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 Post subject: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2023, 01:58 
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Hi all-

I just fixed my Pioneer CLD-D704 a couple of days ago, so I have watched a couple of discs on it now. I also pulled out and tested a Pioneer PR-8210 (top-opening tube player built in 1983) that I bought for maybe US$15 about ten years ago, more from curiosity (now) than anything. I had also bought a PR-8210 new in about 1986 for US$250 at a local electronics chain when that was half or less of the typical price for any laser disc player.

Regarding player quality comparisons: For years, probably going back to the late 1990s, I had always heard a similar set of comments regarding performance of players sold in the USA. Essentially, they -always- were something like this:

"You need a CLD-D703 or 704 for decent quality (or really, a CLD-79 or 99 in fact). But a 503/504 or 600-series is sort of OK, maybe 80% as good as a 704. You should not bother with a CLD-1010/3030/3080 or similar, those old models are maybe 50% as good as a 703/704. And, don't even think about an LD-700 or 838, much less the stone-age top-loading tube players. Good luck getting even 5-10% of the quality of a '704 out of those!"

The typical comments did not have actual percent numbers in them, I just added those to emphasize how the further details of what is/was lacking in non-703/704 players (all of the filters, noise reduction, and so on) made everything sound.

Last night, after watching a Japanese import concert disc Genesis Live: Live - The Mama Tour (1984) [TELP-45037] I decided to put the same disc into my PR-8210 and see how it looked and sounded. This disc, as with most rock concert discs, is full of scenes that may have only one color lighting up a musician with an otherwise black background, a good torture test for NTSC color-noise among other things (and a test that shows the limitations of NTSC, and especially encoding in home-video formats, perhaps more than any other). The first song on the disc, "Abacab", is one of my all-time favorites of any music type/artist, so I have watched this performance many times.

Here is the "heresy" part: After comparing these two players, yes indeed, there is a difference, and the CLD-D704 is better, but WOW, I kept looking for the supposed "giant differences in quality" or whatever, and I --just do not see them--. I looked at detail/resolution, edge enhancement/ringing/overshoot, color noise, black level consistency, background video noise, color consistency, the sound quality, anything I could think of (except video dropouts; apparently the disc I have is flawless, unless my TV set knows how to hide things). Specifically in video noise and color noise, the CLD-D704 is visibly better, but maybe ten percent if even that.

I have been picky with video since I was a teenager in the 1970s, when I bought a Sony 19-inch color TV set new, and it is also (of course) why I got into laser discs in 1984 when everyone else was renting tapes instead. So, with over 40 years of looking and learning and understanding what makes video good or bad, I think I reasonably know what I am seeing. Obviously, the '704 is a vastly better machine overall in usability, features, and more, but those are all not what the comparisons have discussed.

What do you all think?
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2023, 09:08 
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Thanks for starting an interesting post. I haven’t ever seen this particular Genesis LD which I note dates from 1984, I’m just wondering due to its vintage if a comparison based on a more modern transfer e.g. The Way We Walk in Concert, a 1993 release would highlight the differences especially in video qualities somewhat better? Also another interesting one although from 1987 is the (Japan Only Release) Invisible Touch Tour/Hi-Def Live that was shot using early Sony HDVS 1125 line high definition cameras etc. There is varying amounts of noise visible at times on certain very dark scenes but generally the PQ is excellent, making it hard to believe that this was shot in the mid 80s!
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2023, 09:17 
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I’ve just moved from a CLD-99S to a CLD-959 and while there certainly is an improvement it’s not enough that you’d notice without careful checking of captures.

I think these days what you do after the player (in terms of scaling, noise reduction, external comb filtering etc) will make a much bigger difference to the end result than the player itself in most cases.

It makes sense however that differences were exaggerated previously. It was hard for most non pro reviewers to objectively compare a large number of players and as with most equipment like this there is a strong desire to upgrade and get the ‘best’. No one getting into any hobby wants to hear that the majority of the equipment involved is good enough and that the diminishing returns are so intense that you’d be better off spending your money enjoying some nice dinners.

It would be nice to see some good captures of a large sample of players playing the same content with the same capture setup, but not sure how that could happen unless someone has a really large player collection.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2023, 05:54 
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Thank you for your thoughtful and informative replies, laserfanhld-gb and kimlaughton.

I do have a copy of the Invisible Touch Tour disc, but not The Way We Walk. That is a good point, to try comparing a high-quality disc in both players. The Mama Tour disc does look quite good, I thought, for a 1980s NTSC transfer/encoding of difficult program material. Maybe I will pull out a good late-1990s disc and see what happens. The comments about exaggerated differences seem to describe the situation very well. I feel reassured now, that my other players (and those owned by thousands of other laser disc users as well) are plenty high quality enough for all reasonable disc-watching purposes.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2023, 13:45 
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Yes, definitely strongly agree with the suggestion from kimlaughton regarding modern external comb filters/scalers etc. Certainly in my own setup the video performance gap between the CLD-925 & HLD-X9 is hugely reduced when the signal is fed through the Lumagen R2144 although the X9 is still the clear leader but just not massively so! Great idea about video captures also, though I’m not sure two of my current trio of players being European PAL/NTSC models are of much interest to the bulk of our members outside of Europe except for maybe Australia/New Zealand?

