REVIEW – Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD Universal Blu-ray Player

By on Apr 15, 2013 in Reviews, Sources

Introduction

Among home theater enthusiasts, the brand Oppo and their line-up of universal disc spinners have long been considered to be among, if not the best or most proficient players on the market. In fact, Oppo’s players are so popular and good at what they do, many manufacturers have either stopped making universal players altogether or have resulted to re-packaging Oppo’s efforts. But what makes an Oppo unique has as much to do with the good folks behind the brand as it does with the components found inside -components that, believe it or not, are not proprietary to Oppo themselves. Though because many of the advancements and chips found inside most Oppo players have become somewhat synonymous with the mark, it’s difficult for a lot of folks to separate the two. What does all this talk of Oppo have to do with Pioneer’s Elite BDP-62FD universal player reviewed here? Well, the Pioneer boasts similar, but not identical, specs and packs many of the same features that many attribute to Oppo. Is it the same thing? Is it comparable? This is what I wanted to find out and why I chose to review the Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD universal Blu-ray player.

That last statement was a bit of lie. I actually had no Earthly idea the BDP-62FD existed, prior to a few days ago. I learned of it when my buddy and calibrator, Ray Coronado Jr. of SoCalHT fame, called me up and asked me if I’d heard of the BDP-62FD. I hadn’t. He then said “I think it’s an Oppo, but for $200!” A $200 Oppo? Color me intrigued. In truth, both Ray and I knew the BDP-62FD wasn’t an Oppo simply repackaged, but like what Xerox has become to the copy machine, and Kleenex to tissue; Oppo has simply become interchangeable with universal disc spinners.

The BDP-62FD from Pioneer falls within the brand’s Elite line-up of products. It retails for $399 according to Pioneer’s own website. However, I’ve since discovered its street price to be far lower than $399 -try $199 to be exact. At $199 for a player sporting Pioneer’s Elite badge is more than enough to get my attention. From the outside the BDP-62FD is a great looking player, very sleek, elegant and not at all cheap in its appearance. It’s also of a standard size, meaning it isn’t one of those thinner than thou Blu-ray players that seem all the rage these days -it’s a real component. The BDP-62FD  measures 17 1/8 inches wide by nearly 4 inches tall and 9 1/2 inches deep. While it appears well built and sturdy, it’s weight is all of 6 pounds. The front fascia features a center mounted disc tray, under which is a clear as day, orange glowing display. There are hard controls for standby/on, open/close, stop and play as well as a front mounted USB input -that’s it. Around back things are even more simple. The BDP-62FD  has two HDMI outs (main and sub), an Ethernet port, a coaxial digital audio output, USB port and RS-232C input. Toss in an AC in and that’s all the physical features and traits the BDP-62FD  has to offer. Simple.

There are two ways to control the BDP-62FD; first, via the included remote, which is long, slender and a decidedly monochromatic affair, and second via a free control App. The App is available for iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded via their respective stores. The App gives the BDP-62FD (or any Pioneer product) touch screen like control over its basic and higher functionalities as well as enables better control and integration with several of its connected options -such as YouTube, Pandora etc. It’s completely free and allows for a higher level of IP based control that the standard remote simply cannot accommodate.

Specifications

The BDP-62FD is, at its core, a Blu-ray player, though it can also play back DVD Audio/Video, SACD, CD and a variety of re-writable media as well. It can support playback of an even wider variety of file formats such as; DivX (.avi, .divx, .mkv), MPEG-4 (.mp4, .3gp), Flash Video (.flv), WMV (.wmv), AVI (.avi), JPEG (.jpg, .jpeg), FLAC (.flac), MP3 (.mp3), WMA (.wma) and LPCM (.wav). Note the BDP-62FD’s FLAC playback support is not compatible via a Network connection but rather when written to disc or played back via its USB input.

Inside the BDP-62FD sports a Qdeo video processor from Marvell, which is similar to what is found in many Oppo players, hence the comparison(s) earlier. It should be noted that unlike the Oppo BDP-103 and 105 models, the BDP-62FD  does not feature any sort of UltraHD or 4K upscaling. The BDP-62FD can support up to 36-bit Deep Color/x.v. Color and has what Pioneer is calling “Triple High-Definition Noise Reduction” technology. The BDP-62FD also has video processing internal to help smoothen out streaming video’s often “rough edges,” though not much info is given on this technology other than Pioneer calling it “Stream Smoother.” There is also a 192kHz/24-bit DAC internal as well as PQLS with HDMI present inside the BDP-62FD. A note on the Pioneer’s internal DAC, it’s listed as a feature on the product’s website, however with no analog audio outs I’m not certain how it is implemented or if it even truly is present in the player itself. I erred on the side of caution and listed it here though I do understand that I continually refer to the BDP-62FD as a “transport” implying it has no internal DACs.

