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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > DVD Recorders 1-4x

Monday, March 25, 2002
Pioneer DVR-104 DVD-R

1. Introduction

Pioneer DVR-A04 DVD-R/RW - Page 1

- Introduction

The DVR-A03 made many users dream for a true low-price DVD-R recorder. The DVR-A03 was a best seller in many countries and now Pioneer is ready to ship its fourth-generation DVD-R recorder under the codename "DVR-A04". The new model doesn't offer what most users would wish for, "4x DVD-R recording speed", but it does have several improvements over the DVR-A03. We compared, side by side, the "old" DVR-A03 and the "new" DVR-A04.

- New features

The desired "4x DVD-R writing speed" is not yet present, but as Pioneer says there have been several improvements:

1) Drive length has been shortened by 1cm
2) Both horizontal + vertical mounting is possible
3) Increased read speed for DVD-Rom - was 4X, now 6X
4) Digital Audio connector removed - Analog only
5) Front bezel / LED indicator changed
6) Buffer Underrun Free for CD-R/CD-RW
7) Lower Fan Noise - sleeve bearing instead of ball bearing
8) Shorten format time for DVD-RW format (only 2minutes)

- Main Features

The drive supports almost all-available CD and DVD formats including HS-CD/RW:

Writing Speeds
Reading Speeds
DVD-R: 2X-CLV (2.770 MB/s), 1X-CLV (1.385 MB/s)
DVD-RW (both v1.0/1.1): 1X-CLV (1.385 MB/s)
CD-R: 8X-CLV (1.20 MB/s), 4X-CLV (0.60 MB/s)
CD-RW: 4X (0.60 MB/s) * limited to 4x for HS-CD/RW
DVD-ROM (Single): 6-CAV (5.540 MB/s)
DVD-ROM (Dual): 2X-CLV (2.770 MB/s)
DVD-R, DVD-RW: 2X-CLV (2.770 MB/s)
CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, CDDA: Max. 24X-CAV (3.60MB/s)
Video-CD: 4X-CLV (0.60MB/s)

In short, the drive supports 8x writing (CD), 4x re- writing (CD)* limited to 4x for HS-CD/RW, 24x reading (CD), 1x/2x writing (DVD), 1x re-writing (DVD), and 6x reading (DVD). The drive's buffer is 2MB and includes "buffer underrun protection" for both CD and DVD formats (another improvement over the DVR-A03)! With the DVD-R format, only DAO and Packet Writing modes are supported. Lastly, the drive doesn't support RAW writing with either CD or DVD formats.

- The package

We received an engineering sample of the Pioneer DVR-A04. The retail version of the drive will come under the codename "DVR-A04". The OEM model will be named "DVR-104". The retail box will included: The drive itself, multilingual operating instructions (7 languages), 5 pieces of Pioneer 74min CD-R media, 2 pieces of Pioneer 4.7GB DVD-R "General use" media, mounting screws, configuration pin jumper, forced eject key and a Staedler Lumocolor pen.

The drive came without any software but the retail package is planned to include VOB's Instant CD/DVD v6.4 and Sonic Solution's MyDVD v3.0. The drive will become available world-wide at the beginning of April 2002. The price of the drive is not yet known, but for sure it would be lower than the current DVR-A03 price. After a quick search over, we saw that the lowest price for Pioneer DVR-104 (bare drive) is around 338$ (380 Euros), while the DVR-A04 costs 375$ (425 Euros). Prices of DVD-R media ,branded, starts from 8$ (Pioneer) and un-branded from 2$ (Princo).

In different regions, other packages could be available. For example, Pioneer Australia offers 3 different retail kits , with different DVD Authoring software and with even Firewire PCI card.

The front of the drive did not include the "Pioneer" logo (retail models will do so). However, it did display the "DVD-R/RW" and "HS-RW" logos. There is one LED present, as well as the eject button and the headphone input jack/volume selector. The exact colours for the "Read/Write" LED are: "Green" during reading. "Orange" during writing, and when an error occurs it blinks "Orange". For the "Disc" LED, it blinks "Green" when the tray is opened or closed. When a read only disc is loaded it lights "Green". When a recordable disc is loaded it lights "Orange". When an unsupported disc is loaded it blinks "Orange":

On the back of the drive there are the usual connectors: IDE interface, power, the jumpers for setting the drive as a Master/Slave, the analog output connector and a 2.7cm built-in fan for keeping the drive temperature low. (Don't forget that DVD-R recording produces higher temperatures than CD-R recording).

- Installation

The Pioneer DVR-A04 was installed as a Master in the secondary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA33 mode and after rebooting, it identified itself as a "Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-104". Under WinXP DMA was activated automatically.

The drive was a 2001 model with firmware v1.10 installed. After our tests finished, Pioneer released a newer firmware version (v1.20). There is a also a region free firmware for those who make frequent changes to the region of the drive. Note that this firmware is not officiall!

We used Nero Burning ROM (, Ahead InCD (3.21), CloneCD ( and Sonic Solution's MyDVD v3.0 for the CD/DVD recording/authoring tests.

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