The rear panel is reassuringly busy, teeming with all the connections you need to integrate the player into your system. The standout is HDMI, which outputs all-digital video in 1080p, 1080i and 720p flavours and can also send DVD-A/SACD signals to your receiver. If your amp isn’t that advanced, then multichannel audio can be transferred using the 5.1-channel analogue outputs, which are also used to carry Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks from the built-in decoders – another of this deck’s many talents. You can, of course, send Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to your amp digitally using either the optical or coaxial outputs.
Those with non-HDMI equipped TVs can use the RGB-capable SCART, component video, S-video or composite outputs (though we wouldn’t recommend the latter unless you absolutely have to).
Elsewhere you’ll discover some other nice features, such as the Video Adjust menu that lets you tweak the picture to perfection before it reaches your screen, plus bass management for multichannel audio playback and a range of DSP modes (Rock, Pop, Dance etc) that cater for wacky aural tastes.
As ever, the Pioneer’s user interface is exemplary. It revolves around the central Home Menu screen, which uses jazzy graphics and icons to make it look more sophisticated than the uninspiring GUIs found on too many other players. The layout is also easy to digest, breaking things down into the key areas to help you find things quickly.
Despite the dodgy ghost-white finish, Pioneer also deserves praise for the remote’s instinctive operation thanks to the intelligently arranged and well-labelled buttons. It also helps that the unit is very responsive to remote commands.
And like the operating system, the unit’s performance is also faultless. With the HDMI output set to 1080p and viewed on a Full HD TV, the first thing to strike you is how deep and cinematic the picture looks. That’s due mainly to the excellent black level, which makes objects in the picture seem almost three-dimensional and boosts detail clarity.