Blu-ray Players

Pioneer BDP-09FD Elite Blu-ray Player - Benchmark

ARTICLE INDEX

Performance – Music

As soon as I had the Pioneer hooked up in my system, the first thing that I wanted to test was its audio performance. The Wolfson DAC’s have been used in many other highly regarded, dedicated CD players and I wanted to hear how they would sound. Listening to “Kid A” from Radiohead, the Pioneer offered up a very refined, relaxed presentation and I listened to the whole disc without any fatigue, completely enjoying the experience. Moving forward or back a track was a little slow compared to my Oppo player, but I never had any issues beyond that. After listening to a few more albums on the Pioneer over the week, I wanted to evaluate it head-to-head with the Oppo, which is a very nice budget CD player in addition to being a fine DVD player, and see how it compared.

Pioneer BDP 09FD Elite Blu-ray Player

Taking some time to make sure all of the settings on the receiver and the players were setup correctly and that the receiver wasn’t introducing anything additional into the signal, I setup some albums to play at the same time so I could easily switch back and forth between them. Additionally, I found that using the Pioneer in Pure Audio Mode 1 (no video signals at all) produced a noticeable increase in sound quality during CD playback, so I left that enabled while I performed these listening tests as well. To my ears, the Oppo provided me a bit more high-end detail and a bit of a wider soundstage, whereas the Pioneer provided some extra weight behind the voices and instruments. Listening to just a human voice, the Oppo would let me hear a little bit of extra detail at the top end, but the Pioneer would express the power that they were putting behind their singing.

The presentation of the Oppo was more forward as well, putting the vocals in front in the speakers, where the Pioneer seemed to pull them back behind the speakers a bit and stay more relaxed. With Pure Audio disabled, I was able to easily tell the players apart and felt that the soundstage of the Pioneer shrunk, and the instruments and vocals sounded like they were hiding behind a curtain, losing a good bit of detail. In the end, while I liked the extra detail that the Oppo added, some might find that it’s more fatiguing to listen for a long period of time, or prefer the extra weight that the Pioneer can put behind the music. Given that the Oppo player has been a consistently well regarded CD player, I think Pioneer can be happy with how the BDP-09FD sounded.

For playing back music from non-CD sources, the Pioneer supports very few extra codecs (most bitrate mp3s and lower bitrate WMA’s), but no lossless formats such as FLAC, and no support for WAV files beyond 16-bit and 44.1 KHz sampling rates. The new chipset that Pioneer used for this player was chosen for pure performance on Blu-ray, DVD, and CD playback and support for more advanced media codecs wasn’t important in comparison to that. It did manage to playback the mp3’s that I tested it with, but I would doubt that many people are going to purchase a player like this and used it to play back lossy, compressed audio files.

I did have one big fault with the Pure Audio setting, however. The load times on the Pioneer are not exceptionally fast, in part due to its use of a recorder transport that is more accurate but not as speedy as the typically disc transport, and while it is loading you are not able to stop it until it’s read the contents of a CD, or gotten to the menu of a movie. Unfortunately, Pure Audio does not have a setting where you can have it be automatically enabled for CD playback and then disabled for BluRay or DVD playback, and to disable it you need to stop the disc and physically press a button on the player as there is no button on the remote. A couple of times I would go start a movie, forgetting that I had listened to a CD the day before, and be treated to a black screen as the disc loaded, since Pure Audio was disabling the video output of the player. I would have to wait a couple of minutes for the BluRay disc to get to the main menu, then stop it, walk up to the player, switch off Pure Audio, then start the disc up again and wait a couple more minutes for it to load once again. If Pioneer could add a menu setting for this based on media type, or at least a way to disable it from the remote, that would be nice.