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Pioneer Blu-ray Testimonials
Unsolicited Customer Testimonials -Every client has paid The Upgrade Company LLC in full. No kickbacks, no commissions, no fees of any kind for recommending our products and services.
My horrible experience with Dan Wright of ModWright by Dr. John M. Read
I was inspired by reviews I’d read online, more notably the recent 205 Oppo tube conversions. Customer reports were strong in one major area... sound quality. So I was really looking forward to the first upgrade he would perform on a Pioneer unit which I favored to replace the Oppo 205 based on my ownership of the previous best-in-class Pioneer LX88 which beats the Oppo 205 hands down picture and sound but doesn’t do 4K. I reached out to Dan, he offered a special price promise to upgrade the new 4k Pioneer Elite flagship $4999 LX-800 player. Despite not knowing how much I was in for, I purchased the LX800 from the UK and sent it over to him for less than the list price. Arrival to him was December 3. A good start.
Dan describes his approach to the upgrades as follows:
“My intent with this player, as it was with the UDP-205 is to simply completely redesign the 2CH analog stage and likely use tubes and transformer coupling to do so, with zero global feedback.
I always look at the power supplies also and any improvements that I see can be made. Given how these units are made these days and the advancements made in clocking, I feel that we are talking about very incremental improvements. There is also the very real possibility of damaging the board or making it unreliable in the future, due to the fact that all of the digital circuitry and power supplies have tended to be mini surface mount technology. I will give you an idea of scope and quote before I do anything to this player. I will first evaluate it stock and then look into it and see what I feel its best route for upgrade is.”
Well I didn’t hear from Dan until next January 21.Dan’s next message to me was a shock... he sent me the following news that he had finished the upgrades. Hang on a darn’ minute. He’d bulldozed me. My choice to reject or accept the upgrades, and my right to approve any associated costs were gone.
Replaced by this:
“Hi John, I am just about done with the Pioneer LX-800 mod. I did not change the stock supplies. All that are still used are well done! Some capacitor upgrades are made, but no re-design of the supplies.
Shielding and damping will not be done because this is already well handled by the stock design! I will add some damping to the top panel, but that is it. No changes to clock or digital circuitry. PCB is 6-layer and clocking is all already well designed!
Add our own tube analog stage (same circuit as UDP-205) with fully balanced and RCA outs, Lundahl transformer coupled in and out.
Add our own high voltage outboard power supply and custom 4-pin umbilical.
Signal is taken right from the DAC chip to our custom tube audio PCB and all stock 2CH audio circuitry is bypassed.
Retail price for the mod: $2500. Your price = $1500.”
Well this is the second time I have experienced someone play me out in this business. This is his arrogance on show for all to see. On the other hand, his simple wish to be smart and dominate the client was his play. He ignored my rights and went ahead to mod first. Immediately, he demanded I pay his invoice. I’m screwed right there.
You might say hang on John look at the discount he’s given you. I’m sorry these numbers are made up. There’s no reference or record on his invoice he’s given me listing cost of the parts used or labor used. It’s too late my friends. He’s taken a screwdriver and a machine cutter and hacked my Pioneer without my approval as he promised. My stock Pioneer is gone, replaced by his decision to proceed without my approval. Next comes...?
Here are Dan’s listening notes he published without my permission on 5 December in Audio Circle & FaceBook based on listening to my unit:
“OK, some listening notes, comparing STOCK Oppo UDP-205 to STOCK Pioneer UHD LX800. Format: Redbook CD Same cabling, preamp, amp and speakers.
The Pioneer LX-800 compared to the Oppo UDP-205, again, both stock, Pioneer has a greater sense of detail, resolution and refinement. The 205 is slightly warmer and by comparison, just a bit more subdued. It is hard to explain. The Pioneer simply sounds very refined! There is a delicacy and very fine low level detail and resolution with the stock LX800 that I don't hear in the stock 205.
As I proceed with this mod, it will be my goal to absolutely retain this low level detail and refinement. It is the quality that I hear when the noise floor is EXCEPTIONALLY low. It is also not in any way bright or aggressive, which suggests very low jitter and distortion.”
I accepted his listening notes. I arranged transport direct from a UK supplier to him in the Washington state USA. And his notes before his mod align with my experience of my upgraded Pioneer LX88 I own that’s been upgraded by David Schulte of The Upgrade Company with fabulous results. For comparison purposes, I list the evaluation and listening notes from David’s experience of this unit and from another of David’s clients following her completion of SE upgrades to her Pioneer 88 to remove RFI and EMI from the circuitry and maximize the unit’s potential.
