Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD Blu-ray Player Real-World Performance
The Pioneer's performance with Blu-ray titles was a mixed bag. I experienced many lip-sync errors on Alvin and the Chipmunks, and playing the extended versions of The 40-Year Old Virgin and Forgetting Sarah Marshall froze the player completely and required a power cycle. On the other hand, the theatrical versions played without a hitch.
When accessing the bonus features on every Blu-ray disc I tried, a severe lip-sync error of nearly one second accompanied the start of each supplement. Hitting Pause and then Play on the remote sync'd the audio and video, but this is the first Blu-ray player I've used that exhibited this problem.
When I reported these problems to Pioneer, I was told that it was likely a firmware issue. The current release is version 1.02, so the company sent me a beta of version 1.07, which I loaded into the player. Unfortunately, it didn't do much to improve the situation.
When I could get discs to load—which, to be fair, was most of them—the picture quality was excellent, as I've found with every Blu-ray player I've used. Color saturation was phenomenal, black levels were inky black, and detail was first-rate. Anyone who says DVD is "good enough" hasn't experienced the joy of Blu-ray on a screen large enough to distinguish the vast differences between the two formats.
Comparing the audio quality of the analog outputs with the HDMI output—internally decoded to PCM in both cases and bitstreamed to my pre/pro via HDMI—was difficult because I had to change the audio output from analog to HDMI in the player's setup menu, which took a couple of minutes when you account for having to restart the discs each time.
Setup issues aside, I preferred the audio performance of the HDMI output, both bitstream and decoded PCM. The analog performance was good, but the lower midrange sounded a bit hollow by comparison. Still, if I hadn't been able to compare the three audio paths in a relatively short time against each other, it would have been much harder to distinguish the differences.
In addition to slightly preferring the audio quality of the HDMI connection, I strongly prefer HDMI's simplicity. But if you don't have an AVR or pre/pro with HDMI 1.3, the only way to hear the new audio codecs in their full glory is via analog. Fortunately, this is one of the few Blu-ray players available with 7.1 analog outputs.
I did discover one quirk with the analog outputs. When playing a Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES soundtrack on a DVD, the back-surround channel is ignored—all you hear is a 5.1-channel output. This is not the case with 7.1-channel Blu-ray discs, which are played properly.
The biggest complaint with dedicated Blu-ray players is their user interaction, which can be very lethargic in terms of powering on and loading discs. Certain BD-Java discs such as Disney's Ratatouille, Cars, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are among the worst offenders, prompting Disney to display a disclaimer to allow 2-3 minutes for the disc to load.
The speed king of Blu-ray players is still the Sony PlayStation 3—you've got to love that Cell processor. How does the BDP-05 compare? Using Ratatouille, I timed the two players with the following results:
- PS3: 10 seconds
- BDP-05: 27 seconds (when tray opens)
Disc insertion to first picture
- PS3: 37 seconds
- BDP-05: 67 seconds
Pressing Top Menu button to menu screen
- PS3: 9 seconds
- BDP-05: 23 seconds
The Pioneer is the fastest dedicated player I have tested, but it's still much slower than the vaunted PS3. BD-Java games loaded and played decently, but considering the quality of the games available thus far, does this really matter?
I tested the BonusView features on several discs and didn't have any issues with them. In order to hear the movie and PIP audio streams, the bitstream output must be disabled and all decoding must be done within the player. One feature I would like to see is a button on the remote that lets you enable or disable audio bitstreaming instead of having to venture into the setup menu—a time-consuming process considering how long it takes to reload a disc.
I have yet to find a Blu-ray player that I would use for DVD playback, and the BDP-05 is no exception. Using Star Wars Episode II as a test disc, I ran into numerous issues. Accessing menu items was painfully slow, and within 30 minutes of starting the movie, the audio and video were out of sync. When the layer change happened, the player froze for nearly four seconds! The upconversion to 1080p was decent, but it was no match for my reference Oppo DV-983H player, especially with all of the Pioneer's playback issues.
Pioneer sent me an SC-05 AVR (review forthcoming) in order to test the PQLS technology for CD playback. I listened to The Eagles' "Hotel California" from their Hell Freezes Over CD numerous times with my pre/pro and then installed and calibrated the SC-05, which took nearly an hour. My audio memory isn't that good, and I couldn't detect any difference between the PQLS system and my pre/pro. Comparing the sound with PQLS on and off did reveal minor differences in sound quality. Was it better? Marginally, but without double-blind testing, the placebo effect could be involved. With PQLS off, I wouldn't call the sound bad by any means. The highs were perhaps a bit less crisp, though the difference was miniscule.