From car stereo decks and professional CD players for DJs to outstanding home-theatre entertainment products like AV receivers, Pioneer completely rules the roost. To add to its ever growing popularity, the brand has started crafting Blu-ray players too, the fact that a large number of movie titles are releasing in this format means that here too Pioneer aims to lead the way in this segment with its Blu-ray players that are dedicated to deliver the energy and liveliness of the large screen within the realms of your living room.
Out of the Box
The Pioneer BDP-440 bears a mature and elegant look on its front face. Unlike other Blu-ray players that we have seen, it does not try to grab your attention with eye-catching design gimmickry or a huge number of buttons, preferring an uncluttered look. If you observe it from around five feet away, you will notice that the golden feet of the product add a distinct amount of finesse. You will feel like you own a player that could've cost Rs. 40,000 but it costs just half of that amount - it is truly apt to say that the looks of the product add to its overall charm.
Pioneer BDP-440's Dimensions
The Pioneer BDP-440 Blu-ray player comes fully equipped to handle a variety of audio video discs and formats. The player supports BD-R/RE, DVD-R/-R, DVD DL/RW along with AVCHD, SACD , DVD audio and CD. If this was not enough, you even have the options of hooking up an external storage device like a pen drive or a HDD, and in these storage devices you can play various file formats like DivX, JPEG, MKV, WMV, AVI, MP3 and WMA. The wonderful part about the BDP-440 is that it houses a 192 kHz/24-bit analogue-to-digital converter, so all your MP3 files that are compressed at 128kbps could get a face-lift. The player does not guarantee that it will make them sound wholesome and intelligible like a WAV track, but with this analogue-to-digital converter you are sure to get a decent output from low-resolution files.
The remote control is a really important component of any hardware. If the controller has a bad design then the impression of the main product also gets tainted. The BDP-440’s remote, at first, seems very daunting because of way too many buttons on it. To add to this, they are closely placed to each other so you have to be careful when using it. You would however like the fact that holding this device in your hand is not a hassle as it is light in weight and it fits comfortably in the palm. It is powered by a pair of AAA batteries.
With a full function remote
When we began connecting the Pioneer BDP-440 to the AV receiver we encountered a small obstruction—the player at the rear panel has optical digital outs. We were on the lookout for a co-axial out too, but we guess the engineers at Pioneer thought that with the presence of an HDMI and optical out, there was no real need to have a co-axial out. Using the HDMI out, we routed the signal to our flat panel via the AV receiver. Once this was done, we adjusted the settings on the player, turned the video resolution to 1080p and hit the play button. We must say that the Pioneer BDP-440 took lesser time to read the ‘Transformers: Dark Of The Moon’ Blu-ray. In fact, within seven seconds the player was on track and all set with the contents of the Blu-ray. From the moment the opening scene started we knew we were in for an audio visual roller coaster ride. The most striking part of the first few minutes with the player was its visual clarity; the scene where the alien space ship crash lands on the moon is striking, the fine dust particles flying upwards from the moon’s surface adds an immense amount of detailing to the entire shot. Also, the stars in the blackness of space add a lot of depth to the overall presentation of the scene.
These black levels were so deep that the separation of stars in space made us feel that we were actually looking at outer space from the surface of the moon, this also worked in a better way for the other colors in the scene because of the deep blacks they too were emphasized quite well. All the visuals of the planet Cybertron were highly detailed; with the Decepticons fighting it out with the Autobots, the entire screen on the flat panel was a warzone and even at the corner of the screen we could clearly see robots fighting it out with each other. Explosions, pieces of metal and gun shots were all over us and we were enjoying every bit of detailing in the image.
The player had the capability of extracting digital data from a Blu-ray disc with utmost accuracy; in fact, the performance levels were pushed to the limits in the climax of the movie which lasts well over 45 minutes. During the end of the movie, we could see that, as a source, the Pioneer BDP-440 kept all its presentation in check. There weren’t any scenes where the audio sounded muddy or sync problems were experienced. What we also noticed was that the player was fast at extracting and processing all the digital data from the Blu-ray disc. Now, this is a commendable feat as the pick-up mechanism in the player was quick at reading almost 19M/ bits of digital audio data (Dolby Digital TrueHD) that was encoded with the video data (bits) too. So, one can actually imagine how much work the Blu-ray player has to do in real-time to make things look accurate and picture perfect. Why is this important? Well, you see, in all action movies, the source has to be up to the mark as there are countless number of audio video details in each scene, like debris fl ying around, smoke and dust particles, facial details in case of camera zoom-ins, scratches and dents on vehicles, etc.
The Pioneer BDP-440 didn’t miss out on any of these details and, like we said earlier, any Blu-ray player has to perform these tasks at an exceptional speed in real-time. The audio quality of the Blu-ray player did not bear a bright sound, the detailed discrete 5.1 channel output with clear highs and a tight bass was just one side of the coin, the other half existed in the dialogue delivery, which we must say was crisp, detailed and had good intelligibility. All this meant that the source was a perfect extractor of all the digital bits that were presented to it by the Blu-ray player.
Now, with all this full HD action and drama, it was also essential to see the BDP-440’s performance on low resolution file formats like WMV, DivX, etc. Sadly, the player did not respond to any WMV file formats although it claims to do so, however it did manage to playback AVI and DivX files. We were glad with the response time of the player, it is important to note that these files do not present too much of a task for most Blu-ray players because of their encoding and file sizes, however the performance of a Blu-ray player matters most in this department too. The BDP-440 did a good job with MP3 and WAV files; it was a pleasure to hear a tight and wholesome sound from various albums that were present in WAV. The music was presented with good detailing; the treble region of the BDP-440 was open and extensive without any hint of distortion or harshness.
Verdict and Price in India
For a Blu-ray player that costs around Rs. 20,000, Pioneer BDP-440 easily excels our expectations; its audio video performance is at par with Blu-ray players that cost almost twice its price. There are a few let downs however, one it doesn’t support a common video format like WMV and two, in terms of connectivity a simple coaxial out was at least expected. But if you stir your senses from these two points, we have nothing major to argue against the player. It truly is a fabulous performer, one that we have not seen so often in this price bracket.
AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news
Updated 23 May, 2013, 8:16 pm IST
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