“Yes the identical Pioneer LX88 240v or BDP88 120v version are indeed better built and higher performing over the Oppo UDP-205. I just had both here side by side. The Pioneer has superior picture I literally just A-B’d them. Customer has sent her Pioneer BDP-88 SE over for upgrading. I had a demo Oppo 205SE at the time. I let it go because the Pioneer 88SE killed it sonically and the picture on my 60” plasma was better: 205 had noisy edge outlines and colors not as film like: very slight grain and washout. Pioneer sounds a lot better on XLR/RCA analog outs”
The third reference relevant here is one of the first independent reviews of the LX88 by Home Cinema Choice (HCC). Some key features presented are the case design, the isolation built in, quality of parts and the sound signature. Overall HCC was described as “Quite possibly the finest hi-def disc player in the world right now.”
https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=161098.20 (Registration required)
For balance though, check out this other review at What HiFi that was partly but selectively disappointed in the stereo of the very same unit: “A stellar movie performance, but its stereo performance and lack of streaming apps let it down”
Moving directly to the issue What HiFi raised:
“Hooking up the LX88 into our reference hi-fi system we hear plenty of detail, and it’s demonstrably better rhythmically than a cheaper Blu-ray player, but it’s not a performance that we’d recommend swapping out for your stand-alone CD player.”
This poor stereo sound issue was very clearly addressed by the SE upgrades done by David at The Upgrade Company. His EMI RFI riddance upgrades took this unit from good to great. In my case it now exceeds my similarly upgraded Oppo103D SE for sound by a mile of audible difference. It is on a par with my external PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC with similar RFI EMI RIDDANCE SE upgrades exhibiting extended lows, sweet mids and ample clean highs with nice decay, strong dynamic range, a very wide & deep soundstage characterize these two latter units. By eliminating unwanted noise in these units they have far more power supply storage in any given millisecond required and are free to process only the music signals not billions of RF pulses atop the music signals. Once SE Upgraded by The Upgrade Company, they present their true sound signatures. They are marvelous units now.
My plan was to follow up the ModWright upgrades to the Pioneer LX800 with The Upgrade Company’s SE Upgrade & EMI RFI RIDDANCE technology upgrades to make a super LX800 player at a modest cost. Total under $6K.
Listening Part 2:
After paying for the modded unit; what choice did I have now? I arranged for shipping to my next upgrade plan. I knew David at The Upgrade Co. will give it a listen before he does his work. And I waited some more.
Meanwhile Dan sent me the following message:
“Thanks John, I will write a review of how it compares to the 205. It sounds like you are having fun with your system. Please acknowledge that our warranty is rendered void after another person further modifies the unit. I do this simply to protect our selves. I am certain that you will be very pleased with this. Take care,”
I guess having my money already in his pocket, and sharing results online before he shared them with me as unit owner enabled Dan to profit from my investment quite handsomely.
This is only beginning of my experience. My next stage was another shock. First was to be ignored and mods done and pay for them without my approval. Bad enough first customer experience with Mr Renowned Tube Modifier, right? Next came David Schulte’s listening notes.
I have known David at the Upgrade Co. since January 2015. He has always provided me with sharp accurate opinions that proved to be spot-on once the unit was home in my system and A-B’d. I have committed to a fully EMI RFI Ridded system under his guidance over the past four years. And I always hear the differences. As a Community Tenor Singer and audio hobbyist since my father built his own 3-way speakers and hifi system when I was a young teenager, I understand the audible differences in minutiae of music and sound. Maintaining pitch and accurate choral timing are fundamental skills I’ve learned.
David gave me the news that he would refuse to do any upgrades on the unit. What? As his regular customer I had to wonder what was going on here.
Here’s a sample of David’s feedback:
“This ModWright Pioneer is ruined sonically. It’s worse than stock. Here are 2 audio file A-B’s against my SE’d McIntosh player same TimePortal Cable power cords XLR’s HDMI’s dual cd’s. Pioneer has no deep bass weak mid bass flat dynamically spatially and no highs... Its been on already an hour. John I think I’m going to have to send it to you without SE Upgrading so you can hear for yourself and compare the video on your SE’d RFI EMI Ridded Pioneer BDP-88. I can’t associate my name with this thing. Frankly it’s worse than stock.”
The Upgrade Co. did leave the ModWright to play on repeat for over 200 hrs to give it a chance to burn in more with no apparent improvement in sound quality results. David pointed out that it appeared from the dust and finger prints from ModWright that Dan had played it a lot before sending it to him. Even after 200 hrs of additional running in on repeat, David reported to me that the player is now seriously compromised. It is still vastly underperforming on all formats of analog and digital audio and video versus a stock previous model Pioneer Elite BFP-88FD which it replaces as Pioneer’s top of the line player. He noted even his demo Oppo UPD-203 SE embarrasses it on 2ch CD and SACD. He asked me what I wanted to do.
Holy crap Batman.
Further inspection by David of the ModWright Pioneer unit, showed the following:
1- Dan Wright did not upgrade anything in the Pioneer’s power supply or digital boards. Just cobbled on his tubes board & external power box to power the tubes. Lies.
2- Dan did not do the basic upgrade to the power IEC inlet wiring or fuse. All remain stock and ungrounded. More lies.
3- No shielding, attenuation nor damping was done to anything despite the significant addition of a rats nest of unshielded wiring & external power supply installed per usual by ModWright.
