I have a Pioneer DVR-540H and a Pioneer DVR-460H. I just bought a Magnavox MDR533H. The Pioneers are -R and the Magnavox is +R. I have several questions. Are all DVD burners of the same format mutually compatible, by which I mean will an unfinalized disc burned in one of my Pioneers -R be accepted by a player of another brand with the -R format? I think the burner in my DVR-540 is defective and I want to replace it. Can I replace it with a burner of my choice, as long as it is the same format, or does it have to be a burner specified by Pioneer? Will the new burner accept all of my previously unfinalized -RW discs?
I would also like to make my Magnavox compatible with my Pioneers by replacing its +R burner with a -R burner. Is this feasible?
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Unfinalized discs can often be read or finalized by another model from the same maker, although not always. It is very unlikely that unfinalized discs from one DVD recorder can be read from or added to by a another DVD recorder from a different brand.
The DVD recorder's OS can only work with a specific burner in most cases, so worn out/broken burners almost always need to be replaced by the manufacturer's part for that particular model. I have only heard of a few DVD recorders that could use anything else as a replacement, and they are long obsolete models from minor brands.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 9th Dec 2012 at 10:48. Reason: I proofread better when I'm less tired
Thanks, quiet. I guess I'll have to return the Magnavox and try to find a used Pioneer.
I mentioned that I thought the DVD drive in my Pioneer DVR-540H is defective. The question is to determine whether the blank discs were defective, or whether a malfunctioning DVD drive caused the defect. I'm not qualified to distinguish the difference.
I mentioned in my first post that I thought the DVD drive in my Poineer DVR-540H is defective. The only time I get the "Copy Err" is when I'm copying from DVD to HDD, but the defect has to be severe enough to trigger that message. I'm not referring to pixelations which may or may not be part of the same syndrome. If the defect is severe enough to trigger a "Copy Err", it will also manifest in playback at real-time speed. If it is a minimal defect it will more likely appear in playback at Scan2-Scan3 above real-time. Scan4 has been known to skip over the defect. The nature of the defect is that the recording will not play, or presumably copy, beyond a certain point. At that point, playback will jump back and forth between 2-4 points before resuming playback again at some point before the defect. These defects usually only begin to occur at roughly three-quarters of the way into the disc. In order to ease my mind, I can only trust my recordings if I can play the entire disc at Scan2-Scan3 before I delete the original from the HDD.
This problem has occurred for every brand of DVD that I've used, from a generic no-name to Ritek, Fujifilm, the now discontinued Home Depot house brand, Verbatim, and Maxell. My problems with Maxell were almost routine, and I wouldn't use Maxell again if they were free.
I read one of your posts from some time ago on another unrelated issue. You wrote that you only record in SP mode. I don't know if those designations are standardized, but on the Pioneer SP mode = 120 minutes. I've never recorded in SP mode. Could recording mode be a contributing factor to my issue?
FWIW, I've repaired and upgraded Pioneers of all model series over the past seven years, so the opinions I give you are based on that experience.
Before giving advice, it would help to know where you live: the vague "North America" in your profile doesn't cut it when discussing Pioneer recorders, due to the complete post-2006 availability blackout in USA. Which country you live in determines whether there is the slightest point whatever in your proposal to look for a "used Pioneer" - if you live in USA, don't even bother: you'll totally waste your time. At this point the only used Pioneers available at affordable prices in USA are older models that are half-dead, or the 640 which may as well be dead. The former are cheap but usually require tricky burner repairs, the 640 burner eventually becomes a doorstop with no recourse but to throw the machine in the trash or sell it for scrap.
You say you have a 540 with a dying burner, and also a model 460 that is still working perfectly: forget the 540, it is unsalvageable, going forward *treasure* your 460, as it was the finest recorder Pioneer ever made (more reliable than the "upmarket" 560 and 660). The fact that you own a 540 and a 460 would usually indicate you're American, and most likely bought these units from the Toronto and Montreal liquidators that were blowing out demo units on eBay for under $250 in 2007-2008. You also own a new Magnavox 533, which is not sold in Canada: unless you smuggled it over the border, I'm gonna proceed under the assumption you are American not Canadian.
