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HTF Hardware Review: Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD Blu-Ray Player

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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

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Posted November 27 2008 - 05:53 PM


My System Used For This Review

     Pioneers Elite brand has long been held as a major player in above standard & average level home theater gear for many years. Everything from rear projection CRT TV's to even speakers have been included in the past line and every audio/video nut remembers Pioneer Elite's rosewood side panels from years past. Not much has changed at Pioneer and their Elite brand, they still offer high-end plasma displays (which some consider the best there is), AV receivers and of course Blu-Ray players. I will be covering their latest entry into the Blu-Ray market, the Elite BDP-05FD unit.

Please enjoy the review and thanks for reading!

05FD Appearance, Build, Inputs, etc.

     The BD50 comes packaged in a very sturdy high-end cardboard box, what you would expect from a nice above average piece of HT gear. The 05FD has a all black case with a amazing looking slightly mirrored front panel that looks like it has been shined and polished with extreme care, I know this is not how they do it, but this is one handsome looking front panel that will show those paw prints very easily. The front panel is solid and thick and has no flip down doors to deal with, but what it does have is a feature that I have never seen in 15+ years of a/v gear usage and that is capacitance buttons. These futuristic type buttons have nothing there to feel, nothing to click, the merely pickup the touch of your finger and activate, so all you see is a label on the front panel mirrored glassy finished. These buttons spoil a man quickly and during my time of using them I have grown quite found of them. Hopefully in the future we can look forward to these on everything. The front panel does not contain all capacitance buttons, the play and power buttons are the standard nickel sized clickers found on many Pioneer pieces.

     Those looking for fabulous build in a BD player need to look no further, this is one stout piece of gear that is built to a level of quality expected from Elite. Everything from the drawer to the feet on the bottom to the back panel shows quality that you don't get from cheaper units like the new Panasonic BDX5 line of players. The 05FD is a very thick player in height, it measures nearly 5" in that regard. Around back of the 05FD there is a fully featured set of input jacks, including: HDMI 1.3, optical/coaxial digital audio, 5.1 analog surround outputs, 2.0 analog audio, s-video, composite, component video, Pioneer control in, a standard IEC type power input (yeah!) and a fan. The fan on this unit is was impossible to hear but I use a enclosed rack setup, I don't think the fan is of any concern here and it is a large size additionally, which makes it even quieter. The back panel is spacious and exudes quality including copper chassis screws and all gold plated connectors. I would have like to have seen RS-232 as well in addition to the Pioneer control (which in my testing did not take a standard IR emitter input). I am also happy to report that the 05FD is made in Japan, I have nothing against China and some high-end manufacturers have plants there that whip other locations but I prefer Japanese made gear, these guys know what they are doing.

05FD Setup and Calibration

     The first most important thing in regards to your BD player setup is to do so in a manner that you are getting the closest to an unmolested image as possible. The 05FD allows you to do so perfectly. For my review time with this unit I used the following setup and outputs: HDMI 1.3 video output at 1080p/24 4:2:2 YPbPr (for films) and HDMI 1.3 audio output at pure bitstream. I cannot recommend enough that this is how this unit should be used for the ultimate in A/V quality. The 1080p/24 video output via HDMI is the purest cleanest video output signal on the unit, taking 1080p/24 decoded info from the disc and outputting it directly via HDMI. Likewise for the audio, using the HDMI 1.3 audio output (with the unit setup for pure bitstream output) allows you to send undecoded DTS Master, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus etc. sound formats to a pre-amp/receiver that will decode them. Other features include a nice screen saver which works very well, a slew of HDMI setup options like RGB/YPbPr colorspace setup, enhanced black, resolution, 24p etc.