Dan is still oblivious to the huge impact of his additional circuitry & wiring acting as massive RF & EM antennae. Feet of it. Cellphones have mere millimeter antennae. Now due to the greatly increased RFI EMI contamination brought into the player out of the air into the myriad of unprotected power supply and signal wiring jammed into this stock unit, the resulting overload of all active devices and subsequent constant rapid draining of power supplies made this unit the absolute worst it could be. Much worse then a stock it turned out.
Here’s another concern. Dan in an email to me, wrote: “I ask because I did find the unit has a very odd grounding scheme and before I resolved it, I was indeed hearing just what you described. No bass, no better than a transistor radio at best. It took me a while to work it out but I did.” Lies. The unit isn’t even grounded. Its still got a 2- prong factory IEC. Not a high end Furutech NCF the best IEC made.
Dan stated he had difficulty working out the power circuit. Hang on a minute... what is he doing working on my unit if he doesn’t have sufficient experience to understand the Pioneer circuit design? The mains outlet does not even have a ground! It’s simply a hot and cold wiring supply in stock format. Dan didn’t even GROUND the Pioneer! How hard can that be...? Hmmm...
Dan did not inform me there would be NO warranty until after he had completed the mod and demanded that I make payment. I did and this unit is worse than stock by a very significant margin. And there is no recourse ore recovery for my investment in his services.
I’m very sorry to say this, but I feel this is the work of a charlatan. It’s why I explain in detail what he did to me. How he did it, and the results of his work. I know many others buy and seemingly enjoy his products. In this case, my case, Dan made this unit into a complete dud and demanded I pay for it first. It’s a paper weight with two boxes to ship. And I never expected this treatment nor this result from him. Video, digital and analog performance behave like a small handheld MP3 player. I’m not kidding.
I’m going to arrange for as many people as possible to listen to this unit and make up their own minds. It is a disaster. And his feeble attempts to offer to take the unit back and replace it with a new one while keeping this one and my $1500 plus shipping is astonishing behavior.
So I arranged for David to ship the unit to me untouched. And a couple of weeks later it arrived to me. That evening I unboxed it and wired it up in place of my Pioneer LX88 SE player this new LX800was intended to replace. I have high grade TimePortal fully shielded power cables, XLR interconnect and HDMI cables (pictures below). I put in my favorite demo discs, including a recording of classic songs from the Singapore International Sound and Sight Exhibition 2014 (titled: The Stunning Experience of Dolby Atmos). The quality of these recordings is exceptional. They define my HT and Stereo systems beautifully.
I run two systems, a stereo system and a home theater system. The stereo system comprises of SE upgraded Oppo 103D, SE Upgraded PS Audio PerfectWave DAC as digital sources into a SE’d Burmester 897 preamp on to my SE’d Pass Labs XA25 amp. Speakers are the venerable Viking Acoustics Berlin R Type II’s (MSRP $20K). All cabling is by TimePortal Cables.
The HT system comprises the Pioneer LX88 SE’d and a stock Cambridge CXUHD for 4K. They feed a SE’d Marantz AV-8802A, SE’d Marantz MM8077 7ch amp and untreated Emotiva XPA5 Gen 1 being sold to buy another SE’d Marantz MM8077. Again all cables & power cords are TimePortal Cables uniquely treated for EMI RFI rejection and extraction.
The Upgrade Company Pioneer LX88 bests the older Oppo 103 SE and the untreated CXUHD by miles for audio and video. It beats my stock $10k Esoteric K-03Xs CD SACD. Quite serious differences and deficiencies are seen and heard in the LX800 ModWright unit. For the LX88, the audio and video signatures of blu-rays are so much better than 4K through the untreated CXUHD. The LX800is now compressed so badly its unusable. What on earth?! And my initial reactions are I feel like I have been seriously abused by Dan Wright given what he has done to me and to this unit.
Here’s my immediate feedback to Dan sent after my first listening experience:
“The bass has been sucked out of the unit. It has no bass whatsoever. I’be run a Pioneer LX88. It has huge bass wide soundstage and huge presence in comaprison. PRAT in my LX88 is significant across the frequency range. It reaches to top highs and lowest lows with ample space and room. Sounds fabulous. Your tubed modified unit does not have any presence. It has lost the high frequencies and the to upper bass & lower midrange has pretty much disappeared. Volume equalized. It’s like listening to a mobile device playing mp3.”
By this stage I’m devastated, hugely disappointed. And angry.
I write to tell Dan my feelings and discuss next steps. He advises among other things: “We offer a modification that replaces the stock 2CH circuitry with a tube circuit. You agreed to this and this is what we did. I have verified that it sounds, to my ear, exceptional.” As I explained earlier, he did not give me a quote and ask for my approval before going ahead and modifying the unit. Despite his written promise to do so.
Here’s his deal for me now: “Thank you for that explanation. I simply wanted to know what you were hearing that was wrong. I can tell you that my listening experience was quite different. Perhaps the unit is not operating the way that it was when it left here. It is also possible that the sound of this unit is simply not to your taste and I can accept that if so.
Please send it back and I will listen to the unit. If I find that the unit is as we sent it out, and it is simply a matter of you not liking the sound, no problem. I will then gladly replace it with a stock unit. So let’s proceed with that. I don't want you to be unhappy with your purchase. I am surprised at your listening impressions, but I also acknowledge that we all prefer different things.”
