Saturday, November 26

Well, this simple LaserDisc player fix worked...again!

Back in September I discovered this easy fix for my LaserDisc player's sluggish performance originally provided by LD aficionado Kurtis Bahr (thanks again!). After the repair my CLD-D503 was holding up but upon chance I found its "step-up", the CLD-D703, on eBay complete with original box, remote, and manual for just $120 two weeks ago.

I was antsy about the purchase, especially after a giant eBay screwjob on a severely damaged Betamax player several years ago, but it arrived last Tuesday packaged quite well and in excellent shape. Still the eternal pessimist, I figured it got heaved about so much during shipping that the tray or laser was knocked out of alignment. Amazingly, the unit spun up and played fine.

Although there were signs of the same problem. Upon "spinning up" the LD to play, a loud screech was heard and even after trying three different ways, the player simply refused to perform a "gamma turn" and flip the laser assembly over to play Side B. Instead of flipping, the disc would stop and the front panel would proclaim "End". At first I got miffed since the seller claimed the unit was 100% fully functional, but then I remembered the old fix.

This time the motor's rubber ring looked even worse than the 503 with something resembling caked white chalk filling in the textured surface before scrubbing. Breaking out the alcohol and Q-tips and performing the same operation much to my surprise resulted in success. The player didn't screech and didn't hesitant one bit to play Side B and then return to Side A when finished. It seems funny such a simple thing would hurt the player's functions so much.

The CLD-D703 is regarded as the second to best player Pioneer ever made outside of their ELITE series (it beats a good chunk of those though) and several esoteric Japanese players. It's only second to the CLD-704 which only additionally features a jack for Dolby Digital 5.1 audio through an external demodulator. I don't really care too much about that feature, LD Dolby wasn't very widespread being limited to the last several years of the format's existence. And you'd be lucky to find a demodulator for less than a hundred bucks.

I'm really after the stereo digital PCM tracks many LDs feature. The more basic 503 unit can play them, but only via stereo analog jacks, which means the digital audio is processed by the player and not my much more modern A/V receiver. The 703 has Optical Out and Coaxial jacks which send the raw PCM signal to a receiver for processing. The audio difference in terms of clarity and impact are very clear and I can finally understand why many old school LD owners say the format sounds better than DVD (True Lies sounds incredible!). Also LDs with uncompressed DTS audio can be sent through Optical to any DTS-decoding receiver just like DVD (don't have any DTS LDs yet).

Picture quality is also much improved over the 503 on all grounds. The image is sharper and cleaner, even when using the Zoom functions on my DLP. The video signal-to-noise ratio of the 703 is 51db and with each bump the picture quality increase is noticeable (the "best" best players reached 54db). I'd estimate the 503's ratio is around 48/49db (way fuzzier).

There's also "standard" and customizable "variable" DNR levels for both the luminance and chroma parts of the image. Noise reduction isn't such a bad thing with analog video like VHS or LD but I turned it off anyway. Regarding the construction of the 703, the mechanical end of the tray, laser assembly, gamma turn flip "cartridge", and entire outer case itself are identical to the 503. So if you have trouble in this respect it may pay off grabbing a cheap 503 off eBay and stripping it for parts. However the power, video, and audio boards are indeed different in comparison. Anyway, cool stuff!

1 comment:

A hero never dies said...

Always great to see Laserdisc being kept alive! you dare tread upon the staircase?

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