Pioneer Announces First UHD Blu-ray Optical Drives

Subject: Storage | January 26, 2017 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: Ultra HD, UHD, Pioneer, optical, drive, disc, blu-ray, BDR-S 11 J-X, BDR-S 11 J-BK, 5.25, 4k

Pioneer has announced a pair of new 5.25-inch optical drives (via their Japanese site), and both offer support for UHD Blu-ray playback. These (SATA III) drives are the BDR-S 11 J-BK and BDR-S 11 J-X, and their Ultra HD capability represents a "world's first" for a BD burner, according to Pioneer.

pioneer_uhd_1.jpg

Image credit: Anandtech

There has been much discussion about support for UHD Blu-ray on the PC in the past year, and the technical capabilities of existing BDXL-compatible drives seemed to offer support for the current crop of UHD media. Unfortunately, the DRM requirements seem to involve the entire chain, and these new Pioneer optical drives support the required AACS 2.0 decryption. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with system requirements, as Anandtech lists what you will actually need to play back UHD Blu-rays on your computer:

  • A PC that supports AACS 2.0 and Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX)
  • An appropriate optical disk drive
  • Software that handles UHD BD playback
  • Windows 10
  • A GPU that has an HDMI 2.0a output with HDCP 2.2 (and AACS2 supported by its driver, which eliminates current-gen standalone GPUs)
  • A 4K TV/display that has an HDMI 2.0a input with HDCP 2.2

The software playback requirements are apparently handled via the included software, which Pioneer lists as PowerDVD 14 - though even the latest commercial version (PowerDVD 16) does not support UHD playback yet. It is possible that a custom version, or one previously unavailable to the public, has been included; as Pioneer specifically states that this included PowerDVD 14 software will allow you to "play Ultra HD Blu-ray such as movies, animation, music, Blu-ray, DVD-Video on your computer".

pioneer_BDRS11JX.jpg

Image credit: Anandtech

The two models are differentiated by a more premium audio focus for the BDR-S 11 J-X (and correspondingly higher price, based on reported pricing, below), with this model offering the following audiophile-oriented enhancements:

"BDR-S 11 J-X​ displays the playback quality of the audio CD to be played back in four levels, and in the case of low quality, it carries the "audio CD check function" which displays the coping method such as setting change of this machine It is suitable for applications such as CD ripping and music playback. In addition, by applying the coating adopted also for high-end audio equipment to the disc tray to improve the vibration isolation performance, it also enhances heat dissipation by applying special paint to the interior and exterior of the enclosure, realizing high quietness and reliability..."

Pricing was not included in the official announcement, though Anandtech's report quotes (Japanese-language) PC Watch with pricing roughly equivalent to $200 US (BDR-S 11 J-BK) and $300 US (BDR-S 11 J-X) for the drives. Availability begins in late February in Japan.

Source: Anandtech

Pioneer and Onkyo Release Dolby Atmos Soundbars

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 06:13 PM |
Tagged: soundbar, Pioneer, Onkyo, DTS:X, DTS:Neural, Dolby Atmos, CES 2017, CES, audio

I really like audio.  That is one area that I think is still lacking in the PC world, but it is improving from years past.  There are some interesting and exciting developments that have been rolled out over the past year with the biggest being Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.  These audio formats so far have been limited to several dozen titles on Blu-ray and through VUDU.  The selling point of these new formats is a more three dimensional component to the audio.  Dolby Atmos requires the user to have two speakers pointing towards the ceiling at an angle towards the listener.

Onkyo SBT-A500.jpg

Two very obvious things are needed to support these audio formats; a receiver that supports the decoding of Atmos/DTS:X, and a set of speakers that conform to the physical specifications for pointing audio towards the ceiling.  There are specialty speakers right now that feature the upward firing drivers, but they are not common.  Users could craft their own setups by utilizing speakers of their choice and positioning them at the correct angle themselves.

Onkyo SBT-A500 RC.JPG

Onkyo and Pioneer (a subsidiary of Onkyo) have announced two sets of soundbars that provide not only the upward firing drivers required for Atmos/DTS:X, but also the ability to have full surround without the use of rear speakers.  The Onkyo FS-EB70 and the Pioneer SBT-A500 are both three piece units which provide high quality sound in a very small package.

The units each come with their own receiver/amplifier that provides multiple inputs from a variety of sources as well as extensive wireless functionality.  They support a variety of streaming audio apps, but any kind of streaming video will require an appropriate smart TV or Blu-ray player.  The receiver is very low profile with a proprietary audio connection for the speakers.  Perhaps most impressive is that these small units have four HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI input ports.  Many midrange receivers only feature three inputs that are 4K and HDR compliant.  They also feature a handful of legacy connections for older audio gear that a user may not want to get rid of.

FS-EB70_Large.jpg

The small powered subwoofer is wireless, but promises to pack a pretty decent punch.  The sound bar itself features two speakers per side and on the center channel.  The upwards firing drivers are single in their configuration per side.  The bar is very low profile so obviously the drivers are not terribly large.  It will easily fit underneath any TV and is wall mountable.

The units look essentially identical and Pioneer has their MSRP at $1,000 US.  The Onkyo version does not have a price listed, but we can expect it to be higher and probably utilize some higher end components in the receiver portion.

FS_EB70 Back_small.jpg

Next generation PC parts are coming down the way that will feature support for higher resolutions through HDMI as well as Atmos and DTS:X.  This looks like a good set of soundbars that offer performance and expansion capabilities well beyond what other, less expensive products can provide.  Personally I can’t wait to try such a setup in my remodeled basement with a real racing rig and a 49” TV that I haven’t used in a year.  Audiophiles will likely want to create their own setups by mixing and matching components, but for those not interested in that and only want a solution that works well out of the box these look to be pretty solid implementations of the technology.

Click here to read the entire press releases with in-depth specifications.

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!

 

Pioneer Respects Base-2 with 256GB Blu-ray Discs

Subject: General Tech, Storage | May 17, 2014 - 02:47 AM |
Tagged: Pioneer, bluray

By layering eight layers of 32GB Blu-ray media, Pioneer has achieved 256GB worth of storage on a single-sided optical disc. If you are more interested in storage than labels, the company acknowledges the obvious extension to double-sided media with 512GB of capacity. They also leave the door open for 1TB and larger discs by extending their signaling method to more than twelve layers.

Pioneer_logo.png

Image Credit: Wikipedia

It suffices to say that this is a lot of storage. If cost can be kept low enough, optical media could once again be viable for archival and backup. Once a drive is purchased, and USB 3.0 makes it trivial to purchase a single drive for multiple computers, a single disc could bit-for-bit copy a full SSD and other, more modern amounts of data. Basically, it is much less work backing up in 256GB chunks than 4.7GB or 25GB ones.

If cost can be kept low enough is a serious point, though. BD-Rs retail for about $50/1.3TB (according to a few Newegg searches) and DVD-Rs are around the same ($25/500GB). This is not too far from hard drive territory (~100$/2 TB). Of course, hard drives are also faster, rewritable, and do not need to be inserted into a drive for reading and writing... because they are one. People are transitioning away from optical media to hard drives. Cost would need to be phenomenal to reverse that momentum.

4K and UHD video content was not discussed but, let's face it, your mind went there, too.

Source: Pioneer