Why would I pay him $1500 for modifications I considered a failure and send him back the unit if he is unwilling to give me any money back or proper restitution? Whether I offered to do this and changed my mind or not? I came to my senses! Why would I gift this disaster and reward him for his behavior? Not a chance. Would you?
If he was serious about his work, he would give a full and complete refund. Especially since he cheated in the first place by upgrading without my approval as he promised to secure before starting work. Is this someone you want to work with? And he happily writes up favorable reviews of his work on his favorite audio forum: Audio Circle without asking my permission or sharing the information with me. At my expense.
He then reached for other explanations asking me to investigate the earthing claiming that the unit has an issue. I asked David who had taken photos and he shows me that the unit has no IEC Ground lug. Second, Dan having raised the issue, later says: “I ask because I did find the unit has a very odd grounding scheme and before I resolved it, I was indeed hearing just what you described. No bass, no better than a transistor radio at best. It took me a while to work it out but I did.” So having claimed the unit was at fault, now he says he fixed it. This communication makes me doubt him and his skills. You think after all the reviews that the power supply in the LX800 was faulty? Not likely Mr Wright. Am I wrong to expect a far greater level of design and customization or as in this case, he mods my unit with his same Oppo design parts than makes me pay and talks about his design not fitting the stock unit without “resolving it”. Tough shit. (Turns out his Oppo Tube mods actually sound just as bad as this Pioneer he praised as sounding “excellent”)
If I remain angry its because of this repeat behavior all across this transaction with him. Followed by the dud I have received in return. I hired Dan as a supposed renowned HiFi expert upgrader to do his best work on a new release player in a highly visible marketplace and it sucks. I’ve strategically offered him a powerful opportunity to demonstrate his custom work skills. Instead he has simply dropped an existing design from another very different player – the Oppo – into this design. No further modifications done to this design except resolving a power unit issue that he couldn’t understand. And in the process he’s screwed me and my unit.
Dan Wright and his business ModWright are better branded as ModWrong. And I don’t wish for you to have the same experience that I’ve had here. Go elsewhere for your upgrades.
And if you want my recommendations just ask me. David Schulte at The Upgrade Company is far more capable, successful and experienced and they always give 30 day in system return period.
I have since hired a 3rd party laboratory to perform a full set of measurements on this ModWrong Pioneer LX800 unit, a new stock Pioneer LX-800, and a new SE’d LX-800 version by The Upgrade Company. No bias just the facts to present to me and the public. I will discuss in a future release, but for now ModWright has become ”ModWrong”. I can NEVER recommend him. He has destroyed value in this sector and his reputation for me and those I know. I’ll be sharing this experience with others to try to help them to avoid making the same mistake I did in hiring Dan Wright. Damn wrong.
Dr. John Read
PS Upgrade Co have taken in a number of ModWrong Oppo’s on trade-in and they report they all sound nearly identical to this Pioneer. Oppo ModWright customers: You’ve been screwed by ModWright. You’ve no idea what your missing and how bad your player sounds and what poor video quality you’ve got versus an Upgrade Co. player. No comparison try it.
The SE upgrade to the Marantz PM10 integrated amp was also a game changer.
I had the stock PM10 in my 2ch system for more than a year before the SE upgrade. The stock unit, which is impressively built, sounded decent enough, but it was slightly dull and lacking in finesse. After the SE upgrade, the first thing that struck me was how palpably real and present instruments sounded, especially drums and strings, with blistering attack and graceful decay. The background is now truly black, and the sound is also so much smoother and more coherent. Initially I had a hard time believing I was listening to the same amplifier I’d sent them.
REVIEW: PIONEER UDP-LX800 FLAGSHIP 4K UNIVERSAL DISC PLAYER
Pioneer's UDP-LX800 Universal Disc Player's announcement was timed almost precisely after Oppo announced its exit from the Blu-ray player market. We put the flagship offering from Pioneer, the UDP-LX800 through its paces.
UNIVERSAL DISC PLAYER
I loved my Oppo disc players as much as the next AV geek, but there’s no denying that since the brand shock-exited the market last year, things have become interesting in the world of high-end disc players.
There have been a few manufacturers trying to fill the hole that was left since. Panasonic, for instance, is now on their second round of such players with the release of the UB9000 in November 2018.
Not to be outdone, Pioneer also launched its £999 UDP-LX500 universal disc player, which we reviewed in December. Not content to stop there, Pioneer then announced the release of its flagship £2,199 UDP-LX800.
While it’s hard to convince all but AV purists why they need to spend more than a few hundred bucks on a universal disc player, I imagine many AV purists are going to face the same dilemma when considering the LX-800.
The very same question was on my mind too. Why on earth would you want to shell out nearly four times as much as I paid for the Oppo UDP-203, and how much better could it really be?
Industry veterans, Pioneer, needs little in the way of introduction. Just in case you haven’t spend as much time in the AV scene, be assured they have serious credentials behind them.
