Test Bench:Pioneer PRV-LX1 DVD Recorder

$3,995

Pioneer Electronics

2265 East 220th Street

Long Beach, CA 90810

(310) 952-2000

www.pioneerelectronics.com

If you have taken that big step from creating an occasional video on the side, to full-time video production, you have to work efficiently. If you are the sole owner and operator of a boutique production house, work at a local cable access facility, college or corporate media center, anything that can make your workflow more efficient is worth a close look. The PRV-LX1 is worth that look. The PRV-LX1 is a professional stand-alone DVD video recorder designed to create DVDs as easily as using a video tape recorder.

No Lightweight Here

Weighing in at about 31 pounds, the PRV-LX1 is more at home in a rack than in the living room. The unit has the familiar dark-gray color and design as the very popular PVR series of Sony professional Betacam products. Coincidence or a little market coat-tailing?

The standard model comes with one DVD writer, a 120GB internal hard drive and a remote control used primarily for video playback control. Our unit came equipped with an optional second DVD writer that can be added for DVD duplication (no, you cannot make "backups" of copy-protected titles on this system). To take full advantage of chapter titling and other text entry and editing features, you can use a standard USB keyboard and mouse along with a VGA and Video monitor.

Easy, Yes. Basic, No.

Like most pro systems, the PRV-LX1 has lots of features, capabilities and options. The front panel looks like a high-end VTR. Transport buttons are large, illuminated and have a solid feel, clearly ready to receive the punching pros dish out. Large, bright LEDs display the timecode for each of the DVD players. While the number of buttons is sparse, they allow quick access to all the main functions.

A glance at the rear will have you calculating the trips to Radio Shack for new A/V connectors. The PRV-LX1 can receive most popular video and audio sources, live or from tape. Video inputs include composite, S-Video, component and DV (FireWire). Audio inputs include balanced (XLR) or unbalanced (RCA) analog sources as well as DV. The PRV-LX1 encodes to Dolby Digital. Outputs match the inputs, with the addition of PCM/Digital audio out for Dolby digital, including 5.1 surround sound.

One Button

We pushed the power button and heard a familiar whir and a post-code beep: this is really a computer in a VTR box. During the 30-second boot process, we noticed an "x" on the GUI displayed on the VGA screen that told us that this machine is running some flavor of Linux.

Still, beyond booting, the box does not behave much like a computer. Pioneer lives up to its one-button claim. Once you’ve reviewed the user manual, you really can burn a DVD-R/RW from an external source or from the internal hard disk drive (HDD) by pressing just the Rec button. Simply connect your A/V source, select it in the PRV-LX1 video setup menu, choose the HDD, the DVD writers or both as your destination, cue your source material and you are ready.

If you record clips to the HDD first, you can perform basic editing. Be careful: this is destructive editing, meaning that it actually changes the files. There is no Undo! The device also performs TiVo-like HDD recording so you can pause a live feed.

Menus and More

Simplicity is the main benefit of the PRV-LX1, but when it comes to creating menus this is also a creative weakness. With only three fonts to select from and about 11 different button templates that each include some variation, the possibilities are limited. To provide a bit more customization, however, you can choose different colors, change chapter thumbnails or use a still image as a background. Once you have selected your template, you can easily preview your menu before burning.

Pioneer has created a handy feature that makes it easy to create quick chapters. For instance, video clients often want to preview rough edits, or a series of similar shots. The PRV-LX1 lets you manually or automatically inserts chapter marks while recording source material direct to the hard drive or DVD by simply pressing pause on the PRV-LX1.

Other professional features include remote operation by standard RS-422A protocol. This means you can set up edit decision lists (EDLs) and use autocapture features from your computer’s video editing software. You can even import existing EDLs created by other editing systems. The FireWire interface also allows the PRV-LX1 to control other devices.

Quality

The bitrate of the MPEG-2 video can be precisely set, all the way up to 9Mbps, so the quality of the image is ultimately up to you. The interface for selecting the bitrate uses a well-designed bitrate vs. time interface, so you can easily maximize the quality of your video by selecting the highest bitrate that will still allow your project to fit on the disc.

In our tests, we were able to trick the machine by using a 44kHz DV audio source, which is a legitimate, if unusual, sample rate for DV. The audio was not upsampled by the PRB-LX1 to DVD standard 48kHz, thus producing unusable audio on the disc.

Is It Better to Stand Alone?

If you are trying to increase the productivity of your small to medium-sized, professional video production facility, the PRV-LX1 may be an excellent investment. Component BNC video inputs, XLR balanced audio, RS-422A control connections, an input for your power supply, and machined-holes for rack mounting clearly limit this $3,995 machine to facilities that need exactly these professional features. This is not a product for consumers who just want to burn a DVD and, in terms of quality and ease of use, there are better products for you at a tenth of the cost of the PRV-LX1.

TECH SPECS

Weight: approx. 31 pounds

Size: 16-13/16"(W) x 7-1/16"(H) x 20-1/16 (D)

Records To: DVD-R, DVD-RW, HDD

Audio Recording Format: Dolby Digital and linear PCM

Audio Sampling Frequency: 48 kHz

HDD Size: 120GB

Video Input: Composite, S-video, component (Y, B-Y, R-Y), FireWire

Video Output: Composite, S-video, component (Y, Pb, Pr), FireWire

Audio Input: Unbalanced, RCA; balanced, XLR (Female)

Audio Output: Unbalanced, RCA; balanced, XLR (Female); Digital

External Sync Input: BNC x 2 black burst

Other Inputs/Outputs: LTC; Remote input (RS-422A); Remote output (RS-422A); UPS control (RS-232C); VGA output (Mini D-sub 15-pin female); Mouse/keyboard connectors (USB2.0); Ethernet (8P type)

STRENGTHS

  • Professional inputs
  • Professional device control options
  • One-touch recording

    WEAKNESSES

  • Expensive for a standalone DVD burner

    SUMMARY

    The PRV-LX1 has features that professionals might be required to pay for, but is otherwise too expensive as a simple standalone DVD burner.

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