The BDP-62FD is more or less a transport, but it still can send and/or decode the latest surround sound codecs to your AV receiver or preamp such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Other notable features and specs include; DLNA support, DTCP-IP support, iControl ready as well as wireless LAN ready (optional kit required). The BDP-62FD also has a few Internet based content services built-in as standard such as, YouTube, Netflix, Picassa, Pandora and Internet Radio. The BDP-62FD is even 3D capable should you be into 3D. For more info or for a complete breakdown of the BDP-62FD’s features and specifications please visit Pioneer’s website.

Application

There isn’t much by way of alternative or special applications with regards to the BDP-62FD outside of using it as a true disc spinner. I have an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player ($499) and wanted to compare the BDP-62FD against the Oppo since a) that is the question on everyone’s mind and b) the 103 serves as my personal reference. To test this I went ahead and connected the BDP-62FD to my reference rig consisting of my SIM2 M.150 LED DLP projector, Integra DHC 80.2 AV preamp and Parasound Halo amplifiers (A21, A31) powering my Tekton Design’s Pendragon Theater speakers. Both the Oppo and the BDP-62FD were connected at the same time but to different inputs on the Integra, with its (the Integra) internal video processing set to “Through.” The two players were connected via identical 1 meter runs of Monoprice HDMI cable.

I tested the two against each other also connected directly to my 39-inch Vizio E-Series LED display, which resides in my office. The Oppo was connected via HDMI 1 where as the BDP-62FD was connected via HDMI 2. Both inputs were set to the same “Cinema” picture preset and both played the same content at the same time -yes I have multiple copies of the same discs for just this occasion.

Now, because the BDP-62FD lacks analog audio/video outs, I used it purely as a transport, which is also how I chose to compare it to the Oppo BDP-103 -something I’ll touch upon later in the review.

Personal Impressions

Straightaway I loved the responsiveness of the BDP-62FD. It is by far one of the “snappiest” players I’ve ever encountered, possessing load times that beg belief. Blu-rays load much like DVDs of yore with DVDs loading near instantaneously. The BDP-62FD’s OSD was crisp and well rendered with numerous options and settings capable of getting the most out of the player and thus your AV experience. I didn’t much care for the included remote’s highly directional nature as I found it to be less than ideal in anything but direct line of sight situations. Thankfully the free App remote worked brilliantly.

I started by testing the BDP-62FD’s upscaling of DVD content, because after all DVDs are still the most prevalent format on the planet so it stands to reason you may use a player such as the Pioneer to watch a few. As an upscaling player the BDP-62FD  proved to be on par with the best that I’ve encountered so far -my Oppo BDP-103 representing my personal benchmark. In a head-to-head test of the same film, The Notebook (New Line Cinema), I could detect no real differences between the two players, which lead me to believe they are equals when it comes to the quality of their upscaled DVD playback. Motion was largely smooth, though both players, during fast motion sequences, weren’t above showing some judder, but nothing that was too distracting. Video anomalies such as “jaggies” and the like were kept to a minimum, but not erased entirely with certain sequences. Noise levels between the two players appeared identical, even upon close inspection on my 39-inch Vizio E-Series. Details were rendered with the same vigor while color and contrast also appeared similar or the same. Like I said, near as makes no difference the two players put forth the same performance when asked to upscale standard DVD content.

Moving on to Blu-ray content I cued up the Skyfall (MGM), the latest installment in the never ending Bond franchise. With 1080p or HD content there was even less for me to distinguish in terms of performance between the two players. Out of the box I felt that the Oppo had a slightly more nuanced image in terms of low contrast and/or light detail, but adjusting the BDP-62FD image controls slightly put the BDP-62FD  on par with the 103 in this respect. This leads me to believe that the BDP-62FD  does require some image adjustment over its stock configuration, but nothing that is too difficult for the average consumer to achieve. Moreover, you should always check your players for image accuracy before assuming they’re “image neutral” out of the box. With some slight image adjustments made, primarily to picture and contrast, the BDP-62FD doled out a near identical performance to that of the 103.  In truth I couldn’t tell the two apart when viewing HD or Blu-ray content off a disc.

In terms of sound, again as a transport, the surround sound performance of the two units was also equal. Now, many folks extol the virtues of Oppo’s internal DACs and analog output section, yet connect their beloved players up via HDMI and thus negating any and all reason for praise. This isn’t a knock against Oppo fans or the player itself, but if you connect your components via HDMI, which many do, then the 103 (or 105′s) DACs and analog output functionality will mean little. With a sole HDMI connection you’ve turned the Oppo into a transport, not unlike the BDP-62FD and when viewed through that lens, the two are indistinguishable from one another in terms of their sound. This also goes for their two-channel and SACD performance -evident in my tests of both using Tori Amos’ album From the Choirgirl Hotel (Atlantic) on CD and Keane’s Hopes and Fears (Island) on SACD.