In addition to producing AV receivers, Pioneer has also played a hand in the development of the compact disc (CD), laser disc, DVD, plasma and OLED technologies. Pioneer’s plasma televisions were legendary, offering a level of performance that out-classed most if not all other TVs of the day.
Pioneer also has a reputation for producing excellent DVD and Blu-ray players, both at the budget and higher-end price points. So, although £2,199 is a pretty big pill to swallow for a universal disc player, if anybody can pull it off, Pioneer can.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The Pioneer UDP-LX800 offered up its first surprise as I lugged it down a couple of flights of stairs. Weighing 13.8 kg (probably closer to 15kg in the box), I was very aware of what I was carrying.
That’s the sort of weight you’d typically associate with a half-decent AV Receiver that’s packing multiple channels of amplification. It’s also 9.5kg heavier than my own Oppo UDP-203 and nearly 4 kg heavier than Oppo’s flagship UDP-205.
As I soon discovered, most of the weight is due to the outstanding build quality of the player. The UDP-LX800 sports a 1mm steel chassis, which is further reinforced by 3.6 steel plating. Both sides of the unit are aluminium, commonly used for its ability to dampen vibrations.
The LX800’s rigid construction creates a lower centre of gravity and reduces vibration. Furthermore, Pioneer has eschewed the use of ventilation holes, to reduce noise emanating from the disc mechanism.
The UDP-LX800 features a three-block internal layout, consisting of the power supply, drive/digital processing, and analogue audio. The player has been designed in this way to reduce interference between each of these three key areas.
It also uses a six-layered internal circuit board, touted for its ability to eliminate digital noise. It features the very same analogue section as found in Pioneer’s PD-70AE Super Audio CD Player.
The front fascia of the UDP-LX800 is finished in the same brushed-black aluminium that is commonplace among AV components. This means the LX800 shouldn’t be out of place with the other gear in your rack. On the left of the player is a large power button, which is illuminated by a blue light when the player is turned on, and a USB input.
The centre of the fascia is dominated by a large LED display and the disc-drawer, which is the largest and most solidly built disc-drawer I have ever seen. To the right of the screen are fast forward/rewind, skip, stop, direct (more on this later) and play/pause buttons.
The rear of the unit has two HDMI outputs, the second of which is capable of delivering a dedicated audio signal. In addition, there are digital audio optical and coaxial outputs, USB in, ethernet port, RS-232C, RCA unbalanced analogue outputs, XLR balanced audio outputs, and a zero signal terminal.
I was intrigued by the zero signal terminal, which Pioneer says that when connected to an unused audio input on the AV receiver, it aligns the reference level (GND) of the AVR to the UDP-LX800.
Surprisingly, at least initially, was the absence of multi-channel analogue audio outputs, particularly for a player at this price-point. The big takeaway from this is that the UDP-LX800 is designed to provide superior two-channel and HDMI playback.
The UDP-LX800 supports HDR 10, Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ via a future firmware update.
In terms of build quality, the UDP-LX800 offers sublime build quality and without a doubt, is the best I have ever seen from any disc player.
As with all disc players, installation is pretty straightforward. Taking the place of my Oppo UDP-203, Pioneer’s UDP-LX800 was connected via HDMI to my Denon AVC-X8500H which in turn powered custom built VAF custom i91 front and centre speakers, i90 rear speakers, Sonique in-ceiling speakers and two 10-inch VAF Gravitas subwoofers.
The video was delivered by a Sony VLP-VW270ES projector, projecting onto a Severtson Cine-Gray 100-inch 16.9 fixed frame screen.
On startup, you’re greeted by a setup menu which is rather utilitarian in appearance. Here you’ll find the usual setup questions, such as language, resolution and screen size. While I was satisfied with how the initial setup configured the UDP-LX800 for both SDR and HDR playback, it’s worth double checking everything in the Initial Setup menu.
Like Oppo’s UDP-203 and 205, you won't find Netflix, nor for that matter, any other apps tucked in amongst the UDP-LX800’s menus. Instead, Pioneer has done away with these to focus on one thing- the very best in terms of disc playback.
A quick tap of the Video Processing button on the remote will allow you to adjust Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Chroma Level, Sharpness, DNR and HDR-SDR Adjustment.
HDR-SDR Adjustment allows you to tell the UDP-LX800 the target brightness of your display in increments from 100- 700 nits. Here you can also tell the player the type of display it’s connected too (LCD TV, OLED TV, Projector, or Reference, and allow it to process the video signal based on what it deems best for your display type.
Setting the signal to ‘Reference’ will pass through the video signal without any processing applied (except for scaling etc.). Apart from the ability to specify the display type, the UDP-LX800 lacks an HDR optimiser function.
There’s also the option to change the player to either ‘direct’ or ‘transport’ - the latter turns off the UDP-LX800’s analogue circuitry.
With the Pioneer UDP-LX800 installed, my Sony VPL-VW270ES was calibrated for both SDR and HDR playback.
While there is the ability to either dim or switch off the entire LED display entirely, there’s no way to switch off the blue light around the power button. If your gear is out of sight, or in another room, you're probably not going to care, but if, like me, you need to control the light in your home theatre, it’s an annoyance.
