Pioneer is one of the brands that the name speaks its quality. The brand always stays at the high end and the products are far from being “budget products.” Pioneer products are more oriented towards the professionals and do-it-yourself types of people. We also see this in their home theater systems: Pioneer does not offer “home theater in a box.” There is no Blu-ray based product from Pioneer which you can unbox, set up, and go. Instead, you have to pick the individual parts carefully and combine them yourself.
The two products from Pioneer that we will review are the surround speakers and the receiver, which are called “home theater systems” by the manufacturer, and the Blu-ray player, which is sold separately.
Pioneer HTS-LX70 Flat-Panel Theater System (4 out of 5)
Pioneer’s HTS-LX70 receiver in the system from Elite product line has Built-in Dolby® TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, DTS-HD® High Resolution, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-96/24 and DTS-ES Decoders, ensuring that you will have the support for almost all the formats. The receiver has thirteen preset modes for surround and a “sound retriever” to improve the quality of the compressed sounds such as mp3. The Multichannel Audio Calibration (MCACC) is also worth mentioning. A microphone that comes with the system plugs into the MCACC Setup MIC jack on the receiver unit. It measures the ambient noise and sets up the channel delay and level of your surround speakers according to their placement in your room. It’s great that Pioneer includes sound-calibration equipment in the box.
Sirius and XM Radio are supported by the system but the antennas and subscriptions are not included in the package. As for the connections, there are 2 optical sound connections, 1 analog audio in (Left and Right Channels), Sirius Radio in, XM Radio in, 3 HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI output, 1 auxiliary (s3.5 mm) and 1 iPod connection. These additional inputs mean that you can connect your cable TV, Satellite receiver and your game console together to the receiver at once. We have to mention at this point that the HDMI is 1.3a compliant, meaning that you do not have Ethernet connectivity (no network connectivity), 3D over HDMI, or 4096 x 2160 resolution support.
The speakers’ shapes are very compact and unique, but you will immediately realize that they are designed to fit perfectly into corners and on flat walls without any problems. The sound is crystal clear and probably in a quality that you wouldn’t expect from such small speakers.
Now, the best-thought part of the box: a separate display unit. The separate LCD display unit is connected via a proprietary cable to the receiver, enabling you to hide the receiver in a cabinet once you set everything up. However, make sure the cabinet is well ventilated to take away the heat generated by the receiver.
Now, there are the downsides of HTS-LX70 system: First, there is no on-screen display, even with the Pioneer televisions. Second, the price is very steep: the suggested retail price of the set is USD 1800, and this does not include a Blu-ray player. I deduct one point for the high price.
Pioneer BDP-09FD Blu Ray Player (4 out of 5)
Pioneer’s high-end BDP-09FD Blu Ray player is really a high-end product, supporting HDMI 1.3a specification, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution. The audio output is 7.1 analog, which means that if you connect this Blu-ray player to the system we have reviewed above, you will be missing two channels (surround left and surround right). The player supports BD Live and Bonus View (Picture-in-Picture Content) in titles which support this feature.
Both the player’s audio and video technologies are top-notch. Pioneer has not left anything behind in the construction: they have dedicated a separate power supply to the analog audio board to prevent interference from the video circutry and use one Wolfson WM8740 digital to analog converter (DAC) for each audio channel. To be frank, you cannot ask for more, because there is no more than that. No need to say, the system has upscaling feature.
In terms of connections, there is an onboard Ethernet jack, allowing you to reach online content, play online games, download firmware updates, movie trailers etc. and download them to the player’s 4 GB storage. There are two HDMI output connections present on the player: you can connect the player to a receiver or both the receiver and the display device to ensure the purest signal path.
BDP-09FD comes at USD 2200 suggested retail price. The price is too steep for a stand-alone Blu-ray player, therefore I deduct one point. If you ask the cons for this product, I can say that a USB media host would be fine. But, since the player is professional-grade equipment, I am hesitant to write this as a downside.
HTS-LX70 and BDP-09FD are Pioneer’s top products in the market. Both are exceptional in their build quality and their performance. If you can invest USD 4000 (USD 1800 for the home theater system and USD 2200 for the player), then these two products will really be a long-term solution for your Blu-ray home theater system needs. If you are concerned about the 7.1 sound output from the player and the 5.1 sound output from the receiver, you may want to wait for Pioneer to roll out a 7.1 system to the market. If you think that 7.1 and 5.1 do not make a difference, and if you can afford it, just go out and buy these two. You will not be disappointed.