- Review Price: £364.40
The DCS-580 is a 5.1-channel home cinema system, made up of the XV-DV580 DVD/CD receiver unit, four S-DV395T floor-standing speakers and the S-DV395SW subwoofer. It sits in the middle of Pioneer’s systems range, above the entry-level DCS-370 but well below the spectacular LX01, and based on the quality of those two systems our expectations are understandably sky high.
As we’ve come to expect from Pioneer, the system is exceptionally stylish. The main unit, for instance, is blacker than night and delectably slim, placing all of the controls on top to give the fascia a clean, minimal appearance – the only things on show are a headphones jack, USB port and a slab of silver to cover the disc tray.
The quality of the speakers is apparent as soon as you pull them out of the box, as they’re a lot sturdier and less plasticky than you normally find at this price. They’re tall but far from imposing, sporting a classy gloss black lower section and cloth-covered upper section. A spot of DIY is needed to attach them to the square stands (screws are supplied) but once assembled they’ll make a very fetching addition to any room.
The S-DV395SW down-firing subwoofer is compact and attractive, and because it’s passive it doesn’t require its own power supply. Completing the speaker package is a discreet satellite centre speaker.
Connections include an HDMI output that delivers 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p or 576i pictures to your display, optical digital and stereo audio inputs, stereo audio output, composite video and RGB SCART outputs, ports for the MCACC microphone and remote control plus antenna terminals for the FM and AM radio tuners.
The main receiver musters 60W per channel of amplification (360W in total) and can decode Dolby Digital and DTS, as well as supply Dolby Pro Logic II to expand two-channel sources to 5.1. Also up its sleeve is a wide range of DSP modes, including eight different Advanced Surround settings designed to enhance stereo or multichannel sound in a variety of ways. There are plenty of other tweaks like dialogue enhancement, bass/treble controls and bass boost, and when playing compressed audio files Sound Retriever attempts to boost them back to CD quality by recovering the data lost during the compression process.
If you aren’t able to place the rear speakers at the back of the room, then you can place all six speakers at the front of the room and use the three Front Surround modes to enjoy a surround effect.
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.
Clearly then, the DCS-580 is a good performer visually. However, it’s with sound quality that the DCS-580 really excels – the system delivers a powerful, coherent and expansive soundstage, making ”Hellboy’s” Dolby Digital 5.1 track sound sensational. Dialogue is delivered with lucidity, while the subwoofer’s bass is tight and nimble, replaying explosions with a visceral punch without sounding too boomy or overbearing. And the quality of the supplied speakers is evident in the abundant top-end detail and full-bodied midrange.
This also translates into electrifying music playback, with the system achieving a delightfully open presentation and a nice balance across the frequency range. It lapped up everything from Blue Note jazz-funk grooves to house, making each style sound more grown up and invigorating than some of the all-in-one systems we’ve tested recently. We also plugged in a USB stick containing WMA, MP3, AAC, WMV and JPEG files and the system played each one without any problems whatsoever.
While Pioneer’s DCS-580 doesn’t quite live up to the LX01’s incredibly high standards, it does provide a very impressive alternative for almost a quarter of the price. It’s stylish, well-built, plays a wide range of formats and offers the sort of sound quality you’d expect from a more expensive system. On the downside, picture quality is good rather than great and the remote needs tweaking, but on the whole this is yet another top-notch system from the Pioneer stable.
Score in detail
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