Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Disc Player

Product Review and Rating

Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Disc Player - Front View with Included Accessories
Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Disc Player - Front View with Included Accessories. Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to

Manufacturer's Site

The Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD plays Blu-ray Discs at full 1080p resolution and can provide bitstream output for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD via its HDMI 1.3a output. The BDP-95FD is also fully playback compatible with standard DVDs and most recordable DVD formats, as well as being able to playback standard music CDs and CD-Rs/RWs. Another bonus is that standard DVDs are upscaled via the HDMI output.

The 95FD adheres to Profile 1.0 specifications but does feature direct firmware update capability and home network connectivity via Ethernet. After reading this review, also check out my Pioneer BDP-95FD Photo Profile.

Product Overview

The features of the Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Disc player include:

1. Profile 1.0 Blu-ray Disc Player with 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 Resolution output capability via HDMI 1.3a audio/video output.

2. Multi-Format Playback capabilities for BD-ROM, BD-R/RE, DVD-Video, DVD-R/RW, CD, MP3, WMA, and JPEG photo.

3. Sigma Designs SMP8634 Secure Media Processor for video decoding, deinterlacing, and upscaling functions.

4. Internal decoding of Dolby Digital Plus, Bitstream output (via HDMI) for Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

5. High definition video outputs: HDMI, DVI-HDCP video output compatibility with the adapter. Note: High Definition Blu-ray content can also be output via Component Video (Red, Green, Blue) outputs, at the discretion of the movie studio for a specific disc release.

6. Standard Definition video outputs: Component Video (progressive or interlaced), S-Video, and composite video.

7. Audio outputs: 5.1 channel analog, two-channel analog, digital optical, digital coaxial and HDMI outputs.

8. Ethernet Port for online firmware update access and Home Media Gallery functions.

9. Wireless Infrared Remote Control and Onscreen GUI (Graphical User Interface).

10. Suggested Retail Price - $999

For an additional closer look at the connections and features of the BDP-95FD, also check out my Photo Profile.

Hardware Used

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo RX-SR705 (7.1 Channels), Yamaha HTR-5490 (6.1 Channels), and an Onkyo TX-SR304 (5.1 Channels).

Blu-ray Disc Players: Sony BDP-S1, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player.

DVD Players used for standard DVD upscaling comparison: OPPO Digital DV-983H and Samsung DVD-HD931.

DVD-Rs/DVD+RWs used were made using: Sony RDR-HX900.

CD-Only Players (for CD playback comparison): Denon DCM-370 and Technics SL-PD888 5-Disc Changers.

Loudspeaker - System #1: 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center, 2 Polk R300s.

Loudspeaker - System #2: Klipsch Quintet III 5-channel speaker system.

Loudspeaker - System #3: 2 JBL Balboa 30's, JBL Balboa Center Channel, 2 JBL Venue Series 5-inch Monitor speakers.

Powered Subwoofers used: Klipsch Synergy Sub10 - used with System 1, Polk Audio PSW10 - used with System 2, and Yamaha YST-SW205 - used with System 3.

TV/Monitor: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor.

Monitor calibrated using SpyderTV Software.

Audio/Video connections were made with Accell, Cobalt, and AR Interconnect cables.

16 Gauge Speaker Wire was used in all setups.

Level checks for speaker setups were done using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs used included scenes from the following: Alien vs Predator, Across The Universe, Blade Runner, Crank, The Descent, Enchanted, Hairspray, I Am Legend, I Robot, Meet The Robinsons, Ratatouille, and Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour. Also included was Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds - Live At Radio City Music Hall which was supplied by Pioneer inside the BDP-95FD box.

In addition, both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the Italian Job were used.

Standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: House of the Flying Daggers, The Cave, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, V For Vendetta, U571, Lord of Rings Trilogy, and Master and Commander

For audio only, various CDs included: HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, The Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite.

Content on CD-R/RWs was also used.

Video Performance

In terms of Blu-ray Disc playback, I found the video performance of the BDP-95FD to be top notch. Using the HDMI output and the 1080p setting, I found that the images were razor sharp on the Westinghouse LVW-37w3 1080p LCD monitor used. Examples of excellent color rendition: the Central Park dance scene from Enchanted, and the Carnival scene from Across the Universe. Examples of good shadow and black levels included the dark, moody, atmosphere of Blade Runner and the claustrophobic darkness of The Descent.

One thing I must point out with regards to the Blu-ray playback testing of this unit is that, although the 95FD is capable of 1080p/24 output, I was not able to check this feature, as my monitor cannot accept or display a 1080p/24 signal. All viewing was done with 1080p/60 output signals from the 95FD.

With regards to standard DVD playback (using the 1080p upscaling function), the 95FD came up a little short on some aspects. For the most part, upscaled DVD playback was acceptable. However, when put to a comparison test with OPPO Digital DV-983H Upscaling DVD player using the Silicon Optics HQV Test Disc, the 95FD did not reach all the standard DVD upscaling performance standards of the DV-983H.

The BDP-95FD and the OPPO DV-983H were both set for 1080p output.

The areas were the 95FD matched or was close to, the performance of the OPPO: Noise Reduction, Mosquito Noise Reduction, Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction, Video Titles over film, and the Flag Waving test.

Where the 95FD did not do as well as the 983H, was on Jaggie elimination, Moire pattern elimination, and Frame Cadence detection (including 3:2 pulldown).

