The SX-LX03’s socket selection is fine if you only have to hook up the Blu-ray deck, but connecting the rest of your home entertainment kit might be tricky. There are just two HDMI inputs, one of which is taken up by the LX08, so if you want to use it as an HDMI switchbox for an upscaling DVD deck, PS3 and Sky HD box, you’ll have to prioritise. There is, however, a decent range of audio inputs – two optical digital, one coaxial digital and one analogue stereo – which should cover the HDMI shortfall. The line up is completed by stereo audio outputs, IR in/out jacks, FM/AM antenna inputs and a bank of colour-coded speaker plugs.
As for the BDP-LX08, it’s equipped with HDMI, component, S-video and composite video outputs, 7.1-channel analogue outputs, stereo audio output and an optical digital audio output. Inside the LX08 are the same components and features as the BDP-LX71, which is great news – apart from the fact that it shares the LX71’s outdated Profile 1.1 spec, denying you the web-enabled pleasures of BD Live. This isn’t particularly clever for a system at this price.
The BDP-LX08 can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, and pipe either as a bitstream to a compatible receiver’s HDMI input. Unfortunately the SX-LX03 doesn’t support either format – which is odd given that the DVD-equipped LX01’s receiver could decode them – but its ability to handle uncompressed PCM over HDMI from the LX08 means you can still enjoy the same hi-res sound quality. You lose the thrill of seeing Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio pop up on the display panel but it’s a small sacrifice.
The BDP-LX08 can play DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG, and it supports the Precision Quartz Lock System, which eliminates jitter when playing back CDs over HDMI (but you’ll need a Pioneer amp for it to work). Among the SX-LX03’s features is a range of Advanced Surround modes with names like Action, Unplugged and Sports, plus two Front Stage Surround modes (Wide 5.1 and Focus 5.1) are on hand for the Front Surround speaker configuration.
Elsewhere there are plenty of picture and sound tweaks that let you calibrate performance down to the finest detail, but less experienced users can opt for the Multichannel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC) mode, which automatically optimises the speaker settings based on test-tone measurements taken using the supplied microphone.
Otherwise, setting up the system is more long-winded than your average all-in-one. The springclip terminals on the back of the speakers are tiny and make it hard to slot in the speaker cables, while the process of connecting up the front and centre speakers is a bit of a pain. But once it’s installed, the player’s beautifully designed onscreen menus and the receiver’s straightforward front display panel lets you alter settings without any hassle. The receiver’s remote controls both the player and receiver (you can ditch the LX08’s zapper altogether) and the switch at the bottom lets you choose which component to control. Despite this, it’s a joy to use thanks to the thoughtfully spaced out and well labelled buttons.