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Thankfully, we can't fault the quality once it finally gets the picture on screen. The BDP-320 brings all of Pioneer's usual qualities to bear, such as deep blacks, impeccable detail retrieval, razor-sharp edges and a complete freedom from artefacts, all of which results in a picture that sizzles from the screen.
Its talents are demonstrated by the Angels & Demons disc. The deck's exceptional insight makes the insides of shadowy churches look crystal clear without destroying the dark, sinister atmosphere - the finest details, such as the texture of stone walls, are easy to discern amid the shadows and the corpse of the first murdered cardinal is revealed in all its gruesome glory. But when the action moves outside, Rome has never looked better - the vibrant, faithful colour reproduction and punchy detail give the city picture postcard appeal, and as Tom Hanks frantically dashes from church to church, the Pioneer tracks his motion without even the slightest stutter.
With the Silicon Optix HQV disc, it passes both Jaggies tests with ease, offering some of the smoothest moving diagonals we've seen, and detects the correct cadence of the Video Resolution Test instantly, rendering fine lines crisply and avoiding any strobing. The Film Resolution test threw up some strange results though - the picture was beset by a strange pulsing effect.
We're happy to report that audio quality is of the highest order. It digs out lots of delicate detail from subtle jazz tunes, but really throws its weight behind more up-tempo pop and rock, conveying songs with a snappy, rhythmic tempo, crisp treble and a healthy dose of bass. Movies output in PCM or bitstream sounded incredible on our test system, although it does depend on the quality of your equipment.
The BDP-320 is another impressive Blu-ray deck from the Pioneer stable, which will appease discerning users with its incredible performance, extensive AV tweaks and solid build quality. That said, it's not the easiest player to get along with - although it looks nice, much of the operating system is sluggish, plus discs take an age to load - and having got used to the brilliant LG BD390, the Pioneer's feature list seems paltry by comparison, especially when you consider the price differential between them. But if you care not for bells and whistles and simply want a straight-up Blu-ray deck that delivers stunning picture quality, then the BDP-320 is certainly worth an audition.
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