One thing to point out is that even though the 95FD did not do as well as the OPPO comparison player, it was on par with the standard DVD upscaling capabilities of the other Blu-ray Disc players used for comparison in this review.

For more details, check out some of the deinterlacing and scaling test results of the BDP-95FD as measured by the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD Test Disc.

Audio Performance

I found the audio performance of the BDP-95FD to be excellent, especially when used in conjunction with an HDMI 1.3a compatible home theater receiver. Onboard decoding and bitstream output are provided for most surround sound formats, as well as undecoded bitstream output only via HDMI for DTS-HD Master Audio, which can be decoded by a receiver with built-in decoders for these formats.

Also, access to Uncompressed PCM audio is provided via both the analog multi-channel and HDMI outputs. If you use the Digital Optical or Digital Coaxial audio outputs, audio access is limited to standard Dolby Digital/DTS and Uncompressed PCM 2-Channel audio formats.

A complete, detailed, chart that explains what types of audio formats are available via the Analog, Digital Optical/Coaxial and HDMI outputs is provided on Page 44 of the BDP-95FD User Manual.

In using all the available audio connection options, audio performance was top notch, given the capabilities of each type of audio connection. However, using the HDMI output connection was by far the most convenient and flexible option when used with the Onkyo RX-SR705 (7.1 Channels) receiver. Two impressive soundtracks were from I Robot, which features DTS-HD Master Audio that was bitstreamed undecoded from the 95FD and decoded by the Onkyo receiver, and Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, which features an Uncompressed PCM 5.1 Channel Soundtrack provided directly from the disc via the 95FD through the HDMI connection.

There was nothing to complain about regarding the audio performance of the 95FD. The only thing that can be confusing, is that although standard Dolby Digital/DTS audio formats can be bitstream by the digital optical/coaxial outputs for external decoding, and other formats can be decoded directly by the 95FD itself and passed in PCM form to a receiver via either multi-channel analog and HDMI output, decoding of DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks require a Home Theater Receiver with HDMI 1.3a inputs with associated audio decoding capability.

So, if you are looking for the best audio experience from your Blu-ray Discs, a new Home Theater Receiver may be in order, especially for any Discs that contain a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.

Home Media Gallery

One of the interesting features of the BDP-95FD is the Home Media Gallery. This feature allows the 95FD to function as a client in a wired home network for access to video, audio, and still image files. In other words, by adding the 95FD to your home network via its built-in Ethernet connection, you can access video, audio, and still image files stored on a PC or Media Server and watch them on your TV or listen to the audio files on your home theater audio system.

Setting up the Home Media Gallery is not difficult, once you understand the requirements. You can use a Media Server or a PC as the host for your network video, photo, and audio files. If you are using a PC, the main requirement is that you have Windows Media Player 11/Windows Media Connect software installed on the PC.

In addition, it is also important to have the BD-D95FD turned-on while setting up or adding to your network so that it can be identified by the host PC, and, in turn, the BDP-95FD will be able to identify the host PC.

For a closer look at the Home Media Gallery, check out my BDP-95FD Photo Profile.

What I Liked and Didn't Like

Amongst the things I liked about the BDP-95FD included:

1. Excellent Blu-ray Disc Video Playback.

2. Excellent audio performance.

3. Ethernet Connectivity for Direct Firmware downloads via the internet is easy.

4. Home networking capability works very well and is easy to use once setup.

5. HDMI1.3a connectivity

However, even though there was a lot to like about the BDP-95FD, there were some shortcomings:

1. Profile 1.0 specification - No Access to Web-enabled Disc Features when present.

2. Standard DVD upscaling quality could be better.

3. Home network setup may be tricky for novices.

4. No SACD or DVD-Audio playback.

5. Pricey.

Final Take

I found that the Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD delivers excellent Blu-ray high definition video quality via its HDMI and Component Video connection interfaces.

When compared the Blu-ray video performance of 95FD against two comparison Blu-ray disc players, the Blu-ray performance was top notch. On the other hand, the standard DVD upscaling performance of the 95FD was acceptable, but fell a little short when compared to two comparison upscaling DVD players, but was on par with the upscaling capability of two other Blu-ray Disc players, and also measured by the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD Test Disc.

The HDMI interface does pass audio signals for most audio formats, including both multi-channel PCM for Blu-ray Discs and 2-Channel PCM for audio CDs.

An added benefit is that the 95FD can send Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio signals in Bitstream form via HDMI, enabling decoding by Home Theater Receivers equipped with built-in decoders for those audio formats.

The 95FD also features direct firmware update capability via the internet (which bypasses the need for firmware update discs), and access to still, video, and audio files stored on a home network (referred to as Media Gallery). Both functions are accessed by a built-in Ethernet port on the 95FD.

However, a disappointment is that although the 95FD has direct internet access, it cannot access web-enabled content that is now starting to appear on some new Blu-ray Disc titles. In other words, the 95FD only adheres to Profile 1.0 specifications.

The BDP-95FD is well constructed and easy to use. Blu-ray Disc video and audio quality are excellent and the Media Gallery is a great bonus. Also, even though its standard DVD upscaling is not the best I have seen, it is about the same as the upscaling capability of the two comparison Blu-ray players. The included Dave Matthews Blu-ray Disc provides a great demo for both the visual and audio impact of the Blu-ray Disc format, with excellent detail and sound encoding. However, the BDP-95FD does have a high price tag: $999.

Taking everything into consideration, I give the Pioneer BDP-95FD a rating of 4 out of 5 Stars.

Manufacturer's Site

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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