January 31, 2013

Mid Range Excellence! Pioneer BDP-450 Blu-ray/SACD Player.

The Pioneer BDP-450 Blu-ray/SACD player.

Pioneer has built an enviable reputation with the success of it's range of Blu-ray players. I have being using the starter 3D Pioneer BDP-140 as a reference my self. While it's audio/video performance is very accomplished for the price, I've always wondered, what if I spend a little more $$$ for a step up in performance?

Along the way, came the new BDP-X50 series range of latest Pioneer Blu-ray player revamp, and the model in question here is the BDP-450, which is the middle child, sitting in between the entry level BDP-150 and the exclusive LX-55 top model. The Pioneer BDP-450 retails for RM$1,899.00/unit, so it's really a big step up from the entry level model(price wise). So if the BDP-140 or BDP-150 already offers such good performance levels(assuming the newer BDP-150 is as good, if not better performing), for a mere RM$699.00/unit, what more can the BDP-450 offer?
The Pioneer BDP-450 residing in my HT system.

First up, the Pioneer BDP-450 offers superior build quality, with it's heavier gauge steel chassis(which houses beefier power supplies), all satin black brushed aluminium face panel, chunky audiophile style feet(not the fake plastic ones for sure), and definitely smoother disc loading drawer action. At the back panel, the goodies galore continues with dual HDMI output(for those who want their video signal to flow direct to screen, by passing the surround receiver's video board) for superior picture quality, while the other HDMI output sends audio signals to the said receiver. Is there really a performance upgrade by going the twin HDMI output route? I don't know, I didn't test, but I bet someone would do. I connected the BDP-450 as I would with my resident  BDP-140 for a fair comparison, which means one HDMI cable, sending audio and video signal to my Denon receiver and the second HDMI cable from receiver to my Plasma display.

The only same old, same old part as shared with the BDP-140 and BDP-150 is the hand remote wand, which I can understand Pioneer's decision to keep it as it works pretty well actually. The whole unit looks well put together with nicely aligned panels and centered disc drawer on top of the clearly legible display, which is dim able(the entry level model does that too). Like all 2012 refreshed Blu-ray player models onwards, the BDP-450 also comes equipped with Cinavia anti piracy software pre-installed.
The back panel, 2 HDMI outputs is the main selling point here.

Now we get to the nitty gritty of the Pioneer BDP-450 in terms of video performance, which the colour and picture dynamic qualities are cut from the same fabric as the cheaper Pioneers. There seems to be finer pixels in the darker scenes leading to improved black detailing. I see smoother fast motion scenes, with richer and more saturated colours. Depth of field in panoramic land scape scenes are definitely more convincing. I watched Kingdom Of Heaven Blu-ray disc and came away suitably impressed. I think a more highly regulated power supply section of the player contributed to the performance gains. Still, I thought for so much more outlay, the picture quality improvement ratio did not seemed catch up enough.

However, it is when playing 3D Blu-ray disc that I felt all the extra outlay for the BDP-450 over the lesser models became worth while. Comparing the BDP-140 to the BDP-450 in 3D mode, made the cheaper player's 3D qualities look like card board cut outs, and on certain scenes, more like a cut & paste job! I was using the Monster Vs Aliens 3D Blu-ray animation movie for comparison. With the BDP-450, the 3D effects were smoother and more organic looking, while still maintaining the pop-up effect and excellent layers within a field of depth within the confines of my 64 inch Plasma display. The BDP-450 made watching 3D movies less fatigue and more enjoyable, due to less cross talk, and less noise within the video signal. I used to find 3D fascinating for a 25 minutes only(I start to feel giddy after that) of viewing period with the BDP-140, but I could finish the whole movie on 3D mode with the BDP-450 without much fatigue setting in. I know my kids certainly look forward to more 3D animated movies from here onwards.
It is with 3D movies like Monsters Vs Aliens that the Pioneer show it's capabilities to the fore. The disc loading drawer opens and closes with smooth action.
The Grudge is a scary Hollywood take on Japanese horror, much like The Ring, but only more effective in the script build up and make up & graphics. Sarah Michelle Gellar(Buffy The Vampire Slayer) stars.

Now we get to the audio part, which the first aspect that impressed me easily was the bass, which certainly dived deeper and rumbles more solidly. The stronger bass foundation gives the center chanel a more anchored, less floaty conversation, especially with male dialogue, which feels more manly, with a bit more of that chest. Surround panning effect is more seamless and more easily located, especially the rear surround chanels, which sometimes makes me look back over my shoulder, because I actually thought some one behind was breathing down on me, it's that real! It happened when I was watching The Grudge, an American perspective on Japanese horror, like The Ring, only scarier!

Just for kicks, I played a few music SACDs and found the sound to be highly detailed, musical, rhythmically assured, smooth, and with liquid top end. The sound staging is stretches across my living lounge with good depth. I was of course, playing music thru my Denon/Bose HT system.  The Pioneer BDP-450 would certainly make a great audiophile SACD spinner or transport, if one has a huge collection of SACD disc.
My Denon AVR-1612 AV receiver(top) and Pioneer BDP-450 Blu-ray/SACD player(bottom).

It was during this time that I have to experience Cinavia anti piracy effects on my system. After playing an offending Blu-ray disc for about 20 minutes or so, the player will mute audio output and a message would appear on screen to suggest that you're playing an illegal disc, advising you not to adjust your system set up menu. Apparently, most Hollywood movies released after March 2012 is Cinavia encoded. Otherwise, the Pioneer played each and every legitimate disc or otherwise with no problems what so ever.

Another area I liked about the BDP-450 is the quick start up feature and fast disc loading times. It took less than 20 seconds to start up each time from sleep mode, and each time a new disc is loaded, the smooth closing tray would then take no more than 45 seconds to recognise and load the top menu of the said disc. Older players can sometimes take more than 2 minutes to load a Blu-ray disc top menu upon closing of disc drawer.

I think the Pioneer BDP-450 will do well in a 3D capable HT system, where the said feature is used often enough. It's a player that truly offers a step up in terms of audio and video performance from the entry level units with higher build quality to spare. Audiophiles looking for a reliable CD/SACD transport would not be disappointed with it either. For those with budget AV systems however, the entry level BDP-150 should still offer more efficient cost to performance ratio.

Pioneer products are available at all appointed dealers nation wide.


ahboy said...

if i were to use either the pioneer bdp-450 as a cd transport using the coax digital audio out, how will it fare compared to the cambridge audio sonata cd30 as a cd transport? i don't intend to use the internal DAC in both models, so am using both purely to spin the cds only. any idea?

Big E said...


I don't know for sure which will be a better CD transport to complement your DAC via co-axial. I have not compared.

However, I am using a Pioneer DV120-K DVD player for CD transport duties, feeding signal to Bryston BDA-1 via co-axial and the sound is supprisingly good, just to share.