Pioneer Adds Elite BDP-85FD/BDP-88FD Blu-ray Disc Players

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Image provided by Pioneer Electronics via Business Wire

Definitely bucking the trend towards budget pricing when it comes to Blu-ray Disc players, Pioneer made a surprise reveal at the 2014 CEDIA EXPO of its forthcoming Elite $1,000 BDP-85FD and $2,000 BDP-88FD Blu-ray Disc players, which are targeted to become available at authorized Pioneer Elite dealers and installers by December 2014.

What You Get For $1,000 or $2,000

To start off, the BDP-85FD and BDP-88FD provides Blu-ray (2D and 3D), DVD, and CD playback (including most recordable formats), and also adds SACD and DVD-Audio Disc playback, as well as compatibility with DTS-CD and AVCHD discs.

Of course, both players are compatible with all Blu-ray/DVD compatible Dolby and DTS audio encoding formats (including Dolby Atmos bitstreams as Dolby Atmos-encoded discs become available).

Both players also incorporate 60p/4:4:4/24bit 4K Ultra HD video upscaling via a "reference converter" that incorporates QDEO video processing.

The BDP-85FD and BDP-88FD also play back digital media files from connected USB Flash drives (both players provide two USB ports) and network sources. File compatibility from those (as well as disc sources) includes:

Audio: AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC, Monkey's Audio (APE), DSD (Both DFF and DSF), AIFF, and ALAC.

Video: AVI, WMV, DivX, MKV, MP4, 3GP, FLV.

Image: JPEG, PNG, GIF, MPO.

It is possible that the players may be compatible with additional formats, but for the time being the above information is what has been provided.

Pioneer is promoting that both of these players provide the best audio playback quality possible, especially on the analog side, with the inclusion of ESS Sabre32 9018 Reference DACs (the BDP-85FD has two, while the BDP-88FD has four that can work in parallel).

Also, for optimum analog audio-only playback quality, all video processing functions can be disabled.

In terms of audio/video connectivity, both players provide dual HDMI outputs that enable the user to run two displays or connect one HDMI output directly to a 3D-TV or 4K Ultra HD TV, while using the second HDMI output for connecting a separate audio feed to a pre-3D or pre-4K Ultra HD compatible home theater receiver.

Also, digital optical, digital coaxial, and analog stereo outputs are provided. The BDP-85FD provides a single set of RCA-style outputs, while the BDP-88FD provides both RCA and Balanced (XLR) outputs.

Also, in compliance with current Blu-ray Disc player requirements, there is no analog (composite or component) video output option. The composite video output that is provided is referred to as a "Zero Signal Terminal for audio/video quality tuning" (most likely accesses setup options and other adjustments without having to use the HDMI outputs for that purpose).

Both players feature Pioneer Elite's rigid construction (such as a double-layered chassis, acoustic dampening tray, and gold plated terminals), but the BDP-88FD adds some additional reinforcement with three chambers internal construction that completely prevents any interference between the power supply, digital processing, and analog audio circuitry.

What You Don't Get

So far, it looks like both these players provide a lot, but there are some things that they don't provide that I have seen on some high-end competitor players (priced notably less) from OPPO (BDP-103/103D, 105/105D), Integra (DBS-50.3), Marantz (UD7007), and Yamaha (BD-A1040).

For example, going with the information provided so far by Pioneer, there is no indication that either player provides access to very much internet streaming content (with the exception of YouTube and Picasa) even they are both network connectable via Ethernet (no mention of Wifi).

In terms of audio, although Pioneer is touting the "excellent" audio playback capabilities of both players, neither player provides a set of 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio outputs for use with compatible home theater receivers or amplifier setups that may not have built-in Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoders.

Also, there is no MHL-enabled HDMI input provided for direct connection of compatible Smartphones/Tablets, or a Roku Streaming Stick (which would come in handy for access to extensive internet streaming content services).

Speaking of HDMI inputs, since Pioneer is touting their "reference quality" 4K video upscaling/processing, it would be nice to connect be able to connect one or two additional sources to either the BDP-85FD or 88FD to be able to take further advantage of that processing capability.

Additional Thoughts

One additional observation is the curious December 2014 release date for these players. I wonder if this is good timing on Pioneer's part. Considering the high price points of the two new Elite Blu-ray Disc players, why release them in December 2014 when the recently announced native Blu-ray Disc format is currently targeted to become available sometime in 2015?

The same customer base that would be interested in the BDP-85FD or BDP-88FD would probably also be the same group that would desire Native 4K Blu-ray Disc playback capability as well, which means sales of the 85 and 88FD could drop off fast shortly after their release (especially if the first native 4K Blu-ray players come in at the same or lower price point), unless Pioneer designed these two players to be fully-native 4K upgradeable via firmware update or hardware modification.

Chris Walker, Director of Product Planning and Marketing for Pioneer’s Home Electronics Division responded my question regarding the release timing of the BDP-85FD and BDP-88FD, with the following statement:

“I believe that the new 4K BD format will not be available until very late 2015 or early 2016. Also, we believe that customers are looking for the best possible BD player for all of the current BD and High-resolution audio content.”

Based Chris Walker's response to my product release date concerns, and taking all else into consideration, if you are looking for high-end Blu-ray Disc player for your home theater setup, definitely make the time to seek out demonstrations of both of these players and decide for yourself if they are the right solution for you, keeping the following questions in mind: Is there enough of a difference between the two players to command a $1,000 difference in price? Is either player a noticeable improvement over their "competition"?

For all the details on both players known so far, read the Official Pioneer Press Release as well as the Official BDP-85FD and BDP-88FD Product Sheets.

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