The remote control that accompanies the UDP-LX800 is simple enough to use and backlit, which is a very welcome inclusion.
PERFORMANCE AND PLAYBACK
Combined with my Sony 270ES, the UDP-LX800 produced stunning images. Rich, detailed and with vibrant colours, the UDP-LX800 matched the image quality of my usual Oppo UDP-203. Likewise, used as a transport, the audio quality of the UDP-LX800 was the equal of the Oppo.
I tested the UDP-LX800 with the display type set to both ‘Reference’ and ‘Projector’. Switching from Reference to Projector provided a small but noticeable and welcome boost to the image brightness of UHD images.
Disc loading times were slower than what I’m used to from the Oppo, with the Ultra HD version of Mission Impossible Fallout taking 32 seconds to load. Disc playback, however, was whisper quiet and much quieter than my Oppo (a fairer comparison would have been Oppo’s UDP-205, which we didn’t have on hand for testing). To hear any noise from the Pioneer I had to put my ear right to the player, but from 30cms away, there was no audible noise.
A quick press of the information button calls forth all of the usual information, such as run time etc. Hold down the button a little longer, however, and you’ll be given a veritable treasure trove of information regarding the disc and the display it was mastered on.
In use, the Pioneer UDP-LX800 performed admirably, with my only criticism being a delay of around five seconds between hitting the eject button and the disc actually ejecting.
Just like last year, 2019 is already shaping up to be the year that manufacturers are releasing ‘statement pieces’. Well built and over-engineered, yet with a strong focus on maintaining signal integrity and simplicity, the Pioneer UDP-LX800 is quite simply outstanding.
To date, and without doubt, it's the most well-built universal disc player I have ever used. It may just be the most well-built piece of AV equipment I have ever used.
Used solely as a transport, there is going to be little if any difference between the Oppo, or for that matter most high-end disc players. The UDP-LX800 may lack the HDR optimiser of Panasonic’s recent offerings but makes up for it with class-leading build quality, and analogue DAC’s.
If you don’t need an HDR optimiser function and are looking for a ‘no comprise solution’ for Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray and SACD playback, you owe it to yourself to check out the UDP-LX800.
For more information visit Pioneer.
Pioneer Blu-Ray Signature Edition Upgrade and TimePortal Cables
I’ve been buying from The Upgrade Company for about 3 years. Initially, I was going to buy an Oppo and have them tweak it. David Schulte recommended going with a higher end better built player as their wasn’t too much of a price differential. He knew through discussion that this would be my last CD/DVD/Bluray machine. And I really didn’t need to have a long discussion about the EMI/RFI ruining signal and power integrity because I already knew about “noise”. I felt the website was quite detailed regarding same which also furthered my education.
So we changed topics. I was also curious about their TimePortal Cabling. David offered great intro trial pricing on power and interconnect cabling since I was also buying the recommended Pioneer Elite BDP-88 CD/DVD/ Bluray player with the SE upgrade and audiophile grade fuses. He also included an HDMI cable as well though I was quite pleased with my Shunyata HDMI. Suffice it to say, I have been way more than pleased! The Pioneer 88SE is simply amazing in sound and the picture on my Panasonic Plasma is stunning. The TimePortal HDMI really surprised me!! I did not think an HDMI cable could make that much difference!! Further, as the RFI EMI TimePortal Cables have improved, I’ve traded up as well. And yes, the TimePortal Statement Power Cord in a direct comparison beat out my Morrow Audio Anniversary Cord, which is excellent in its own right.
I’ve also found David to be open minded about suggestions such as my opting for a different fuse other than what was listed at the time. He listened to me and I believe staff and friends had a “fuse shootout” one evening. Also when I ordered the PS Audio DirectStream DAC with the SE upgrade from The Upgrade Company, I asked David his opinion regarding the “current best fuse”. After that, he talked to me about whether I wanted to add a few other tweaks which would make the DAC sound better. Further, he and I discussed that if/when the PS Audio DAC is redesigned, The Upgrade Company could take the extras out and ready them for a new unit. Plus, David honored a campaign that PS Audio was running. Good Marketing—Yes, and with No Pressure. So he’s great to have discussions with to gather more or new information regarding equipment and accessories which I may need or have an interest. I believe he invests time into learning so he and the company can grow, offer the best and be of greater service to customers--plus they always warrant upgrades parts & labor for 5 years!
As we’ve established a rapport over the last few years, I continue to find David helpful, fair, and engaging. I can’t imagine buying any equipment unless it has been upgraded by “The Upgrade Company”.
Room for improvement? Yes, they could be a tad more organized during very busy times. But they always make it right!! This is a small inconvenience for a MORE THAN REWARDING EXPERIENCE AND SOUND ADVICE.
Pioneer BDP-88FD Signature Edition Upgrade
Just got home from CA yesterday and hooked up my new Pioneer BDP-88 SE last night. What the heck??!! After hearing stock & modded Oppos, Esoterics, Meitner/EMM Labs, Thetas, and on and on, I have never heard a presentation like this. Just flat-out amazing. There is no way to describe it using words. It does leave me pretty speechless. From a Pioneer?? I really don’t know how to describe it. I did not expect that much of a difference. Everything is awesome sounding now in every way. I would use the same words as I had done in the past and miss my intended meaning completely. Your latest SE Upgrades are something that need to be experienced live in order to understand.
