The Pioneer BCS-SB626 is a 2.1-channel home cinema system that uses a space-saving soundbar for the front channels, which can be mounted on the wall or placed on top of your TV stand. It’s designed to bring powerful, cinema-like sound into your living room without the clutter and hassle that goes with a regular 5.1 system, providing everything you need in a single box – a combined disc player/AV receiver unit, the soundbar and a subwoofer.
The Blu-ray receiver is shaped in the traditional Blu-ray player mould, a straight-edged set-top box with fairly chunky dimensions by today’s standards (430mm wide by 63mm high). It’s not pushing any envelopes design-wise, but it’s attractive nonetheless thanks to its reflective gloss black finish. On the front panel are two flaps, one at each end – the left one hides the disc tray, while the right one conceals two USB ports for media playback and two 3.5mm minijack inputs, one for a microphone and one for portable audio devices. The fascia also houses a large illuminated volume dial, play/pause button and a nicely sized LED display in the middle. Along the top are six tiny buttons for up-close control.
The soundbar – or ‘Sound Wing Bar’ in Pioneer speak – is relatively narrow (800mm) and therefore best suited to 40in TVs. It’s plainly styled in black, with no visible speaker drivers, which are all hidden behind the black mesh, and because all the sockets are housed on the receiver unit there are no connections to worry about – apart from the pre-attached cable that links to the receiver.
Pioneer has sensibly made the subwoofer nice and slim, which makes it easier to slip into tight spaces, but it has to be linked to the receiver using the pre-attached cable, which limits where you can place it – a wireless sub would have been more convenient. It’s also passive, which isn’t ideal if you’re after the very best bass performance, and sounds hollow when you tap the sides. Still, it’s dressed in a fetching gloss black finish with elegantly curved edges, which won’t put your living room to shame.
On the rear panel of the receiver is a healthy line-up of sockets, most notable of which are the HDMI ports. You get one output and two inputs, which allows you to run other equipment (like digital TV receivers and games consoles) through the Pioneer and use it as a switcher (with the Function button on the remote) as well as boosting the sound quality of those devices. The HDMI inputs are v1.4, which means you can play 3D discs on this system, pass through signals from other devices and listen to TV sound using Audio Return Channel.
The HDMIs are joined by two optical digital audio inputs, analogue stereo input, composite video out, an aerial input for the FM tuner and an Ethernet port for accessing the system’s network features.
There’s also a port that allows you to connect the supplied iPod docking cradle, and another designed for Pioneer’s optional Bluetooth adapter (AS-BT200) for wireless music streaming.