Pioneer UDP-LX500 4K UHD Blu-ray player review

Pioneer UDP-LX500 4K UHD Blu-ray player review

Last Updated on by Daniel Osakwe

The Pioneer UDP-LX500 is a 4K UHD Blu-ray player with a DVD-like interface and the ability to play other media formats such as MPEG-2 and H.264 files.

Pioneer’s latest 4K UHD Blu-ray player is a step up from its earlier models. The UDP-LX500 offers far more features than Pioneer’s previous players, and it comes with some of the latest technologies to support its high-end features.

Design

Pioneer UDP-LX500 4K UHD Blu-ray player review

It weighs 10.3kg (22 pounds), so it’s a big lift, but its armor-plated chassis and engineered stability will make you feel comfortable.

The device includes two HDMI connectors (one for combined sound and vision and one for separate audio if needed), a USB port front and back, digital audio optical and coaxial outputs, and a pair of stereo phonos.

There is also an Ethernet connection, in addition to RS-232C for high-end home control integration.

In terms of that ‘universal’ handle, it means that in addition to 4k Blu-ray discs, and their regular 2k cousins (including 3D editions), along with DVDs and CDs, the UDP-LX500 will also play SACDs and DVD-As, and decode Hi-Res audio files. In every sense, it’s a media maestro.

Features

4k player

This deck is pretty much plug-and-play despite its obvious sophistication. In spite of this, Pioneer’s User Interface design won’t win any awards. For more years than I care to remember, the brand has operated on a philosophy of dour functionality.

Because of this, the Home menu is a bare-bones affair, made even more barren by the lack of any integrated streaming services, audio or visual. Panasonic wins here with the DP-UB9000.

Nevertheless, there is still much to look forward to. HDR10 metadata from compatible UHD discs can be read by the deck’s disc display feature. It shows Max FALL (Maximum Frame Average Light Level) and MaxCLL (Maximum Content Light Level) information and provides a clear insight into the mastering and display capabilities of 4K discs.  To take advantage of HDR discs effectively, do you need a display with 1200 nits? Not necessarily.

Disk loaders are slick, smooth, and whisper-quiet; you won’t hear any unnecessary noises. When playing movie discs, the deck typically takes just over 40 seconds to go from the tray into the onscreen menu, which is average.

Performance

4k player

The UDP-LX500 delivers an impressive performance at this price point: It shares video components with its reference-grade stablemate, the UDP-LX800, which is twice as expensive, and picture quality is very good indeed. The player conveys astonishing levels of nuance and detail. Blu-rays in 4K are exceedingly cinematic (the opening space battle in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is nothing short of breathtaking), while Blu-rays in HD gain additional solidity.

The HDR presentation is also very good. There is a firmware update expected to include HDR10+ in due course. The deck supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision out of the box. You can even match the deck’s video output with different display technologies, such as LCD, OLED, or projectors. This is an excellent feature.

As a 4K Dolby Vision film, Pacific Rim Uprising (4K Dolby Vision) provides a great opportunity for the deck to show off its HDR abilities. Featuring vibrant, rich colors, the player offers an abundance of color candy and dynamics.

Can the Panasonic DP-UB9000 be compared or even surpassed by the UDP-LX800? There is no simple answer to this question. These two decks seem to be without equal.

Panasonic’s proprietary 4:4:4 color subsampling, with its proprietary image processing technology, stands out when examined under a magnifying glass. As a result, curves and edges are free from stepping, and color detailing is smoother. When viewed from a normal distance, the two models are nearly identical.

Sound performance

In terms of sonic performance, the UDP-LX500 clearly does better than the competition. In addition, there is full audio disc support, which is great if you have a stockpile of DVD-Audio titles or still collect SACDs.

These two venerable formats combine delicious clarity with toe-tapping musicality to create an unforgettable listening experience. Regular CDs can also be played on the deck. Prefer to download it? That’s fine too. High-Resolution Audio files can also be played.

Specifically, the deck has an AKM AK4490EQ DAC that serves as the deck’s analog output. This is not as impressive as the Sabre Reference ES9018 found in the older BDP-LX88, but it’s not that bad either.

There are three digital filtering modes available: Sharp Roll-Off, Short Delay, Slow Roll-Off. While I cannot determine a preference among them, I enjoy experimenting with the subtle tonal differences.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Battleship build quality There’s a cheaper deck from Panasonic
Universal music disc playback No streaming services onboard
HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ support

Conclusion

The UDP-LX500 from Pioneer might come at a price of £999 ($999, AU$1999), but it is a phenomenal player. Easily the best universal 4K Blu-ray player under a grand, this heavyweight home cinema hero is a must-have for high-end upgraders.

There are some caveats, however. Neither its video performance nor its finish are quite as good as that of its main rival, the Panasonic DMP-UB9000. Even so, it has a broader appeal if you value music as much as movies do.