Since Oppo’s exit from the AV industry, Pioneer has stepped up to the plate to fill the gap in the market. That’s why it announced the UDP-LX500 last month, although it turns out that’s not the only 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player the company had up its sleeve. That’s because the firm has just announced its flagship device, the UDP-LX800.

While the UDP-LX500 promised to be all things to all people, the UDP-LX800 is specifically designed for those who want the best audio and video quality from their Ultra HD Blu-ray player. In fact, Pioneer even goes as far as describing as a ‘truly reference-grade product’.

Oppo was a popular brand among custom installers, but Pioneer’s work on audio proofing the UDP-LX500 earned it some fans. Thankfully, the same attention to audio proofing has made its way to the company’s flagship model. That means the mechanical structure of the body has been specifically designed to handle rotation speeds of up to 5,000 rpm, thanks to a combination of a lower centre of gravity and a bunch of other techniques to suppress vibration. This includes:

  • Three-Block Internal Layout (Power Supply, Drive/Digital Processing, Analogue Audio)
    • By separating and segregating the internal layout of the player into three distinct physical ‘blocks’ (comprising power supply, drive/digital processing and analogue audio), electromagnetic interference between each block is hugely reduced. Furthermore, the insertion of a rigid frame structure inside the player, to contain and hold each ‘block’, takes structural integrity to a new level.
  • Solid steel plate top panel & aluminium side panels
    • A solid 1mm thick steel plate is used for the top panel while aluminium – which offers excellent vibration damping performance – is employed for the side panels. This player has been designed, from the outset, to operate without the need for ventilation holes in the top and side panels, a common source of internal noise leakage from transport mechanisms. When this player is in use, it will be the disc’s content that you hear, not the player.
  • A 4.6mm thick, double-layer composite chassis
    • Adding a 3mm steel plate to the 1.6mm thick steel-sheet chassis delivers incredibly high rigidity, as well as enabling a very low centre of gravity. Pioneer’s focus on construction results in a player that weighs 13.8kg (the UDP-LX500 weighs 10.3kg).
  • UHD BD Drive housed in a rigid, honeycomb-stamped case, coated with anti-vibration paint
  • Spring-damped tray – effectively seals and isolates the disc, preventing rotational noise from being transmitted from the drive to the outside world via the front panel.

Oppo-rtunity Knocks

Pioneer’s flagship player is not cheap, in fact, the UDP-LX800 costs £2199. That’s significantly more expensive than its first model, so one can expect a similar upgrade in quality. Thankfully, Pioneer has gone all out to ensure this is the best model it offers. That includes opting for parts and materials that it had tested, prototypes and trialled countless times. Thanks to this exhaustive process, the company is confident that it has created a player offering remarkable levels of electrical and signal purity, all the way from the power supply to the circuit paths taken by video and audio signals.

As an example of this, Pioneer says that these are some of the key areas it has invested heavily in:

  • Large capacity power transformer with excellent instantaneous current supply capability
    • The analogue audio circuit has its own dedicated high-capacity, quick-response power transformer. Combined with carefully selected, custom-made capacitors, it creates a power-supply circuit with a high, instantaneous current supply capability. Undesirable stray electromagnetic waves generated by the transformer are successfully kept in check by a heavily-shielded case. This is formed from copper-plated steel, finished off with an anti-vibration damping coating, to eliminate any possible adverse effects on the video/audio circuit. To break up and eliminate standing waves, the casework of the transformer even features a ‘pressed out’ musical character (a similar shielded cover also sits over the power supply circuit board).
  • Main board design configured to achieve a high S/N ratio
    • On the main printed circuit board, digital noise has been further reduced in order to do full justice to the high speed signal transmission capability of UHD Blu-ray Disc. By adopting a six-layer IVH (interstitial via hole) construction technique for the main board, Pioneer has been able to fully optimise the routing of digital signal wiring and minimise ground impedance, by dramatically improving S/N (Signal to Noise ratio) during the processing of video and audio. This also improves the precision of the high capacity transmission speed of 18Gbps which this latest HDMI standard now makes possible.
  • Audio circuit board dedicated to high-quality sound reproduction
    • The design of the analogue audio section of the UDP-LX800 is directly derived from the company’s flagship PD-70AE SACD/CD player. Both Left and Right signal paths on the PCB are designed with an identical layout, not to mention placement of parts. Much attention has been paid to maintaining an accurate channel balance, an effort that has resulted in excellent separation. Additionally, to make the reference ground level more stable, a copper bus bar is used between the Left and Right channels. The UDP-LX800 employs the same pair of 32-bit, 8-channel Parallel Drive ESS Sabre Digital-to-analogue converters (DACs) used in the PD-70AE, namely the ES9026 PRO.
  • Anti-Standing Wave Insulators

The UDP-LX800 has a comprehensive range of functions which allow users to further refine video and audio quality according to taste. Including:

  • Transport Function for HDMI Output
    • Activating the “Transport Function” completely cuts the power supply to the analogue audio transformer circuit when connecting with HDMI, only keeping the digital circuitry powered up. This enables a further improvement in the HDMI signal-to-noise ratio, delivering even higher quality video and audio playback.
  • Direct Function for Pure Analogue Audio Output
    • The UDP-LX800 is equipped with a “Direct Function” which turns off the digital audio and video circuits. This allows listeners to enjoy high resolution sound sources and CDs with enhanced purity.
  • Video and Audio separated output via 2 HDMI Outputs
  • ‘PQLS’ Jitter-free Sound Transmission with selected Pioneer AV receivers
  • Zero Signal Terminal for audio/video tuning
  • SDR/HDR Preset Mode for optimal performance for the display
  • Media/HDR Information On-Screen Display
  • Dolby Vision (Low Latency Compatible)
  • Balanced/Unbalanced Analogue Audio Outputs
  • Self-Illuminating Remote Control
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