At its core, the DV-C503 is a solid, five-disc carousel player capable of playing DVDs, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and VideoCDs that provide MPEG-1 content. Like RCA's RC5910P, the DV-C503 also performs well under pressure. Equipped with a single set of S-Video, component, and composite video jacks, this system makes visually stunning DVDs, such as Fight Club, look crisp and clean, even during dark, underground scenes. You'll need a receiver, though, to connect to the DV-C503's digital optical or digital coaxial outputs for Dolby Digital and DTS sound, and stereo aficionados can use the analog outputs. The 96KHz/24-bit audio DAC makes CD and DVD sound sparkle.
We didn't fall in love with the cluttered remote, but this player is a responsive machine. It switches swiftly between DVD chapters or CD tracks and swaps discs at a brisk clip. The player is quick at changing audio tracks and subtitle tracks and when jumping between scenes with the Repeat A-B functions.
Where the DV-C503 really shines, however, is with all its extra features. Let's say you put all three discs of Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box in a row and then drop in the first two Van Halen albums. The DV-C503 can play random DVD tracks on a single disc. But if you prefer to rock out, another setting selects random tracks from the CDs in the changer, conveniently ignoring any DVDs in the machine. The DV-C503 can also remember the angle, language, subtitle, parental lock, and onscreen display settings for as many as 15 DVDs. There are other little touches as well, including the option of eliminating the blaring electric-blue menu background color by adjusting between degrees of red, blue, and green.
Of course nothing's perfect, not even the DV-C503. But at least its problems are mostly cosmetic. The display on the player's front is pretty basic. We found it much easier to use the onscreen menus instead; when we wanted to program a Van Halen marathon, we had to turn on the TV and use its display. If you get the band's Video Hits, Volume 1 on DVD, don't expect to watch Eddie Van Halen's fingers, either; there's no zoom function on the DV-C503, so you won't be able to see them.
Such problems are minor, though, and won't keep you from enjoying all the fun this player can provide. It's less expensive and easier to use than RCA's RC5910P and a fairly close match to Panasonic's DVD-CV51. Although a discontinued model at this point, Pioneer's DV-C503 is still a good choice for those with more discs than they know what to do with.