Pioner PD-M59 CD-player
By any standard, this is one handsome CD changer. Like other' Elite series Pioneer components, the PD-M59 boasts a high-gloss black finish that invariably reminds me of a new Steinway piano. A few touches of gold complete the striking decor. Like other Pioneer CD-only changers, the PD-M59 uses a six-disc cartridge with plastic trays that are hinged on one side so that they swing out for loading and unloading - far preferable to the loose trays used in some changers, since you can't drop them or load them in crooked. The loading order also seems intuitively correct, with Disc 1 going in the top tray. On the other hand, discs must be loaded with the label side down, which is a drag. Overall, the cartridge design is good but not great. If you have a Pioneer CD changer in your car, cartridges for the PD-M59 are compatible.
The PD-M59 is very user-friendly. For example, it automatically turns on when a cartridge is loaded, and a demo mode (engaged by pressing the power-on and reverse track-skip buttons simultaneously) runs the display through a cute light show. The changer provides all the usual controls as well as track and disc repeat, track and disc random playback, and track intro-scan. There is also a headphone jack and a level control. An ADLC (automatic digital level control) button engages an output-normalization circuit that makes playback levels consistent - useful, for example, when you are randomly playing tracks from a variety of discs recorded at somewhat different average levels.
You can program sequences of up to thirty-two tracks, and you can insert a pause in the sequence, which is useful for stopping playback to allow a side change when making a tape. There is also a delete option that enables you to prevent specific tracks or discs from being played. An editing program enables you to enter a tape duration to which the changer automatically fits a series of tracks, complete with a side-break pause (and fade-out if you like). The changer gives you a selection of preset tape lengths, or you can enter a specific length manually. You can also set playback to begin with a fade-in from any point of your choosing. Finally, a Music Type button enables you to store category labels (Pop, Rock, Jazz, Dance, Class, or Other) for as many as ten cartridges. I assume that my vast collection of accordion music would fall into the "Other" category. An amber display provides full alphanumeric readouts and other status indictors.
Around back, the PD-M59 has line-level analog outputs, an optical digital output, and special input and output jacks that can be used to connect the changer to other Pioneer components for synchronous recording and interactive control. An infrared remote control duplicates the front-panel buttons and adds a few special-purpose programming buttons, such as Check and Clear.
The PD-M59 served up a surprise on the test bench. Whereas most contemporary digital audio components have frequency responses flatter than a motel carpet, the PD-M59's was down 3.2 dB at 20 kHz! We have seen similar treble rolloffs, though not quite so severe, in other Pioneer players incorporating the company's Legato Link D/A converters. It is almost certainly intentional on Pioneer's part, as it is probably easier today to provide flat response than nonflat. Perhaps the design engineers feel that the high-frequency rolloff will yield subjectively "smoother" sound. To my ears, it simply sounded dull (I first noticed it in listening tests, before I had performed any measurements). I do not care for digital playback devices that, intentionally or not, monkey around with the frequency response of the reproduced signal, particularly when there is no means for the user to choose.