David Donohue, PA
Onkyo Pro 5508 processor & Pioneer Bluray player upgrade
I've been a customer of yours for a couple of years, and I've been quietly enjoying my upgrades. I think it's time for me to provide you with an honest history - both the good and the bad - which will hopefully help others who may be considering The Upgrade Company.
One upon a time...
I was extremely happy with my expensive Arcam AV8 processor and Arcam DV27A DVD player, until Blu Ray and HDMI arrived on the scene. At that time, my local dealer felt the Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD Blu Ray player would work well for my system. It had good video for the component outputs, which I needed for my beloved Pioneer Elite tubed rear projection TV, which lacked HDMI inputs. I soon learned that the Pioneer BDP-F05's audio/video performance was not as good as my much more expensive Arcam DV27A player. Unfortunately, my dealer had to close down, after being in business for 20 years. I was ready to scrap the whole Blu Ray idea and just stick with my Arcam equipment and purchase DVD's - if anything, it would be less expensive. I went looking for any online forums discussing Pioneer Blu Ray players to see what other folks thought of theirs. That's when I found out that some folks had their Pioneer players successfully upgraded by The Upgrade Company.
I then looked for posts about The Upgrade Company. I found mostly good ones and a couple of negatives. The negatives were just anonymous posts who put down the upgrades out of pure speculation and lack of measurement data, having never even seen or heard your work. I called you and found out all about your upgrades and decided to give it a shot.
Unfortunately, the Pioneer did not perform as well as I would have liked. You mentioned that something must have become damaged in shipping so I sent it back per your request. It did get damaged during shipping, so you replaced it with a brand new unit with your SE upgrade. I knew about Upgrade Company's "100% Satisfaction Guarantee", but I was quite surprised when you mentioned that you would quickly be sending me a brand new upgraded Pioneer BDP-F-05 - after all, I had sent in a used unit I'd purchased from my local dealer. The new unit took some time to settle in being brand new with no burn-in time, but WOW, what a difference. I then compared it to my Arcam DV27A, and I was very happy with the picture improvements the new Pioneer showed. The sound had also improved over the Arcam player. The less expensive upgraded Pioneer player performs much better on everything including regular DVD's, CD's, and of course Bluray's over the much more expensive Arcam.
As time went on, I wondered if I should get a more updated processor - one with HDMI. At that time, you had an upgraded Marantz AV8003 processor for sale, so I bought it. I'm very picky and have desired a highly refined sound and with burn-in, it got there.
During this time, I was considering some consolidation by going the receiver route, so I wanted to try the Arcam AVR600 and bought one. I absolutely loved this receiver and I thought that it's better than several of the pre/pro configurations I've had in my system. Kudos to Arcam. However, the fan was noisy and came on a lot, so I decided not to go that route. The Marantz processor was clearer than the new Arcam, and even though it was not bright or brittle, I liked the Arcam AVR600 bass and midbass quality a little better when used as a prepro. I called you to discuss this, and you mentioned that the Onkyo PR-SC5508 processor would be perfect for my preferences, in part due to Onkyo's over built transformer based power supplies the Marantz AV-7005 and AV-8003 are weak on. You indicated that in your experience when directly A-B'g upgraded Onkyo Pro 5508's against a wide variety of highest cost prepro's that are out now, that it held it's own for pennies on the dollar. No point in spending more on a prepro.
Well, I've had some time with this processor, and WOW (again) - this one is definitely a home run! It's like I have all the great qualities of the expensive Arcam AVR-888 prepro (which I've had in my system) combined with the great qualities of the upgraded Marantz AV8003, with all the latest features and HDMI 1.4. For a price that's about 1/3 the cost of the Arcam AVR888 processor.
You had always mentioned that with the Onkyo Pro 5508 in my system, I would then need to focus on the other weak parts of the system to witness what it can truly deliver- and you were right. Every time I make a improvement to cabling or isolation or another component, I can immediately tell the difference. For me, the sound is the most important thing, and this processor has the bass, midbass, detail/clarity, black background, refinement/smoothness, musicality, ease - everything I've been looking for.
The bottom line David is that I'm very satisfied and very happy with the products that I've purchased from you. Your customer support and customer service are top notch - in fact, I don't know of anyone that does as much for their customers as you do. Thanks for making my home theater journey a great experience. It's really nice to go home from work and be excited to sit down with my family and enjoy our home theater system - it's a lot of fun!
I was very hesitant to jump in and do these upgrades, but I can now say that I'm really glad that I did.