(My advice for Canadian residents can be distilled into just a couple sentences: you are lucky ducks, the final Pioneers so highly sought after in USA are available to you for pennies on the dollar via Canadian Craigs List- just snap up any 450, 550, 650, 460, 560 or 660 you see for under $50-100. Avoid eBay, as prices there typically get bid over $400 for these later models by desperate Americans: stick to your local Craigs List or Kijiji, and you can easily snag a 450 or 460 for $75 with a little patience. Don't overlook the excellent Sony RDR-HX780 which was a Sony Canada clone of the Pioneer 550. Avoid the earlier models 540, 543, and 640 as their burners are now half dead and can't be repaired. Very old models 210, 310, 510, 220, 225 and 520 can be pressed into service as spare "finalizing stations" but aren't worth the repair effort when you can easily get a nice 450, 460 or 780 for the same price or less. Under no circumstances consider a Pioneer 531, 533 or 633 unless you can get it for free: these were the staggeringly trouble-prone TVGOS models.)
Back to America:
You simply aren't going to find a second-hand Pioneer x50 or x60 in good condition at a reasonable price: they are highly desirable, with significantly better recording quality and convenience features than the rather mediocre 540/640. The peak models that came after the 640 were not sold officially in USA, so very few crossed the border and almost no owners in USA will sell theirs unless its near death. On rare occasions a 550 or 560 will turn up on eBay, usually for sale by Canadian pawn shops with no remote, no AC cord and cosmetic defects galore: final bids always exceed $300 with mint units closer to $400.
The problem of incompatibility between brands for finalizing discs requires using a Pioneer recorder to finalize Pioneer-burned DVDs. Any Pioneer sold since 2003 will finalize DVDs made on any other Pioneer (or the Sony 780). Here again, Canadians have the advantage, with late-model Pioneers and Sonys practically falling out of the trees for a song. Americans, unfortunately, need to make do with what they can get: the cheapest workaround is to find a "dead" model 220 or 225 and resurrect it. These were big sellers in 2004, and not difficult to find under $50 now, esp if their power supplies have burned out (common). The power problem is fairly simple to fix if you know someone handy with electronics repair. The 210, 310, 220 and 225 recorders don't have HDDs, so make impractical daily drivers, but are good spares for finalization emergencies. They used off-the-shelf Pioneer PC burners with slightly modified circuit boards, so replacing a dead burner in a x10 or x20 Pioneer is fairly routine work (I've posted full instructions how to do this here). The x10 recorders need a DVR-106 or DVR-AO6 burner, the x20 recorders need a DVR-107 or DVR-AO7 burner.
The finalizing conflict between the Magnavox and Pioneer recorders has nothing to do with (+) vs (-): both brands record all these formats. But every recorder brand ever made uses a unique proprietary "unfinalized" format, so they all conflict, and won't play or finalize each others unfinalized DVDs. Several brands shared a common recorder chassis, so now and then you'll find odd couples like old JVCs being compatible with Panasonics, or (some) 2008 Sonys being compatible with 2008 Pioneers, or post-2006 Toshibas being compatible with Magnavox but pre-2006 Toshiba being incompatible. Its a big headache for those who make a LOT of DVDs with "classic" DVD/HDD recorders that no longer have new models available (Pioneer, older Toshibas, some older JVCs, etc). You can't afford to procrastinate: don't let unfinalized discs pile up. If at all possible, migrate to the Magnavox series of DVD/HDD recorder in North America: there are millions of OEM recorders that are compatible with Magnavox for finalizing. As the classic pre-2006 recorders fail more and more, the pool of compatible models that can finalize their discs is dwindling rapidly. The burners in the newer Pioneer x40, x50 and x60 series are NOT user-repairable: they could only be replaced by the now-vanished Pioneer Service Centers, at a cost of $300. The burner is proprietary and wrapped around the recorder motherboard like a parasite: no other burner will fit or work properly.
Blank discs can have a huge effect on the functionality of the 540 burner. As they age, the 540 and 640 begin to gag on just about every conceivable blank disc except Verbatim DataLifePlus 8x DVD-R (or +R). These are not sold in stores or by typical web dealers, you can only order them from specialty media vendors like supermediastore. A secondary option would be the TY/JVC Premium Silver 8x DVD-R, but TY quality control has slipped lately making Verbatim the safer choice. If you are not now using and have never before used 8x media, only 16x, this could be causing problems with your 540 burner. Try the 8x: it may work long enough to get everything off the 540 HDD. Depending on the individual recorder and its age, -+RW may burn better or worse than +-R discs. SP aka 120 mins per DVD is the standard "recording speed" most commonly recommended. Speeds longer than SP, like LP/four hours, increase your chances of burn errors as the recorder ages.
