Review Price £539.99
Pioneer BDP-LX52 Blu-ray player - Pioneer BDP-LX52
But to be honest, we'd wait all day to watch pictures as good as these. When Hellboy II eventually loaded up, it was clear right from the opening scene between John Hurt and a young Hellboy that we're dealing with a Blu-ray superstar.
The LX52 nails the complex contrast between light and dark in this scene, giving the picture the sort of richness and depth that you simply don't get from most budget players. In fact the entire movie looks absolutely divine - bright, punchy and crammed full of the cleanest, sharpest detail we've seen in a long time.
It's hard to pick a stand-out scene, but Nuada's entrance at the auction house comes pretty close. After the lights go out, the dark, dingy setting is boldly defined and not a single pixel goes AWOL amid the shadows. As Wink strides into the room, his grotesque frame is displayed warts ‘n' all, while the sensitive shading and deft shadow work make him look solid and three dimensional, like he could jump from the screen at any moment.
Our other favourite scenes look similarly stunning, like Hellboy battling the Elemental or the trip to the Troll Market. Detail is rendered with definitive clarity, the colour palette is fulsome and natural, while blacks are punchy and insightful - all of which makes for one of the best Blu-ray pictures we've seen since… well, since the last Pioneer player we tested.
We also chucked I Am Legend into the tray for good measure and the LX52 displays the shots of New York with mesmerising depth and precision. Fast motion and camera pans are also fluid.
Next we loaded up the Silicon Optix Blu-ray disc and tweaked the noise reduction modes as it played the HD Noise clip. We marvelled at how effective they are at taming buzzing artefacts without significantly reducing picture sharpness.
It strolls through most of the other tests without any major problems. The moving bars on both jaggies patterns boast some of the smoothest and sharpest edges ever seen, while the Video Resolution loss test looks sharp and stable. However, the Film Resolution test briefly stutters every now and again and there are some waves of moiré noise as the camera reaches the end of its pan across the stadium.
The LX52 is also a skilled DVD upscaler. Running the HQV DVD at 1080p, feathering and stepping are completely eliminated on the jaggies and flag tests, and detail is crisp throughout. It has trouble with the 2:2 Telecine B test but otherwise it's an assured performance, which translates into superb movie playback - colours are convincing, edges look sharp and there's bags of detail on offer, even during dark scenes.
For sound performance we go back to Hellboy's battle with the Elemental and the LX52 works wonders with the DTS HD Master Audio track, whether it's outputting the bitstream or decoded LPCM. Every scrap of sonic detail contained in this epic scene is conveyed with conviction, from the whirring of helicopter blades to the crashing of breaking glass, plus the expansive soundstage and clear dialogue provide further reasons to break out the chequebook.
The BDP-LX52's relatively high price tag will no doubt limit its appeal to dedicated home cinema fans, but if you have the cash and care about AV performance then we guarantee you won't be disappointed.
This deck has class coursing through its circuits, and delivers demonstrably superior picture performance to most of the budget players we've tested recently. Its BD Live support, extensive video tweaks, suave looks and slick operating system don't hurt either.
Only the slow loading times and lack of multichannel analogue outputs, USB media playback and Wi-Fi give us cause for complaint but the brilliance of everything else makes these drawbacks much easier to swallow.
Scores In Detail