Pioneer usually provides generous format support and the DCS-580 doesn’t buck the trend. It plays MP3, WMA and MPEG-4 AAC audio files from disc or a USB device, as well as DivX, WMV and XviD video files, which is pretty good by anyone’s standards. It also supports all the main recordable DVD types, but it’s a shame Pioneer couldn’t stretch to DVD-A or SACD playback.
Setup is an absolute breeze. All the cables are supplied in the same box as the speakers and they’re colour-coded at one end, which makes it simple to plug them into the corresponding terminals on the back of the main unit. Once everything’s in place, the built-in Auto Multichannel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC) mode takes all of the hassle out of sound optimisation. The supplied microphone plugs into the rear panel, then reads a series of test tones in order to set the appropriate channel delay and levels for your room.
Unfortunately, the remote is packed with far too many buttons laid out in a counter-intuitive way, and there’s even a Shift key that allows some of them to perform dual functions – perhaps a flap at the bottom covering the non-essentials keys could have streamlined the core controls. Still, the unit responds quickly to its commands and the labelling is very good.
The onscreen interface is as good as ever, revolving around the admirably straightforward Home Menu that has graced Pioneer’s players for years. All of the main options (HDMI resolution, SCART output, aspect ratio etc) are easy to find in the setup menu, while the Video Adjust menu allows you to adjust sharpness, brightness, contrast, gamma hue and chroma level with minimal fuss – great news if your TV controls don’t quite hit the spot.
We loaded up Hellboy on Region 2 DVD to test out the DCS-580’s picture prowess (and to whet our appetite for the sequel, out in cinemas this week) and were pleased, if not blown away by what we saw. With the upscaling set to 1080p, the sharply reproduced fine textures and patterns give the picture pleasing depth and definition, a finding borne out by its impressive handling of test patterns. The clarity is spoilt slightly by some twitchy noise and flickering that prevent it reaching the heights of Pioneer’s pricier systems, but overall these images are solid.
Colours look strong yet realistic, giving Hellboy’s bright red complexion the requisite warmth and vibrancy without straying into the realms of garishness, while the climatic scene in which the titular hero fights a massive monster in a gloomy cave demonstrates some reasonable detail handling in the dark, although it’s occasionally difficult to make out what’s going on. Blacks are deep and motion is smoothly tracked, rounding off a generally impressive picture performance.