Controlling the unit’s immense range of functions with the busy remote is easier than it first seems. Yes it’s jam-packed with buttons – all of which give a satisfying little click when pressed – but the core menu controls are intuitively placed under the thumb and the lesser-used keys are clearly labelled. Particularly useful are the three Home Media Gallery keys that give you direct access to video, music and photos stored on the HDD.
The remaining functions are too vast to discuss in detail, but highlights include 1080p upscaling from the HDMI output, pause live TV, KURO Link CEC, built-in CD ripping with a Gracenote database for automatic song tagging and a Video Adjust menu that provides an astonishingly detailed array of picture tweaks.
In action, the unit is wonderfully responsive and delivers superb recorded picture quality. As expected, XP+, XP and SP recordings from the Freeview tuner are crisply defined and dazzlingly vibrant, with very little noise to speak of.
Studio-based quiz and chat shows best demonstrate the deck’s video processing prowess, with Countdown on Channel 4 and The Wright Stuff on Five both looking identical to the live broadcast. And of course the whole thing is boosted by some top-drawer upscaling, which almost doubles the vertical resolution of Freeview pictures without introducing any unwanted artefacts.
Even with the high quality video components inside the unit, Pioneer can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, and when using recording modes in the lower reaches of the bitrate range (SLP, SEP) picture quality is riddled with fuzzy, smeary compression artefacts. But even in SEP, the results are still strangely watchable – much more so than some rival recorders’ low-quality modes.
We’re also highly impressed by the sharpness and purity of the deck’s DVD playback, delivering movies on a 1080p TV with the sort of cinematic verve and refinement you’d normally only get from a dedicated high-end player. It also makes a surprisingly decent CD player when used with good quality audio components.
We couldn’t find fault with any of the unit’s multimedia functionality – the CD ripping feature and Gracenote worked flawlessly, files transferred from a PC to the hard disk with consummate ease plus music, video and photo files played back without any fuss.
We defy anyone to spend a couple of days in the company of the DVR-LX61D and come away unimpressed. It’s quite simply a sublime combi recorder that boasts a stupefying range of features, immaculate recording performance and bomb shelter build quality. In fact the only criticism we can find is that the comprehensive functionality might make it too complicated for newcomers to digital recording, but for AV enthusiasts that’s more of a blessing than a hindrance.