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Pioneer Releases New Blu-ray Players, Forgets to Include a Feature

Posted on Tuesday, May 13th, 2008 3:18 PM

Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray PlayerPioneer Electronics introduced two new Blu-ray players last week. The Pioneer Elite® BDP-05FD and BDP-51FD offer a wide array of high-end features, high-end price tags, but are missing a critical feature that keep them from even getting a second look from us.

Let's start with the good. Both models have the ability to display Bonus View material, which means that Picture-in-Picture effects included on some Blu-ray discs can be displayed. Both will be capable of decoding Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio lossless audio tracks and ouputting them via 7.1 channel analog outputs or HDMI bitstreaming (DTS HD MA support is going to come at some future time via firmware upgrade, according to the press release).

Both models sport spiffy new on-screen interfaces (for those of you unhappy with the previous ones, I guess), important-sounding digital-to-analog converters and video encoders, and the Elite model also comes with fancy capacitance touch-key buttons, an aluminum front panel, and an extra year's warranty over the non-Elite's one year coverage.

Both models will be available some time this summer.

How much would you pay for all this? How does $799 (Elite BDP-05FD) and $599 (BDP-51FD) grab you? If you're wondering what the fine people at Pioneer were thinking, keep in mind that last year's model, the Elite® BDP-94HD, listed for a cool $1,000. That makes $800 for this year's model a relative bargain!

But wait, you say. Pioneer has an excellent reputation, and isn't it worth it to get all the best features that the Blu-ray format has to offer?

In some cases, I would say yes, except for the fact that Pioneer has decided to omit a very important feature from these players: BD-Live support. Yep, that's right. $800 will get you touch-sensitive buttons, but it won't let you fire up your copy of Sleeping Beauty this fall and play the online activities that Disney has announced for that title.

Apparently, Pioneer has decided to cater to a crowd that never selects the "Special Features" button in the menu, or maybe they just like forcing you to wait for an update disc in the mail or force you to burn an update disc yourself when that eventual DTS upgrade comes along.

While I'm still not thrilled with the high price of the Panasonic DMP-BD50 that was announced last week, at least it will come with the ability to play all the features that are already being released on Blu-ray discs, as well as deliver top-notch audio and video performance. If you can't stomach a PlayStation 3 and you have $700 to spend, that model is a better choice based on the information available at this point.

This announcement is disappointing because it just reinforces the apparent attitude that Blu-ray hardware companies have towards their customers. Blu-ray (like HD DVD before it) can deliver incredible video and audio, and anyone with an HDTV should have a Blu-ray player to connect to it. Unfortunately, the high prices and/or low feature sets of players currently on the market keep the mainstream public from getting one.

Either the Blu-ray specification has to be incredibly difficult to design for, which would explain the long amount of time it is taking for Blu-ray players to reach feature parity with HD DVD from two years ago, or manufacturers are aiming incorrectly at the market. By keeping prices high and not implementing the features that people should expect (especially from such high priced players), they are pushing the buying public away. I just don't get that... 

If you're still interested in these players, check out the full press release below!

Press Release

Pioneer Premium BonusView Blu-Ray Disc Players Emulate True Theater Experience

New Elite and Pioneer Players Deliver Reference Quality Playback with Enhanced Performance Features

May 07, 2008 09:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Elevating the high definition experience in home theaters, Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. today announces the Elite® BDP-05FD and Pioneer® BDP-51FD BonusView Blu-ray Disc® players that exceed the capabilities of current players in the market with support of next generation high resolution audio and video formats that fulfill the emotional experience of high end entertainment. Featuring picture-in-picture interactivity and a redesigned platform that significantly improves overall performance, the new players work in tandem with Pioneer’s KURO displays and A/V receivers to provide film enthusiasts the most true-to-life reproduction of HD feature films.

“Our new Blu-ray Disc players continue to demonstrate Pioneer’s unwavering commitment to delivering an immersive seeing and hearing experience for those who want the absolute best in form and function,” said Chris Walker, senior manager of marketing and product planning for Blu-ray Disc at Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “In offering a full line of players, we are solidifying Pioneer’s reputation as a brand that is continually meeting the needs of consumers who are designing or upgrading their home theaters.”

Cinematic Picture Quality

Taking advantage of HDMI® 1.3a technology, Pioneer brings film aficionados to the frontier of next generation entertainment with the most cutting edge video processing available. Both players support 12-bit video digital-to-analog converter (DAC) providing exceptional analog video performance. 12-Bit Deep Color is implemented on both models to deliver an unprecedented range of hues and shades resulting in pristine, realistic imagery that was not possible with previous generations. For early technology adopters, both players are a great investment that will continually meet the advancements of HD home entertainment technology.

With Pioneer’s 1080p / True 24 frames per second (fps) video output, the two models offer smooth performance of film based Blu-ray Disc movies that greatly reduce image judder. By preserving the feature film scene cadence in which Blu-ray Disc titles are authored and feature films are captured, viewers gain a natural, high quality movie viewing experience just as they would in the theater.

Pioneer has continued to enhance high performance DVD playback in the new players with the inclusion of the proprietary and advanced PureCinema Deinterlacer, which essentially eliminates lines that can negatively affect the viewing experience. DVDs can be scaled to a 1080p resolution for improved picture quality and compatibility with HDTVs.

