Prices for Blu-ray and HD-DVD players have been tumbling of late – we’ve recently tested new kit from Sharp, Sony and Toshiba costing less than £400, and the only way is down from there.
Except Pioneer’s BDP-LX70A has gone the other way – it costs a grand. Whichever you way you cut it, that’s a lot of money, especially given the player’s Blu-ray only status: if you want to play HD DVD movies, you’ll need additional kit.
And when (perhaps that should be if) LG and Samsung get around to launching their new ‘hybrid’ disc players, the buzz is they’ll be cheaper too, at around £600 each.
So what gives? Simply, that while the Pioneer brand name might be fairly well known, the company is doing its level best to shift itself upmarket, producing better-quality, higher-priced products such as its Kuro plasmas.
The BDP-LX70A fits in with that aim perfectly: its specification is the most comprehensive of any of its breed, its styling and build are a league above the rest, and most importantly, it delivers stunning sound and vision for your cash. In other words, this is technoporn, and we’re going to celebrate it for what it is.
Pioneer has fitted its player with an Ethernet socket, as found in HD DVD decks. Aside from giving the potential for firmware upgrades, the key point is that this allows the BDP-LX70A to work as a media player: it’s compatible with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) protocol, meaning it can stream audio and video from your computer.
You can play MP3, WMA and WAV audio files, display JPEG, PNG and GIF images and view MPEG and WMA movie files – and given that the player is already connected to your telly and (most likely) to your surround amp, decent picture and sound quality is pretty much assured.
Just as crucially, the Pioneer can stream high-definition audio from its HDMI output – the first Blu-ray disc player we’ve tested to offer this capability. That means it can pump the likes of Dolby TrueHD straight into a suitable surround sound receiver, with predictably fabulous sonic results.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about video – it’ll also output 24fps content, and scale your DVDs to 1080p if needed.
A match for standalone DVD players
Once up and running, the Pioneer’s class is obvious and instant. In DVD playback terms, it’s right up there with the best standalone decks at around the £750 mark, handling motion with smooth, controlled assuredness.
But Blu-ray is where it’s really at with this player, and the Pioneer’s brilliant colours, profoundly deep blacks and pristine, razor-sharp edges are a positive delight whatever you watch, as is its composed, cinematic way with fast motion pans.
And the sound? Let’s just put it this way: the difference a TrueHD or DTS-HD soundtrack makes to your movie enjoyment has to be experienced to be believed.
Dynamics, clarity, realism, sheer oh-my-God-did-you-hear-that excitement – it’s all there, ready and waiting for you to load that disc and press play.
Of course, every other Blu-ray deck will eventually offer exactly the same ability, but Pioneer got there first – fittingly – and that’s why right now, if you’re a home cinema buff, there really is no substitute for the ‘LX70A.