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Pioneer DCS-370 - 5.1-Channel Home Cinema System - Pioneer DCS-370
On the rear panel is the all-important HDMI output, which offers 720p and 1080i signals, plus an RGB-capable SCART output, composite video out and stereo audio input/output. Disappointingly there's no digital audio input for feeding in 5.1-channel soundtracks from a Sky+ box, but overall this is a decent selection of sockets.
Pioneer keeps faith with the Home Menu interface used to great effect on its standalone players and recorders, and rightly so - this is by far one of the best operating systems out there. Clearly designed, logical and attractive, it's a perfect example of how to make a product easy to use. The remote does a good job too, but it's packed with buttons, many of which are a little on the small side.
It may not be everyone's favourite Star Wars movie but The Phantom Menace sounds absolutely phenomenal through this system. Using the Podrace sequence as an obvious starting point, the DCS-370's terrific tallboys reproduce every aspect of the soundtrack with gusto and power. As the pods tear round the Tattooine landscapes, the engine noises are meaty, direct and steered across the front stage with breathtaking clarity.
Likewise the rear channels, which produce crisp, well-separated surround effects that put you right in the middle of the race. Effects also pass smoothly between the rear pair creating a convincing sense of movement between them, while the centre channel generates crystal clear dialogue that's easy to hear even during busy action scenes.
But the real star of the show is the subwoofer, which beefs up the bottom end without diverting attention away from the other channels. This helps all six speakers to fuse together beautifully, making it sound like one coherent whole as opposed to a bunch of disparate sounds. If we're being picky, the system sounds a bit too brash at times, lacking the sense of sophistication and control that you'd get from separates or a more expensive system, but for just over £200 it would be unfair to complain.