If switching to 8x media doesn't give you decent burns again, your 540 burner may be toast and no longer reliable. You could try selecting "real time HDD>DVD dub mode" in the copy menus instead of HS Dub: real time burning is less stressful on the laser and may solve your disc freeze problem (although real time dub mode entails a slight drop in PQ). As a last resort, you can play the HDD files over analog line outs to the line inputs of your other recorder and make copies. It is also possible to transplant the HDD of one Pioneer into another, to use the burner of the second Pioneer with it, but this requires the Pioneer service tools and a model with matching HDD connections (540, 543 and 640 used EIDE/PATA connections, the x50 and x60 models are SATA).
No one loves their Pioneer recorders more than I, to the point I made an avocation out of repairing them, but in all seriousness my advice to American Pioneer fans in 2012 is "get over it, and buy a brand new Magnavox MDR533 for $199 from the WalMart website." Paying $300-$400 for a used Pioneer is a losing bet: the Magnavox is far more rugged, includes a modern tuner, and WalMart can be conned into accepting exchanges on aged ones almost indefinitely. Is it as nice as a Pioneer? Hell, no: but it will have to do- it is the only DVD/HDD recorder still in production for North America. If you don't mind buying a Panasonic grey market import with no warranty, the Panasonic EH59 is as nice as any Pioneer model, if not better, and priced at about $350 from various web dealers.
Last edited by orsetto; 11th Dec 2012 at 03:50.
I don't think that the recording mode you used is related to the problems you have except that a higher quality setting like SP requires you to use more DVDs for the same number of hours than would be the case for a lower quality setting like LP, which causes the burners to wear out a bit faster.
One last tip to owners of Pioneers with dying burners: if you are fortunate enough to own a second Pioneer thats still 100% functional, there is a back door way to transfer lossless HDD files from the dying Pioneer to the working Pioneer.
All Pioneers sold from 2005 on (530, 540, 550, and 560 variants) are capable of formatting standard DVD-R or DVD+R into special "HDD Backup" DVDs. These are similar to unfinalized discs in that only another Pioneer can play them, however unlike normal unfinalized discs these special "backup" DVDs can be reverse-copied at high speed back onto the HDD of any Pioneer DVD/HDD recorder. To create a "HDD Backup Disc," load a new DVD-R or DVD+R in your Pioneer and go to Home Menu>Disc Setup>Initialize Disc>VR Mode (formatting to VR takes 30 secs). Each VR-Format disc has a capacity of 4.3GB. When loaded into the second Pioneer, you can copy individual videos or the entire disc contents at high speed, and they will appear on the second recorder's HDD as normal lossless titles just as if that recorder had made them itself. The files are fully editable on the HDD and can later be HS Lossless dubbed to standard finalized video-format DVDs using the "good" burner of this second recorder.
Yes, its double the work and double the discs: you need to format a backup DVD for the 540, copy the videos, put the disc in your 460, copy the videos onto the 460 HDD, then use yet another disc to make the desired standard finalized DVD. But at least Pioneer gives you the lossless transfer option, unlike most other brands, and it has proven a lifesaver for me on several occasions. You can also use normal DVD-RAM and DVD+RW to transfer files between Pioneers, but when the burner starts dying it generally has trouble with those discs. For whatever reason, the dying Pioneer burners seem to be much better at burning "HDD backup VR mode" DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs.
I appreciate your interest in my problem. Thanks. I live in the lower 48. After about two years of starts and stops with JVC products, I threw in the towel. The JVC technicians couldn't solve my problems, and the thought crossed my mind that they were merely sending the units back to me without even intending to fix them. That's when I did the kind of research that I should have done in the first place, and that's how I settled on Pioneer. By that time, Pioneers were already hard to find, but I was able to find mine from a dealer in Montreal, and not on ebay. They were both open box items. I bought the 540 in late '07 and I bought the 460 in early '09. My lack of technical knowledge makes it hard for me to believe that the 540 has no redeemable value that can't be by recovered by replacing a component part. My only frame of reference is computers, where the changing of DVD and HDD drives is routine.
Was my description of the problem adequate? Do you recognize the problem? Do all DVD drives fail gradually rather then abruptly? Is this problem prevalent to Pioneer drives? Did you mean to say that the smaller the speed rating of the blank disc the better, or that the 8x is the optimum? Do you really mean it when you say that the Panasonic EH59 is as good or better than any Pioneer? Are they mutually compatible?
