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Pioneer’s new Elite Blu-ray players are aimed squarely at audiophiles

Pioneer announced last week that it’s set to release two new reference Blu-ray players under its famed Elite line of electronics. The flagship BDP-88FD player and the  only slightly less sophisticated BDP-85FD will be the first Elite Blu-ray players released by Pioneer in roughly five years, and they appear to have enough “oomph” to appeal to both the reluctant videophile and skeptical audiophile.

Related: Pioneer unveils Dolby Atmos-ready Elite A/V receivers and speakers

Both players reproduce high-quality video via Pioneer’s new video engine comprised of a Precise Pixel Driver image processor and the company’s new 4K Reference Converter that upscales existing disc-based or network content to 4K resolution (4K/60P/4:4:4/24-bit). Upscaled video is output via HDMI 2.0 at a full 18 Gbps-bandwidth. The 88FD and 85FD both process video signals with the same hardware and the same proprietary technologies, but the two models differ drastically when it comes to audio-processing capabilities.

The 88FD and 85FD each carry an ES9018 ESS Sabre digital-to-analog converter (the same DAC used in Oppo’s $1,200 high-end BDP-105D player) capable of playing DVD audio, SACD, and most popular high-resolution audio files. However, the 88FD employs four of these integrated DACs, in parallel, to reduce  noise – again, just like the Oppo BDP-105. Both also feature a “Direct Function Circuit” for use in a “pure analog audio playback mode,” which essentially shuts off all video circuits to eliminate any potential interference and dedicate all processing power solely to the audio components.

The 88FD takes its hi-res audio chops even further with a large-capacity power supply transformer, independent quartz for 44.1 kHz/48 kHz playback, Hi-Bit and Hi-Sampling processing, and a DAC filter.

In terms of networking capabilities, Pioneer’s two new players are DLNA-compatible for streaming audio and video content from a PC via home network. They also are capable of streaming content directly from mobile devices, can play hi-res music content from USB, disc, and hard-drive sources, and feature a YouTube “Send to TV” function for all those back-to-back cat-clip-bingers out there.

While Pioneer seems to have inched significantly closer to the high-end roots its Elite line became known for (we didn’t quite think the VSX-70 deserved the “Elite” moniker), the company is selling its home electronics division to Onkyo, which means these may be the last pure-bred Pioneer players we see, depending on how the terms of the sale play out.

The 85FD and 88FD Blu-ray players will begin shipping in December with suggested retail price-points of $1,000 and $2,000, respectively.