Price (RRP): $999
With the BDP-LX52, Pioneer has moved to the correct side of the thousand dollar barrier for Blu-ray players, and at the same time produced a full featured unit, preserving the most important of Pioneer’s previous innovations.
The headline feature for this unit is BD-Live, previously available from Pioneer only in the ultra-high end BDP-LX91. And of course it also supports the Picture-in-Picture and Sound-in-Sound capabilities of BonusView. The unit includes a USB socket on the back, into which you can plug a USB flash drive to support these features, including material downloaded via BD-Live from the internet.
The player does all the things we expect of a modern Blu-ray player, such as delivering high definition digital audio as a bitstream to a suitable home theatre receiver. Or decoding all the new formats (plus the old ones) for slightly older home theatre receivers. To make use of these capabilities, your receiver will need to be able to accept digital audio from a HDMI connection.
The player does not have multichannel analog outputs, though, so if your receiver does not support HDMI audio at all, you will have to make do with standard Dolby Digital or DTS.
The BDP-LX52 can deliver full 1080p24 video, as well as upscale DVDs to 1080p output from HDMI (1080i from component video). One of the features unique to Pioneer is the ability to set the output resolution without having to stop disc playback and return to the setup menu.There are two dedicated keys on the remote for this purpose, and you can also choose ‘Auto’ and ‘Source Direct’ settings to provide a range of automatically chosen output settings.
As far as performance went, there were no surprises with this player. I was expecting great picture and audio performance from a Pioneer player, and it delivered it. And I was expecting a moderate amount of clunkiness, and it delivered that as well.
So let’s deal with that first. This player is far, far slower than the fastest models currently available. It is slow to start up, and slow to load discs. Often when you press a remote control key it is slow to respond, and if you press again, the stored presses get replayed in a row, making the player do things you may not want.
So, definitely clunky.
But on the other side, you get enormous power and glorious performance.
The picture quality was as good as it gets. And if you’re not quite happy, there are a bunch of picture tweaking options you can apply. I don’t recommend using most of those: better to set your TV correctly. But one of those options is ‘Pure Cinema’, which controls deinterlacing of interlaced Blu-ray discs and DVDs. With most Australian DVDs, setting ‘Pure Cinema’ to ‘On’ instead of ‘Auto’ increased performance from very good to perfect, making the player deliver every bit of detail available from the disc.
The sound performance was entirely in the hands of the various home theatre receivers I used, since I delivered it digitally. But the decoding worked well, delivering all channels at the full resolution. Your receiver will be the performance bottleneck, not the BDP-LX52.
And there were nice little extras, like the single frame stepping both forwards and backwards on Blu-ray discs as well as DVDs (few players will do this for Blu-ray), and slow motion both ways.
The Pioneer BDP-LX52 is a fine Blu-ray player for those who aren’t too impatient. You are unlikely to get better video or audio performance than this unit provides.
That for me outweighs the unit’s clunkiness. Barely.