Blu-ray decks have come a long way this year, not least in terms of price. You can now buy Samsung’s BD-P1500 for an incredible £155. So why splash out almost four times that on Pioneer’s latest player?
Well, for a start the BDP-LX71 is a beautiful, luxurious piece of home cinema kit. The glossy black fascia is punctuated by a striking neon blue display and a collection of sophisticated touch sensitive buttons. Each press is acknowledged by a small white glow.
But why is the BDP-LX71 so fat compared to other players? It’s all in the engineering. The audio, video and power supply boards have all been kept separate to minimise vibration and interference. And the loading drawer has been positioned just below the centre line of the chassis to reduce unwanted vibrations.
It’s also got an abundance of connections and settings. Video connectivity includes HDMI and component video outputs, and on the audio side you get coaxial and optical digital outputs together with a set of seven-channel analogue and standard RCA phone outputs.
After spending some time with a variety of discs, we can confirm that the BDP-LX71 is the closest a Blu-ray player has come to deserving audiophile and videophile status, and more than justifies its intimidating price tag.
The player has customised picture settings for various displays, including LCD TVs, projectors and even Pioneer’s own 9G Kuro plasmas. And in any of these it delivers vibrancy and detail by the bucketload, while handling fast movement superbly.
Standard DVDs also look natural and detailed, and the audio is a clear step up from budget players. Blu-ray soundtracks have a sense of refinement and subtlety about them, and when it comes to dialogue the Pioneer sounds clear and natural.
But we do have a couple of gripes. The BDP-LX71 can’t decode DTS-HD Master Audio, the lossless audio format, on board, which is a problem if your Blu-ray player can’t decode HD audio. This will be sorted out with a future firmware upgrade, but you’d hope that a £600 Blu-ray player could do everything out of the box.
Also, while the BDP-LX71 loads Blu-ray faster than Pioneer’s previous model, it’s still not up to the speed of cheaper players like the PS3, and there’s no Ethernet port either to let you take advantage of interactive BD-Live content.
But these are only niggles. The BDP-LX71 is the best Blu-ray performer we’ve seen so far and, if you haven’t been credit crunched, is well worth the premium price tag.