, things changed when I put in my DTS copies of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE and CON AIR. So to the beginning of DH3, and the dynamic range on display is tremendous, with the opening song “Summer In The City” leading into the hustle-and-bustle of city life, followed by a blast that could blow the window panes out of your frames if you had it up too loud! Dolby Digital is all well and good (brilliant actually), but this monster can, and does, give you DTS from the box!!

    One of the neatest features of this type of machine was that it plays both sides of a Laserdisc with no problems. There is usually the mechanism inside for shifting the laser pick-up into the required position to play the “B” side, whilst the machine starts to spin the disc in the opposite direction. This side change is a purely mechanical change over and I have four different models that all do it. Needless to say they all make different noises whilst accomplishing this feat. None of it sounds horrid or particularly brutal, but what is clear is that something is definitely going on. Not so with my 2950. In fact, it makes very nice “servo” type noises, all hi-tech and, for want of a better term, Sci-Fi. For all the world, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sound like C3PO is walking around in front of you for 6 seconds!

    The ear socket on the front panel has its own volume control but gets about as far as loud-but-not-deafening. It certainly does not go up to 11!

    In Conclusion.

    For a very long time, the Pioneer CLD-2950 was regarded as the NTSC/PAL player to have. Its compatibility with the American/Japanese TV standard, meant that a whole world of great titles was available to the buyer with no additional expense. Its ability to resolve fine picture details was excellent. It may not have been quite up to Elite (but then definitely NTSC only) machine standards, but I’d bet good money that it was far closer to it than most videophiles would have liked to admit, and at about one third of the price of an Elite (just to buy it, never mind secure packaging and shipping) it is easy to see why this was a fantastically popular machine. And rightly so, I think that mine is an excellent machine, and it still commands a good price in the after-market area, particularly if one has an AC3 modification like mine did.
    This review is based solely on my own personal 2950. It is a lovely machine. It just looks the business too, a mighty and well-made piece, with some real construction and weight behind it. It certainly seems a bit more robust than my CLD-D925, and I absolutely love my 925!

    I bought it because it was a good price, it came with 46 titles (of which I ended up with only six duplicated) and because it came AC3 modified. It performed really well with my Yamaha demodulator. The aforementioned PHANTOM MENACE blasted out from all around, the “Betrayal/Embassy Operation” sequence of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE” had party goers circulating all around the room whilst the dialogue was fixed firmly out of the centre speaker, and the helicopter flying around the camp in the Signature edition of THE THING is great.

    As with the CLD-D925, if this would be your first dip into the pool of Laserdisc entertainment, you could do far worse that buying a 2950. Look around and ask plenty of questions. If the seller is genuine, they should not really mind answering them as long as they are sensible. The truth is, even if you cannot find one with the AC3 modification, it would still be a good machine. it held its position at the top for a reason, and some say that it still is the best PAL/NTSC player ever.

    A truly grand machine.

    Last edited by DGTWoodward on Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:14 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Bad spacing.)

    Reelmaster Oz
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    Re: The Pioneer CLD-2950 Laserdisc Player.

    Post  Reelmaster Oz on Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:03 am

    Excellently written review

    I first got a taste of Laserdisc in 1992 at a Hi Fi Store late at night which we got a security call out too (we did their alarm systems) and happened to see a Pioneer Laserdisc player left on and playing Terminator 2 Judgement Day.

    Had never known about LD until then.
    But it was not until 2001 that I actually began my passion for the LD format

    A very close friend of mine who I met in 2000, had found out that I loved movies and collected them on vhs and betamax plus DVD from 1997 and when I told him the story about my Hifi Store experience, he said that he indeed did have a Laserdisc collection and a Mint Condition Pioneer CLD 2950

    A few hundred dollars changed hands and I was the proud owner of the player plus Star Wars special edition boxed set and 8 other titles and since then have slowly selected what titles I thought were worthy of buying on the format and now have over 100 and a few very special ones at that including the Jaws Signature Boxed set that cost $300 in Australia when it came out

    A decade later and the Pioneer 2950 is in the same condition and very carefully used. One thing I learnt was that you dont treat an LD player like a VHS machine. You have to be patient and wait for it to make up its mind when it will open the tray for me

    For 9 years I couldnt find another LD player worth buying but in two days earlier this year, came across two more and bought them ultra cheap
    A single side only Pioneer CLD 1850 and a Sony M1 with quick change auto reverse

    Okay the sony is pretty poor in picture quality compared to 2950 but it means I dont have to use the 2950 as much now

    I did see a 2850 and a 1750K but the 2850 is no comparison to the 29

      Current date/time is Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:12 pm