Rigging the whole thing up is a piece of cake, as the cables are all colour-coded to match the terminals on the back of the main unit. There’s no automatic calibration on board, which means you’ll have to tweak the sound manually if the factory settings don’t suffice, but the Speaker Setup section of the setup menu is easy to find, allowing you to adjust the volume and distance from listening position for each channel – a test tone lets you check the results as you go along.
There’s an surprisingly generous range of features on board, the highlight of which is the unit’s DLNA media streaming through the Ethernet port. The list of playable formats includes DivX Plus HD, MKV, MP3, WMA and JPEG, any of which can also be played back from USB storage devices and external HDDs (FAT16, FAT 32 and NTFS) via the front-mounted port.
In fact, the USB port is a talented blighter – with a USB device connected you can rip tracks from CDs into MP3 format, plus it’s used for BD Live storage as there’s no built-in memory. Sadly though, there’s no support for Wi-Fi dongles.
In the box, you’ll find an iPod dock, which lets you play music from your iPod or iPhone and control it using the system’s remote. You can even stream music from devices like mobiles, laptops, MP3 players and PDAs thanks to the built-in Bluetooth (A2DP) support. To use this function, you need to buy Pioneer’s optional AS-BT100 adapter and plug it into your external device.
There’s also a range of ‘Sound Effect’ presets that can be toggled through using the dedicated button on the remote. There’s a choice of two ‘Pioneer’ settings – one designed for this system’s small speakers and one for the BCS-707’s tall speakers – as well as Bass Blast, PLII Movie/Music, Clear Voice (improving the clarity of speech), Game, Night, Music Retouch (for compressed music playback) and Loudness. Not a fan of DSPs? Then the Bypass mode will give it to you straight. On the visual side, there are some basic picture adjustments (contrast, brightness, colour, sharpness) and a few presets to choose from.
The BCS-303 features a very smartly presented menu system, which is exactly the same as the one found on LG’s players and systems last year. In fact, the remote and manual are exactly the same too, which makes us believe the Blu-ray receiver is an LG in disguise. Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the menus’ attractive icons and crisp fonts are a real joy, and the cursor reacts responsively. The MP3 and CD playback menus are pleasant to use too, listing songs clearly – it’s just a shame there’s no on-board Gracenote database to name tracks when you rip them.
The similarity to LG’s cinema systems and the inclusion of Home Link media streaming makes us wonder why Pioneer didn’t also provide an Internet streaming function, given that a) the company’s latest standalone player (BDP-330) already features YouTube access and b) most other home cinema systems offer some sort of web content.