Blu-ray Players

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

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Performance – Video

Pioneer BDP 09FD Elite Blu-ray Player

I had been very happy with the performance of the Pioneer BDP-51FD previously, and I must say that they did a fantastic job with Blu-ray playback once again. Watching a variety of movies, from the better-than-expected “Kung Fu Panda”, to The “Dark Knight” and “Band of Brothers”, the Pioneer played back everything and looked fantastic doing it. Looking at test patterns I would see that it could pass BTB and WTW signals allowing for an easy calibration to make sure I was getting the most out of it.

Unfortunately, Blu-ray discs were still a bit slower to load compared to my PlayStation3 console. Watching “Kung Fu Panda”, I could get to the main menu in 1:30 on the PS3, but it took 2:17 on the Pioneer. That didn’t bother me too much as every player takes a while to start on a Blu-ray disc it seems, but I wish the Pioneer could eject a disc from being powered off quicker than the 40 seconds it takes right now.

With a recent Firmware update, the Pioneer has added support for DTS-MA decoding inside the player, so now all of the audio formats can be decoded and sent over the 7.1 analog outputs. Sound quality from movies was nothing short of spectacular. Band of Brothers continued to draw me in, and the sound of the bullets flying everywhere in the battle scenes was fantastic. Listening to “Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City”, I wanted to turn it up as loud as I could to hear all the detail from their guitars. A few years ago I had grown tired of Dave Matthews, but that disc on a good player sounds so fantastic that I can keep going back to it over and over now, and the Pioneer brought out all of the detail in it.

The Pioneer also did a good job of standard DVD playback. Scaling to 1080p I didn’t detect any motion artifacts, encountered no lip-sync issues even on some titles that people have had issues with on other upscaling players, and generally made a DVD look as good as possible. I would never mistake the upconverted picture for a true Blu-ray disc, but it did as good a job as any player that I have seen and that is what I am looking for.

With their recent firmware, Pioneer has also finally added support for BD Live using the players Ethernet port and 4 GB of storage. Discs that I had tested connected quickly and worked great, supporting all of the extra online features that discs now offer, except for the one Disney title that I was able to test (WALL-E). Since this was an early release of the firmware before it has gone through the entire QA process, I’ve made Pioneer aware of the issue and they should have this resolved before it is released to the general public, currently planned for late April. With DTS-MA decoding and BD Live support, the Pioneer BDP-09FD should now support all features available on BluRay discs at this time.

Unfortunately, one feature that I was unable to test was the bit-depth conversion that the Pioneer can perform internally. Color data on DVD and BluRay discs is stored in an 8 bit format, so when you scale the picture to a different resolution, or perform any extra processing on the image (noise reduction, gamma correction), you can easily introduce errors that can be seen as unsmooth gradients of color, or blotchy areas of an image, since you’re only using those 8 bits per color. The Pioneer converts everything to 16 bits internally, and does all of the processing at 16 bits, only going back to 8 bits at the very end of the output stage. This allows for smoother gradients, and could allow for a better looking upconversion for DVD sources. Unfortunately, to output this extra detail you would need an HDMI 1.3 compatible display (so it can display Deep Color) and my display does not support that unfortunately. However, since I didn’t see any of these issues when I was testing the player, those with HDMI 1.3 displays might see some extra detail that I could not.