Pioneer recognizes the vital importance that sound plays in creating an emotional home entertainment experience and for film aficionados who want to gain the full impact of high resolution movie soundtracks.

The new players are two of the industry’s first to support all advanced audio formats, with the ability to decode Dolby® TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus, DTS® HD* and DTS HD Master* high resolution audio formats, which also enables advanced connectivity that makes compatibility a minimal concern. Consumers will hear the subtle nuances and deep bass in their favorite films to bring an unprecedented listening experience that transcends what was previously thought possible in home theater.

Typically utilized by high end audio manufacturers and professional audio equipment, Pioneer selected the professional quality Wolfson Digital Audio Converters (DACs) in the new players to ensure the highest level audio performance that sound engineers intended audiences to experience.

Robust Build Quality

Pioneer’s two BonusView Blu-ray Disc players feature a supreme build construction and attention to detail to ensure unrivaled content performance. The BDP-05FD and BDP-51FD define premium performance with high quality parts, a center loading tray which helps reduce vibration as well as dedicated audio and video boards for smooth operation and uninterrupted playback of discs.

The Elite BDP-05FD features gold-plated connection ports, capacitance touch key buttons and an aluminum front panel that will have audiophiles and videophiles eager to use and display within their high end home theater décor.

Pioneer Home Theater Synergy

Performing in concert with KURO displays and the upcoming Elite A/V receivers (SC-05 or SC-07), the new Blu-ray Disc players complete the home entertainment experience, allowing consumers to immerse themselves in stunning HD content.

Pioneer engineers developed unique performance settings in both players to ensure subtle details, vivid colors and deep shadows are accurately reproduced when shown on KURO displays. When selecting the “Pioneer PDP” in the video adjust mode, the new players will output the appropriate signal to a connected KURO and deliver the best possible image possible for viewers.

In line with the premium movie experience its products provide, Pioneer sought to create jitter-free playback and dynamic sound quality for music CDs. When connected to a new Elite receiver (SC-05 or SC-07) via HDMI, the BDP-05FD enhances CD playback with the proprietary Precision Quartz Lock System (PQLS). This advanced feature synchronizes music data coming from the Blu-ray Disc player to the receiver giving music fanatics a revolutionary high resolution listening experience far exceeding traditional methods.

Consumer Convenience

Due to the exclusive chip set design and build quality Pioneer is now utilizing, significant strides in speed performance have been made with the new players to now rival the rapid playback rate consumers have come to experience when using their DVD players. This platform greatly improves disc load, power on, power off and disc eject times.

With a continued focus on unifying the appearance and enhancing the operation of its home theater products, Pioneer has integrated the same graphic user interface found on its KURO displays and new Elite receivers. Through the player, users can customize their viewing experience via the A/V Selection menu, which provides a series of image modifications (LCD, PDP, Pioneer PDP, projector and professional) to optimize the picture displayed on a connected HDTV. Pioneer takes image quality a step further with the exclusive Picture Control Suite, which is comprised of an additional 13 video adjustments that allow viewers to fine tune small picture details of a film and deliver an experience that best suits a user’s viewing preferences.

The Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD and BDP-51FD BonusView Blu-ray Disc players will begin shipping this summer for suggested prices of $799 and $599, respectively.

Pioneer’s Home Entertainment and Business Solutions Group develops high definition home theater equipment for discerning entertainment junkies. Its flat panel televisions, Blu-ray Disc players, A/V receivers and speakers bring a new level of emotion to the HD experience. The company brands include Pioneer and Elite®. When purchased from an authorized retailer, consumers receive a limited warranty for one year with Pioneer products and two years with Pioneer Elite products. More details can be located at www.pioneerelectronics.com.


FeaturePioneer BDP-51FDElite BDP-05FD
HDMI 1.3aYes, 12-bit Deep ColorYes, 12-bit Deep Color
Advanced Audio BitstreamYes, All FormatsYes, All Formats
Advanced Audio DecodingDolby Digital Plus/Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD(a)/DTS HD Master(a)Dolby Digital Plus/Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD(a)/DTS HD Master(a)
Wolfson Professional Audio DACsYes x 4Yes x 4
High Quality Video Encoder108Mhz 12-Bit297Mhz 12-Bit
Jitter-free HDMI Audio with PQLSYesYes
Picture Control SuiteYesYes
7.1 Channel Analog OutputYesYes
Gold Plated ConnectorsNoYes
Aluminum Front PanelNoYes
Capacitance Touch Key ButtonsNoYes
New Graphic User InterfaceYesYes
Warranty1 Year2 Year

(a) DTS HD and DTS HD Master Internal Decoding requires future firmware upgrade

PIONEER, the PIONEER logo and the ELITE logo are registered trademarks of the Pioneer Corporation.

HDMI, the HDMI logo and High-Definition Multimedia Interface are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.

DOLBY and the double-D symbol are registered trademarks of Dolby Laboratories.

DTS and DTS Digital Surround are registered trademarks of Digital Theater Systems, Inc.

Source: Pioneer Electronics, Inc.

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