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A product that launched in the second half of 2003, the Pioneer DV-563A is a fantastic piece of A/V equipment for the home entertainment enthusiast.

At first glance, this player does not look particularly state of the art. It is a single disc DVD player, which may not appeal to some; it has both component video and S-Video outputs; it has progressive scan, as well as optical and digital audio outputs -- but none of these are anything new on DVD players anymore, and standard on so many... why, then, would one choose this player?

Simply put, the DVD-563A is the first "dual-standard" product aimed at the consumer-level pocketbook, in terms of next-generation music technology. As you may or may not know, there are two new competing audio standards making their way to the marketplace. The first was SACD, or "Super Audio CD", which is backed primarily by Sony. The DVD Audio specification, albeit perhaps ambiguously named, came out later, backed by Panasonic.

Now, as it currently stands, it is true that, for the most part, people still listen to their music the "old-fashioned way" (if you consider CDs or MP3s old-fashioned!), neither specification has been particularly embraced by the industry or marketplace. However, the various advantages both offer (Dolby Surround Sound, longer albums, and, for the music industries, varying degrees of copy-protection) are nonetheless very compelling.

However, in a situation that smacks of the old "VHS vs. Beta" battle for market share, neither of these supposed "standards" has yet grabbed even a plurality of the market

To further cloud the situation, both of these standards have been somewhat troublesome in the world of home audio. SACDs will not play on standard CD players unless they are hybrid discs, and even then, the listener will only get the standard stereo mix. Similarly, DVD-As will play on most of today's standard DVD players... but again, unless the listener's device supports DVD-A itself, the surround sound effects of the recording cannot be realised.

And thus, we come back to the DV-563A.

SACD-only players, despite the specification having been out for several years, are still usually pricey. This was resolved to some degree, by adding the capability to some DVD players. However, due to the bitter rivalries between these two specs, it has been hard to find a player that could handle both, for an at-all reasonable sum of money.

The DV-563A changed all that. A well-equipped DVD player that can handle MP3 and WMA formats, as well as CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW mediums, it also supports both the SACD and DVD-A specs. Combine this feature set with the quality standards that have come to be expected from Pioneer, and an initial market price of $160 USD, it is hardly difficult a difficult justification to make, when shopping for a new player, especially if one is a fledgling audiophile.

The sound and video quality on this player are terrific, and with the ability to support both means it will stick around long after the most recent standards skirmish is (ever?) resolved. With the battle lines drawn all around, Pioneer stepped up into this power-vaccuum of sorts, and exploited this animosity to provide a high-quality product that "Joe Consumer" can afford and use.

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