The system is a slim black unit about two inches high with the DVD tray on the left hand side of the front panel and a row of buttons on the top. In common with all modern electronic equipment most of the functionality is controlled with the remote control which in this case is quite conveniently sized. On the back of the unit are the speaker connections, which are all colour coded, for the six satellite speakers and the sub-woofer unit. On the front panel at the right hand side is a standard USB port which you can plug in a pen drive. The largest part of the front panel contains the display which seems to be quite informative and easy to read at the distance we sit from it, which is about 12 feet.
We have basically used the system in two modes – as a sound system for the TV and as a DVD player. Although the unit also has an FM RDS radio receiver, we’ve never even plugged an aerial into it so I can’t comment on that side at all.
The initial setup is assisted by an automatic routine which works with a microphone which you plug in and position where you normally sit. The software in the unit then plays what sounds like white noise at various levels and calibrates the amount of volume each speaker needs to give the correct sound. Although this takes a few minutes and gets quite loud, it is worth doing as it only needs to be done once.
As a sound system for the TV I’ve found it to be excellent. The TV by itself is a little underpowered sonically, and doesn’t have much impact because the speaker are in the bottom of the case and face down. I’ve plugged the optical input from our virgin media V+ box into the optical input of the Pioneer and set it to the line-2 input which is the optical input. This eventually worked really well. The problem I initially had was when the V+ box was set to output a 1080i signal, which produced a lip-sync delay which was really noticeable. I did a bit of research and it seems that the human ear will allow a delay between seeing an action and then hearing the sound but it’s pretty intolerant the other way round. I guess this is because the first happens often in real life but the second doesn’t. One down side of the system is that there is no way to compensate for this delay, but I don’t think I’d expect that for the price of the system. In the end it was possible to set the V+ box to output in 720p mode rather than 1080i mode and that removed the problem. In terms of the picture quality I can’t see a difference between 720p and 1080i.
On the dvd playback I’ve again set the output to 720p for the same reason and again the result is very good. It’s not as good as buying a full HD Blu-ray player, but it makes a very good job of playing the DVD’s we have.
The satellite speakers are quite small and very easy to wire to the main unit. They come with plenty of cable and as I said above can be arranged with the rear speakers at the front if required. There is an amplifier mode which then tries to emulate surround sound which although not as effective as having the speakers behind you is still pretty impressive.
The volume is certainly ample to fill our normal sized lounge and I don’t think we’ve ever actually turned it up to anything approaching full volume. There are a variety of enhanced settings, although I’m not a great fan of that type of thing and tend to keep the unit set to the standard setting for the speaker arrangement we have.
Overall I’m impressed and for a shade over £200 from amazon, it certainly seems good value for money.