Unfortunately the USB port can't be used to play back digital media, which is unusual for Pioneer. That means you have to load your files onto recordable DVD or CD before you can play them back. The deck supports DivX, MP3, WMA, JPEG and hi-def AVCHD video, all of which are played using the Home Media Gallery feature.
The LX52 also boasts Pioneer's Precision Quartz Lock System, but this is the first deck that can apply it to multichannel LPCM sound as well as stereo. When connected to a PQLS-equipped receiver, this feature synchronises the digital clocks of both components to ensure jitter-free audio playback. The BDP-320 also offers PQLS, but only for stereo LPCM audio.
Among the other features are 1080/24p output, 48-bit Deep Colour support and KURO Link, which lets you control the player using the remote for a Pioneer TV.
Despite being geared towards enthusiasts, the LX52 won't overwhelm newcomers. Turn it on for the first time and it guides you through the initial settings, including menu language and which output terminals you want to use for audio and video.
Then it checks the audio connection with a test tone and offers a choice of picture presets that suit the type of display you're using - features that show Pioneer really cares about getting the best possible performance from your system.
These display-specific presets (including modes for Pioneer LCDs, plasmas and projectors as well as separate settings for non-Pioneer and professional displays) can be found in the Video Adjust menu, alongside user-defined settings. These include four types of noise reduction, Gamma Correction for improving visibility in dark areas, a detail booster, white/black level adjustments and much more.
The results of your calibration can be saved in three memory positions, which are useful if you want to create presets for different room lighting conditions - day and night viewing, for example. We love this attention to detail and it makes the LX52 the ideal deck for those who are serious about home cinema.
The LX52's operating system oozes sophistication too. The Home menu uses a sultry black background and monochrome graphics, which sounds dull but looks classy. The fonts, menu architecture and responsive cursor movement makes it a smooth operator.
The remote is also up to Pioneer's usual high standards, not only looking gorgeous with its brushed finish and silver menu controls, but also boasting a thoughtful layout. It's packed with buttons yet never feels cluttered and covers every conceivable function, including output resolution and BonusView secondary audio and video.
The Tools button provides quick access to a list of core settings, while Display brings up a useful onscreen banner showing time and chapter info, as well as the AV bitrates.
Past Pioneer players have been very slow to load discs and precious little progress has been made on that front. The LX52 took one minute and 10 seconds to get to Spider-Man 3's Sony Pictures sting, and on a couple of occasions some handshaking problems between the player and Denon AVR-2310 made the process even longer. On a positive note, Pioneer has chucked in a Quick Start function which fires the player up from standby in eight seconds.