    The 05FD actually features a true 10-bit 4:2:2 YPbPr 1080p/24 HDMI video output for the ultimate in PQ, this is very important. Most BD players feature a 4:4:4 HDMI video output which is another conversion step that can have degrading effects on the PQ. Blu-Ray discs are encoded as 4:2:0, when this info hits the decoding chip inside the unit it is decoded and the chroma info is doubled or upsampled to 4:2:2. If a player has a 4:4:4 output then there is another conversion step inside the unit taking the 4:2:2 output of the decoder and converting it to 4:4:4. In addition to the 4:2:2 HDMI output, the 05FD actually allows for the above mentioned extensive setup of the unit to send, for example, 4:4:4 YPbPR if you should want that, along with enhanced or standard levels and even RGB colorspace output. This is the most featured BD player I have encountered yet in this regard, you can do any output type you wish to use. Included is even a deep color 4:4:4 HDMI output trick which upsamples standard Blu-Ray discs and outputs them as deep color levels and gradiations. This is nothing more than a gimmick and from a purist standpoint it should be avoided in all situations except those where that output would yield the best PQ on a given display.  It would be my recommendation to set this unit to the user profile "professional" under picture quality adjustments. The 05FD has 5 or 6 PQ profiles that allow the user to adjust the PQ via softening, sharpening, gamma, NR and other tweaks, this includes manual setup and 5 or 6 picture profiles. These features do nothing but destroy a otherwise fantastic image, so do your self a favor and set the unit to "professional" under display profile, this delivers a unaltered image. All other image modes and adjustments on the 05FD were tested and they do nothing but muck up the signal, do not use any of the other picture output choices/profiles other than memory if you have to, it builds from professional and is identical to professional with the adjustments at midpoint, stick to nothing but hue tint type controls and you will be fine.

05FD Playback and Features

     My review sample was used with the latest v117 firmware available now from Pioneer, the latest firmware improved upon the stability and quickness of the player in a pretty big way, including power on time, which is not too bad at all. I have seen quicker players out there, but it is of my opinion that your slightly longer wait with this player and its functions are worth what you gain in video quality. Chapter changes are lightening quick with v117 and menu response is great. I had not one single load, freeze, java or playback issue whatsoever with the unit during my review time, it was 100% perfect. The 05FD has what I consider the best display information center that I have seen yet on a BD player, everything but the kitchen sink up to and including a bitrate display meter (where for example you can see that the mpeg2 video encode on Basic Instinct 2 is a total mess). There is a indicator that confirms 24p output if you don't use anything in your HT system to confirm source output modes and framerates. The display includes all manner of time stamping, video and audio codecs, chapter information, you name it. Additionally the 05FD has yet again what I consider another industry best feature known as source direct. With this option you simply set the unit to source direct and you are good to go. Insert a BD like Troy and the player flips into 1080p/24 4:2:2 YPbPr HDMI output. Insert a BD like Masters of Horror and the player defaults to 1080i 4:2:2 YPbPr HDMI output, again insert a SD DVD like Star Wars Episode IV and you have 480i 4:2:2 YPbPr HDMI output. Words cannot describe how important a feature this is for video quality and convenience for those that use scalers and systems that appreciate being fed exactly what should be at the exact right time, this is a priceless feature. Of course the unit can be set to 720p, 1080p/60 etc. and all sources are output at that stable resolution (even including the splash screen).

05FD Video and Audio Quality

     Right here is where your build quality comes into play big time, the 05FD is a quality audio visual beast..  Discs used for the review where Monsters Ball (look for my HTF review), Masters of Horror Vol. 2, Planet of the Apes (1968), Basic Instinct, Basic Instinct 2, Fifth Element Remaster, Troy Directors Cut and a few others. The 05FD simply delivers the goods when it comes to video, the HDMI output is as clean as a whistle, sharp and vibrant all while being natural and having zero problems with regards to test patterns, no added sharpness, no contrast blooming, no black crushing. Color reproduction and decoding where spot on perfect with not one single issue in color decoding with blue, red or green test patterns. Not all sources are as perfect performance wise in this regard, many players that have additional conversions (like to the 4:4:4 colorspace) will show slight or moderate color decoding problems that usually show (most often) in green sat/hue test patterns. Y/C delay issues were nonexistent with the unit at 1080p/24 HDMI. I cannot say enough about the PQ of the 05FD, it is as near to perfect as possible, I saw not one single issue that I would have to even touch on including chroma bug issues. It is the reviewers opinion that the 05FD is pretty much the best BD image going right now, of course this is limited to what I have seen recently including my previous best pick of the Panasonic BD50. The Pioneer simply delivers spectacular visuals that are spot on in every way possible, a truly high-end image from a high-end player that exudes natural image sharpness to a degree that I have rarely seen. A downside you may ask for? yes, discs that have very poor PQ (like Basic Instinct 2) are shown in full glory, which is not a good thing. The better your player and the better your system the more revealing of your source material, which at times can be a good thing (like Planet of the Apes (1968) and a bad thing in the aforementioned case. Again I can report that to my eye I am not seeing any chroma issues at all with the 05FD and BD media.