The biggest Achilles Heel in these units was mfr insistence on using proprietary, booby-trapped burners that are mated for life to the individual recorder and incapable of being replaced with an inexpensive, off-the-shelf PC burner. Apparently this was intended to forestall hearing any crap from Hollywood, since the proprietary recorder burners were more responsive to DRM and copy-control systems (although I've never heard a logical explanation why this couldn't have more easily been done on the recorder main board, making the burner more disposable and replaceable). While it made sense on paper, in practice the proprietary burner strategy was poorly thought out. It was simply assumed that since the generic burners used in PCs often lasted for thousands of burns, the same would apply to DVD recorders, and the likelihood of needing to replace the burner during the expected life of the unit would be small.
It did not quite work out that way. DVD recorders ended up being a voodoo product that defied every expectation they would behave as durable, simplified PCs dedicated to making DVDs. The burners in most recorders turned out to be balky, cranky, extremely picky about blank media, and prone to sudden death syndrome far earlier than seen with PC burners (or the drives in DVD players). By the time mfrs noticed, it was too late to back off from the proprietary burner concept and declining sales made complete redesigns impractical. The whole mess was compounded in North America when the combination of consumer price resistance and mfr reluctance to invest in ATSC tuner upgrades doomed the DVD/HDD recorder in USA in 2006, and availability ceased. With no new USA recorder sales to subsidize repair centers and parts, many recorders were orphaned, plus Pioneer killed their entire global recorder business by 2008.
Every recorder burner is a ticking time bomb, its just a matter of which brand is more prone to what failure. Early Pioneers made prior to 2006 used 100% Pioneer parts, including the burners, which were simple variants of Pioneer PC burners and could be DIY replaced if you knew how to do it and had the necessary service tools. Beginning with the 640/540 series of 2006, Pioneer combined resources with Sony to build hybrid recorders using Pioneer's interface but Sony parts, including a new wholly-proprietary Sony burner made just for these recorders. This had its good and bad points: previous all-Sony DVD/HDD recorders were notorious for premature failure and incompatibility with nearly every blank disc in the world (including Sony-branded). But the burner Sony supplied to Pioneer was surprisingly good: more durable than Pioneer's own and less picky than older Sony designs. Rated on a scale of 1 to 10 compared to all other recorders, the 540-550-560 burner is roughly a 7.9. When it works, it works great.
But when it fails, its a disaster. It is very very difficult to remove from the recorder without damage, and replacement burners are nonexistent in USA. Pioneer has been gone for six years, with no remaining service centers that handle these recorders. Even when service was available, the cost of a burner replacement was $300 (wholesale on just the burner was $225, this is typical of every brand except Magnavox). Between the difficulty of removing the burner and complete lack of repair parts, Pioneers made from 2006-2008 are now considered disposable. There is just nothing that can be done for them: you can keep using them as HDD-only recorders, or if you feel you have nothing to lose you can tear out the burner and try to find a compatible laser module for it. To my knowledge, no one has done the latter, although at the moment I'm in touch with a friend at NASA (of all places) who has pledged not to give up until he finds a way to repair the burners on his three 640s.
In answer to your other more specific questions:
Was my description of the problem adequate? .
Do you recognize the problem?
Do all DVD drives fail gradually rather then abruptly?
Is this problem prevalent to Pioneer drives?
Did you mean to say that the smaller the speed rating of the blank disc the better, or that the 8x is the optimum?
Historically the least-troublesome recorder burners are Panasonic (if you clean them) and Magnavox. These two brands have a default "generic" writing strategy that works better with newer 16x media variants, although you might still prefer the 8x for archival use. They are also the most repairable brands: Panasonic was the biggest recorder seller by far in USA, so there's tons of parts donor units floating around, lots of "experts," and guys who make a cottage industry out of repairing them even tho Panasonic itself no longer does. Few Magnavox burners have failed since 2007, but as I said the mfr makes affordable replacements available if needed.
Do you really mean it when you say that the Panasonic EH59 is as good or better than any Pioneer? Are they mutually compatible?
Pioneers and Panasonics are not compatible for finalizing each others -R or +R discs, but +RW and RAM discs are interchangeable between them.
The Magnavox is $229, has a USA warranty, a USA tuner, great recording quality, but somewhat clunkier operational "feel" than Panasonic or Pioneer. Most DVD/HDD editing features are included except you cannot rejoin recordings after splitting.
Last edited by orsetto; 12th Dec 2012 at 21:06.