Thanks for the Heads Up re: The Mama Tour disc PQ Chrisw6atv If the audio is also up to par then I may consider grabbing a copy :thumbup:
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2023, 18:30 
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It’s the changes in display. If you were still using an SD CRT you’d still see huge differences in players. The process of digitizing everything and converting it to HD more or less puts every player in the same ball park.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2023, 02:29 
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signofzeta wrote:
It’s the changes in display. If you were still using an SD CRT you’d still see huge differences in players. The process of digitizing everything and converting it to HD more or less puts every player in the same ball park.


Not to disagree, but why would a low res crt which generally tends to be very forgiving to issues with a source in this case reveal more?
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2023, 03:03 
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kimlaughton wrote:
signofzeta wrote:
It’s the changes in display. If you were still using an SD CRT you’d still see huge differences in players. The process of digitizing everything and converting it to HD more or less puts every player in the same ball park.


Not to disagree, but why would a low res crt which generally tends to be very forgiving to issues with a source in this case reveal more?


Because LD was an analog format and you can really tell the differences between players and discs with the same SD CRT set.
Even if you had an SD projector you can really tell, not as much with newer LED, LCD or other sets, I've never had a plasma but heard they
were the best for LD playback after CRT.

Even cables made a huge difference when running through CRTs
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2023, 19:37 
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I appreciate the notes about CRT displays. Many people over time have said that newer-technology displays are often poor with standard-definition signals, but my Sony OLED set makes them look quite good (obviously within the limits compared to high-definition content).

If I can pull out my Sony XBR Pro CRT monitor (model PVM-2530), I could see if bigger differences appear between players, or between older and newer discs. That monitor and a Pioneer CLD-3030 sure made Lethal Weapon 2 look amazing when I bought it in 1989.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2023, 20:08 
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signofzeta wrote:
If you were still using an SD CRT you’d still see huge differences in players. The process of digitizing everything and converting it to HD more or less puts every player in the same ball park.

If I may ask, does this process typically make most players look pretty good, or does it make most players look mediocre? (I am aware, of course, that displays have quality differences, too. My "good" display now is a Sony 77-inch OLED set, which I would expect to be among the better ones available.)
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2023, 20:53 
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You have to remember, the largest sets back in the day where around 50 inch until you went the projector route.
Those sets were never super clear, and when they were you had to adjust them drastically since they were 3 tubes projecting onto a large piece of plastic.
Then they went to a large bulb with a single gun blasting the image, now we have the newer technology.

You have to be careful with those pro sets, I think it was neslie? who had one and they don't offer any comb filters if I remember reading, so there
is a lot of adjusting to do in order to get a good image.
I've never had one but you just may need to do setups or adjust sharpness and contrasts until you get a good image on any CRT or newer tech sets.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2023, 23:32 
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The XBR Pro definitely does have a comb filter, and the high resolution (for NTSC) that you get as a result. I used to install and maintain hundreds of that model in the 1980s and early 1990s; airports were full of them for the arrival/departure display systems. The one issue I know of with them is that their color temperature is very "cold" out of the box (9300 degrees K) and can only be adjusted with the internal setup controls. Thank you for the notes about the displays.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 07 Oct 2023, 18:59 
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chrisw6atv wrote:
signofzeta wrote:
If you were still using an SD CRT you’d still see huge differences in players. The process of digitizing everything and converting it to HD more or less puts every player in the same ball park.

If I may ask, does this process typically make most players look pretty good, or does it make most players look mediocre? (I am aware, of course, that displays have quality differences, too. My "good" display now is a Sony 77-inch OLED set, which I would expect to be among the better ones available.)


Playing SD video on new displays tends to group all players closer because the display is capable of so much more resolution and dynamic range than what’s on an LD. They all look mediocre compared to the HD or 4K signals you’re supposed to be using on that TV. An NTSC signal has not even 1/4 of of the picture information of an Blu-ray so the TV fills in the differences. This is why all LD players look the same, they look like your TVs conversion process. Your TV goes to 11 and LD goes to like…3, so the 3 has to be re-transcribed at 11 levels. The taste of the Kool Aid is dependent on the taste of the water it’s made with because it’s %95 water.

LD players were tuned for CRTs. All NTSC LD players played NTSC LDs but some have more chroma noise than others and new TVs can eliminate it which blends noisy and non-noisy players together...or sometimes an TV gets so busy rendering noise it makes the overall picture worse. A CRT with high saturation may not even be able to render noise that is very obvious on a flat panel. An S201 playing a submarine movie is like…nasty, on the disc itself, but there are ways of reducing it intentionally or unintentionally, by the nature of the design.

PVMs rarely do wonders for LD or any movie sources since they usually have zero movie-centric features. They are meant for bug checking and verification of analog signals, not to disguise any fault but more likely to bring them out as that’s what they were made for.
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 Post subject: Re: Laser Disc "player quality" heresy
PostPosted: 09 Oct 2023, 00:39 
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I appreciate your detailed comments, signofzeta. Certainly when I say both players I tested look good, it is within and understanding the limits of NTSC color and standard-definition video in general.

I do not know what "movie-centric features" might be on an NTSC CRT display; it was about 1989 or so when I first learned about proper color temperature for correct color rendition, along with "red push" and other deliberate manipulations of otherwise-potentially-accurate signal displays. In that era, I do not remember any direct-view CRT display considered to be superior to a Sony XBR Pro (once its color temperature and other settings had been properly calibrated), and this was among movie/video enthusiasts. (Or, are the ability to calibrate, and the lack of red push or other distortions, what you are describing as "movie-centric"?) Thanks.
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