Pioneer Elite BDP-09 SE Upgrade
I just wanted to let you know that my Pioneer Elite BDP-09 is sounding sweet after your Signature Edition upgrade. I was very skeptical at first to have any mods done to my audio equipment. Turns out it's one of the best things I have ever done to my sound system. Before the upgrade the stock BDP-09 sounded thin and on the bright side. I tried several different tweaks, mainly power cords and interconnects, but not one of them has made as big an improvement as your Signature Edition upgrade. I have never heard my speakers sound this good. Veils have been lifted and now my B&W speakers have tight accurate bass slam, better separation and balance, with a deeper & wider soundstage. By far the best I have ever heard in three years of owning these speakers. This much improvement in sound quality just by having the source upgraded was not expected. Keep up the great work Dave!
I got into audio as a hobby about 12 years ago, and one of the first pieces of equipment that fascinated me was the Pioneer PD-65 CD player. Built like a tank, with a stable platter transport, and wooden sides like the amps and receivers of old. When the PD-65 was in production, I purchased (and returned) it twice as I didn’t find its sound quality as compelling as its cosmetics and construction.
Fast forward to 2009. My main system was an Upgrade Company-modified Denon 2930 DVD/CD/SACD player, Arcam integrated amp, and Quad 22L speakers. I’ve been happy with the upgraded Denon, as its sonics were comparable to some ultra expensive players I’d heard at a local audio retailer. I began putting together a “vintage” system in my study composed of a McIntosh MAC-4100 receiver and Quad 12L speakers — and a Pioneer PD-65 (again) for my CD source. Then it occurs to me — why not send the PD-65 to the Upgrade Company, and see what it’s really capable of?
A couple of weeks later, the PD-65 comes back, and the improvement is significant. Playing into my Arcam integrated, I am reminded of a very expensive Wadia player (into an ARC/Vandersteen setup) I’d heard at a store in Denver. Lots of detail but a little bright for my taste. So I leave the player powered on for 6 weeks, playing CDs for 1-2 hours each day.
Now that break-in is complete, that last little bit of edginess is gone. Now the PD-65 has the resolution and hyper-detail of the Wadia I’d recently heard in the showroom — but with the silky-smoothness of the best tubed players (Sonic Frontiers, BAT, etc.). At last, the Pioneer Elite PD-65 — upgraded by The Upgrade Company — is the CD player I’d dreamed of. Stable platter transport, built like a tank, wood sides, and enough sound quality to run with a $10K player. It’s staying with the “big” system downstairs — so I’ll need another player for the vintage system (eventually).
As promised, I want to give you my feedback on the modified DBP-94HD. I wanted to wait for the player to burn in before making any comments. Like most people in this hi-end audio hobby, I have been interested in setting up a digital front-end system without getting over the edge on the diminished return on investment curve where the ratio of dollars invested to improved audio quality is out of proportion.
First let me state that I purchases the player mainly for audio performance. For video performance, I did not have a State of the Art reference other than the former top of the line Denon DVD-5900 which was, of course, one of the better players in Standard Definition DVD. The improvements in video quality were easy to see on Blu-ray, however even on Standard Definition, the Pioneer Elite BDP-94HD’s colors were simply much deeper, e.g. blacker black, greener green, redder red etc., and the picture is much smoother and sharper, more 3D looking.
I have asked myself the question of "what makes a good front-end"? I realized that the challenge in reproducing music through a stereo system is similar to the challenge a painter faces when he/ she must reproduce a 3-dimensional visual image as close to reality as possibly on a 2-dimensional painting: how does the painter show the 3rd dimension or "depth" on a painting? Similarly, how does the stereo recreate 3-dimensional sound through only a set of R and L speakers? In my mind, the ability of a player to reproduce "live" sound - which is closest to reality - depends on the ability of the player to do well in depth of field, the 3rd dimension.
I look for a player to excel in the following 3 main areas:
- (A) Detail: can a player read/ reproduce all details as recorded? Even though, a listener can choose what he/ she wants to focus on particular parts/ voices of a recoding, all details must be reproduced - unbiased - as intended by the recording engineer.
- (B) Dynamics: can a player distinctly reproduce the different voices? The dynamics in a player is key to the ability of the player to reproduce the 3rd dimension: depth. Just like in a painting, where objects further in the distant - from the viewer - are shown as smaller and in faded colors, a sound further in back is very slightly softer and less details. Reproducing the (minor) nuances of the different voices are important to producing depth and creating a realistic soundstage.
- (C) Voice: is every sound smoothly reproduced, not too warm, not too bright and without grain as intended? Just like a singer who can do everything right and controls every technique but if his/ her voice is not easy on the ear, he or she not be a great singer that will be loved by many, many people.
State of the Art players must excel above all others in all 3 areas above. I have listened to my new Upgrade Co. SE upgraded Pioneer Elite BDP-94HD Blu-ray player at length. I can say that the player does reproduce a live sound to my ears, much more than I have ever heard in my (~25K) audio setup. I hear more details, more 3-dimensionality and weight, both in instrument and human voices, and I hear voices that are reproduced w/o any grain. Separation of different voices is outstanding. I also hear a much larger soundstage but that is, again, a result of much better detail and dynamics to me. In summary, I am very impressed and quite happy with the BDP-94HD. I'm keeping it! Many thanks.
Lance Huynh, Texas
Page information last updated: 20/04/2017
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