Component Video output on this unit was not tested for this review.

     With HDMI 1.3 bitstreamed audio there isn't much to talk about if the unit gets the job done correctly that is and the 05FD does. The Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD allows the user to set the player where it will pass 100% untouched undecoded audio via HDMI to your pre-amp or receiver. This is the absolute best way possible to listen to and enjoy the advanced audio formats that Blu-Ray offers. The 05FD does feature 7.1 analog outputs and does allow internal decoding of all sound formats (albeit DTS Master which should be coming soon in a update). I did not test analog audio quality on my system for this review, but I can guarantee with the internal build of this player, separate power transfers and features like Wolfson DACs it will be a real knockout. Additionally the setup menu allows pretty good control over this output, which is vital for analog. The 05FD also decodes internally and passes via HDMI as PCM, this is for the few processors and receivers out there that don't have decoding of the new audio formats internally. Again the 05FD does not at this time decode DTS Master as PCM, but it should be available anytime.

Analog Audio output on this unit was not tested for this review.

05FD Aftermarket Mods

     The Pioneer BDP-05FD can at this time be aftermarket modified to be region free in regards to both Blu-Ray and SD DVD, this mod enables region A and B Blu-Ray (not C) and all region SD DVD ability. If concerned about the warranty of your player it would be best to contact Pioneer about this before proceeding with any mods of this type. With this mod you are set and can view any disc in the world save for middle eastern region C titles.

Closing Thoughts

     The Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD is truly a tidy piece of Blu-Ray goodness. I don't think you will find a better player that delivers where it needs to at a better price and with build quality that shows every time you use it. Sure the player may not be the fastest out there or the smallest in stature but every time you use the front panel capacitance buttons to open the beefy strong disc tray and sit down to see the audio and visuals you receive you will know why this player is in your system.

Special thanks to Ron Epstein and Christina Ramirez of Pioneer!!

#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Edward Weinman

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Posted December 10 2008 - 05:40 PM

I find, with my limited experience of having different DVD players over the years, that the 05 is remarkable in its video and audio reproduction. However, I'm finding that some of my "classical" MGM musicals on SD DVD have sync problems: "Meet Me In St. Louis," "Silk Stockings." and "Deep In My Heart." I do not know why these sould have the problem but later films (on SD DVD) do not.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   tremojem



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Posted December 13 2008 - 09:02 AM

Thank you for the great review. Would you please answer a couple questions for me? I cannot find the settings for "pure bit stream" and "professional". Where can I find these settings, thanks.

#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

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Posted December 16 2008 - 04:18 PM

Jason, did you get those settings straightened out? -Gary

#5 of 7 OFFLINE   tremojem



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Posted December 18 2008 - 12:23 PM

Gary, Thanks for replying. I found the "professional", but was unable to find the "pure bitstream". I found the settings, while a disc is playing, that allow you to select audio, but this is not the same. All I really want to do is have the very best video/audio going from the HDMI out of my BD player to my Denon 3808CI HDMI in and out again to my Pro-111FD. This is not as simple as it seems. I will say that the discovery undertaken during this learning curve is enjoyable, but sometimes frustrating. As a side note...I am making every possible attempt to make sure that the settings on the Denon are "passthru". I am not adding any processing to my signals, but again this is not as simple as it would seem. I took on these three compenents at the same time and it is a bit overwhelming. Thanks again and Happy Holidays to you and yours, thanks Gary.

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   tremojem



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Posted January 14 2009 - 03:52 AM

Gary, I think I have discovered that HDMI is how you get pure bitstream. Thanks

#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted January 16 2009 - 04:48 AM

Nice review Gary. I recently acquired the Pioneer BDP-51 (clone) and I agree with your review.

My reference player in my main HT was the Sony 2000-ES model which for me, was the best player I've ever had. (I've had alot!)...but the Pioneer produces a tad sharper image without looking edgy.

It's also faster loading discs. Some titles do take a long time but that's ok.

The only negative thing I can see so far from my 45 days of use is the remote. It's rather awful. Posted Image Buttons are VERY tiny and for we front projection folks who keep kind of dark theater, it's hard.

I have noticed sometimes lately on sd-dvds that there is an occasional artifacting going on? Been watching Lost Season 1 on dvd and it's looking over processed...like the player is not reading the progressive flag or something? Need to check the settings again I guess.

I think I have it set to Auto...

Haven't noticed this on blu-rays though.

Any thoughts?

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