REVIEW: PIONEER UDP-LX500 4K UHD BLU-RAY PLAYER
We were eager to get Pioneer's new UDP-LX500 4K Blu-ray player in for review. Having owned a few Oppo disc spinners, the burning question on everyone's mind is whether Pioneer can fill the Oppo void. We put the new spinner through its paces to find out.
4K UHD HDR Universal Disc player
Pioneer has been no slouch in spotting the considerable gap left when Oppo halted production of its much-lauded universal disc players.
Furthermore, Pioneer hasn't gone at this half-cocked, either. First out of the traps was the Pioneer UDP-LX500 and then came their UDP-LX800 - much in the same way as Oppo always had the XX3 and XX5 ranges.
As is customary, we have started with the first Pioneer universal disc player to be announced, the UDP-LX500. It may be the more affordable of the two new players, but it isn't stingy on the spec list. This well-built disc spinner boasts CD, SACD and DVD-A skills, high-res audio file playback, UHD Blu-ray as well as extensive home cinema credentials.
Lifting the UDP-LX500 out of its packing carton and that 10.3kg-worth of unwavering stability mentioned in its release notes instantly gains credence.
The DNA of the company's last flagship Blu-ray player, the BDP-LX88, flows through the LX500 with it featuring a 1.6mm chassis base that is further bolstered by a secondary 3mm steel plate. The upshot being the eradication of unwanted vibrations that could affect disc reading.
The rear of the player features a decent range of connectivity options to suit both audio fans and those looking for big screen action. The I/O panel includes a pair of HDMI ports (one for combined sound and vision, the other delivering a separated audio stream), digital audio optical and coaxial outputs, and a brace of substantial stereo phonos. There are also USB ports front and back. Additionally, there’s also an Ethernet port for networking as well as an RS-232C for systems with integrated control.
Finally, Pioneer’s PQLS (Precision Quartz Lock System), which mitigates timing errors over HDMI, comes into play when used with compatible Pioneer AVRs.
All of that sits on four chunky isolating feet shoed with anti-slip rubber pads.
When powered up you are greeted by a user interface that can only be classed as fuss-free. Well, others might call it no-frills or even bland - but not I. However, it is straightforward to navigate, which is one of the central tenants of UI design. Furthermore, not all buyers of the UDP-LX500 are going to be AV geeks. To that end, Pioneer clearly has the 'average' user very much in mind here.
That simplicity goes for the added apps, as there aren't any. So, don't be searching for Netflix, YouTube or the likes listed in the menu.
Now, I considered my Oppo UDP-205 to be reasonably chilled when it came to disc-loading times, but the LX500 almost makes the Oppo look urgent. Super-speedy loading times may not be a top 5 requirement, but I did manage to make a sizable dent in my toffee popcorn even before the main menu popped up.
It may take its sweet time loading, but as that running gear is so smooth and quiet in operation, I could almost forgive it for anything. Even while playing the Pioneer just sat there quietly doing its job without the merest sound coming from its mechanism.
As I was having to trouble my friends (i.e., ply them with wine/beer) to use their 4K TVs, it was handy that the UDP-LX500’s output can be matched to different displays, so LCD, OLED, and even projectors are all covered. The Auto settings were faultless.
Pioneer UDP-LX500 picture quality
The UDP-LX500 doesn’t disappoint once you get the show on the road, or screen for that matter.
The image is sharp even when tracking fast-paced action scenes and there's heaps of detail both when watching HDR10 and Dolby Vision material.
Best of all, for me, is that there was no need to mess with settings to get great results. I may have accidentally sold the UDP-LX500 to two of my friends at least just on that finding.
Natural colours that still manage to pop was the first observation as we skipped through the Planet Earth II/Blue Planet II 10 disc set. Islands, Jungles, and Grasslands from Planet Earth II were spellbinding, as was Coasts from Blue Planet II. The authenticity of the foliage, water, and even fur, feathers and scales looked touchable.
Moving over to Blade Runner 2049 and contrast was treated excellently well. Watching the first scenes on my friend's Oppo UDP-203 and then the LX500 it was tricky to choose a definitive winner.
Spiderman Homecoming comes with HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR encoding on-board. The UDP-LX500 presented vibrant colours and fantastic detail. I can only imagine what Spring's HDR10+ update will look like on a compatible telly.
Upscaling on the UDP-LX500 is also excellent. HD Blu-ray such as my much loved Akira disc, and even DVDs, look good. Playing files from your network is dependent on the quality of the source, naturally. I can only admit to a mixture of hits and misses, but I am putting that down to my own collection's mishmash of copies.
Pioneer UDP-LX500 sound quality
If you thought that we were done there, think again. The UDP-LX500 isn’t just all about being a proficient 4K Blu-ray spinner, it’s also non-too shabby at playing music too.
The LX500 will happily play your Super Audio CDs, DVD- and Blu-Ray Audio discs, as well as regular CDs. Great news if you are like me and are always willing to give a variety of formats a go.
The player employs an Asahi Kasei AKM AK4490EQ DAC for stereo duties and it does a great job. Additionally, the power supply, digital processing, and analogue audio have all been segregated to minimise interference. Just as you would expect from any of your audiophile components.
Slipping on Bjork's Vespertine and selecting Pagan Poetry the standard CD playback is anything but standard. There is an organic warmth to the presentation.
Furthermore, to aid your personal sonic choices, there's a trio of digital filtering modes; namely Sharp Roll-Off, Short Delay, and Slow Roll-Off.
Swapping Bjork for an SACD of Getz/Gilberto and the LX500 raises its game considerably. This half-an-hour of jazz bossa was over too quickly. Instrumentation came through incredibly naturally.
Stereo imaging is also excellent as displayed when Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on Pure Audio Blu-ray was loaded. It really is a great player.
Pioneer UDP-LX500 review conclusion
The UDP-LX500 offers excellent video and audio playback from practically any disc for just over US $1,000.
4K UHD looks terrific, and even music playback is confidently better than some dedicated players. The Pioneer UDP-LX500 gives you an awesome UHD HDR player and fantastic audio disc spinner all in one unit that's widely format-friendly.
Add to that the fact the player is wonderfully put together and vibration-free with a clear user interface, and it makes the LX500 one well worth checking out.
We're also lucky enough to have our hands on the UDP-LX800, so stay tuned for the upcoming full review on LX500's upper-tier sibling.
For more information, go to Pioneer.
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