Anyway, onto the more pressing matter of performance, and the system’s quoted 1,100W sounds optimistic but it certainly packs a punch when playing films like The Dark Knight. Crank up the volume as little as halfway and it fills the room with a powerful sound, which comes into its own during the vehicle chase through Gotham. There’s a healthy dollop of bottom end beneath bazooka explosions, trucks smack into each other with a crisp, bracing crunch and the forceful reproduction of the thumping score is a visceral experience as well as an aural one.
Its handling of Dolby TrueHD’s high-resolution detail is also impressive. You can hear plenty of delicate high-frequency sounds during blistering action scenes and quieter passages, while dialogue is conveyed with openness and clarity.
It’s a forthright, dynamic sound but not one without problems. Although loud, the bass output isn’t as taut or focused as it should be. When Batman approaches Sal Maroni at the nightclub, the thumping dance music sounds resonant and boomy, overpowering the other effects, which happens with most bass-heavy action scenes. Thankfully, you can reduce the level but we could never quite get the sub and sats working in complete harmony.
We also tried out a selection of music CDs and the Pioneer delivers a pleasant if not mind-blowing sound. There’s a pleasing balance across the frequencies and vocals sound clear, yet the sound is a little too narrow and coloured to compete with more competent separates systems.
Picture-wise there are no flaws to report. The Dark Knight’s dense, shadowy images are transferred to screen with admirable precision, maintaining that crucial sense of filmic depth, while colours are on point and all the detail within each 1080-line frame is resolved with entrancing sharpness. DVDs don’t dazzle in the same way, yet it does a fine job at keeping artefacts at bay when upscaling them to 1080p.
It may not be particularly dazzling in terms of looks, features or sound quality, but the BCS-303 is a decent, dependable all-in-one system that offers good value for money. The inclusion of media streaming, Bluetooth support, an iPod dock and a long list of playable media formats via USB all count in its favour, picture quality is superb and the compact speakers are wonderfully discreet. Wi-Fi support, HDMI inputs and better sound quality would have earned it even more Brownie points but on the whole this is a good effort.