The BDP-62FD’s Internet or network connected features weren’t as robust as say the Oppo, but the greatest hits such as Netflix, YouTube and Pandora were still present. Netflix streaming content looked as good as I’ve grown accustomed to via any of the numerous products I have in house that can also take advantage of the service. Pandora music sounded, again, on par with the Oppo and others as well. I wish the BDP-62FD had Vudu support as that is my streaming service of choice, but alas it does not. I don’t run my NAS using DLNA so the BDP-62FD couldn’t “find” it on my network, whereas the Oppo could. Most folks do use DLNA so this shouldn’t be seen as a knock against the BDP-62FD. Still, the BDP-62FD was able to playback my MKV encoded content easily and without incident when fed directly. In truth there really wasn’t much the BDP-62FD couldn’t do that the Oppo could, and in day-to-day use I found the two to be interchangeable. High praise, I think.

What I Would Change

I don’t like the BDP-62FD’s remote and am not sure why it’s so darn directional. There were times where I felt its range was but mere inches and that it needed to be pointed directly at the BDP-62FD’s display in order for it to work. Furthermore, the remote has zero backlighting and is difficult to discern its buttons by touch in a darkened room. Thankfully, there is the free remote App that is provided by Pioneer that works great and even allows for some special functionality such as YouTube control via the App.

I tend to use all my disc players purely as transports so I don’t fault the BDP-62FD for not having analog outputs in the slightest, though I know some may. Would a pair of analog audio outs be nice? Sure, but in today’s predominantly digital world they’re no longer necessary. Like I said earlier, if you connect the BDP-62FD either by HDMI or via its coaxial digital connection, you’re effectively using it as a transport and as such its performance is no different (in my tests) from the lauded Oppo BDP-103 or even 105. Again, as a transport.

Lastly, with UltraHD/4K right around the corner some may want or wish for 4K upscaling. I don’t for a) any UltraHD display you purchase today will automatically be upscaling any incoming signal to UltraHD and b) because even with 4K upscaling the player itself is only ever going to be HD. What I mean by that last point is this, if a 4K disc standard is ratified, it likely won’t be playable via a 4K upscaling player made today as they are but HD disc spinners in 4K disguise. Therefore I simply don’t see the need. You can argue that the scaler inside say an Oppo BDP-103 is superior than one built into an UltraHD set, but honestly, I believe when the time comes for folks to really hop aboard the UltraHD/4K train, new players that do it better than even the 103 and 105 will be available.

Comparable Products

Obviously the only player a product such as the BDP-62FD is going to be compared to are those from Oppo, which I feel I’ve done throughout this review. So I’ll just summarize again, as a transport, near as makes no difference, there was no perceivable difference in picture or audio quality between my Oppo BDP-103 and the Pioneer BDP-62FD. The only differences came when using the 103′s DACs in conjuction with its analog outputs and with regards to its slightly more robust network connectivity and streaming App features. Outside of that, the two players are comparable -though not the same -only the BDP-62FD has a suggested retail price that is $100 lower than that of the 103, with a street price that is much lower.

Conclusion

Ever since the dust up surrounding the Lexicon BD-30, consumers have grown wise to the specialty AV market’s OEM games. Fair or not, we now live in a world where enthusiasts are looking to “find the truth” behind a product’s origins and anytime one appears to offer similar if not identical specs, there is going to be hesitation. This is just the way of the world now. Well, the Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD is not an Oppo in disguise, though because they share similar parts -mainly with regards to their video processor -they instant rivals and therefore will be compared to one another. I own an Oppo BDP-103 and use it as my personal reference every day. I love it. But at $100 less the Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD produces the same level of performance both in terms of audio and video when connected via an HDMI cable. Yes the BDP-103 does offer some added functionality over the BDP-62FD, but where it counts -AV performance -the two are indistinguishable from each other -in my tests and experience.

Therefore it is my recommendation that should you be in the market for a new Blu-ray player and lust after many of the performance benchmarks set by the Oppo, you’d be well served also considering the Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD. At full retail the BDP-62FD cost less than the Oppo, thus making it even more of a killer value. At its commonly found street price of $199, it’s a no brainer, especially taking into account UltraHD’s impending release. I’d rather spend $200 than $500 knowing a new player -an UltraHD one -may be in the cards in 18 to 24 months regardless.