Home cinema systems are usually sought after by those who want a flexible all-in-one solution that's less demanding and more affordable than assembling expensive separates. They're even prepared to accept the odd compromise when it comes to performance. But there are some systems like Pioneer's LX01 that can combine the convenience of a single system with high-end features and class leading performance. Are you prepared to pay the nearly £1,500 price?
Pioneer has taken the 'all bells and whistles' approach to home cinema success by offering a system with an astonishing array of features. The LX01 includes an integrated Freeview tuner, DVD/HDD recorder, radio tuner, surround receiver and accompanying speaker package.
Despite all of this technology, the design is surprisingly compact, featuring a single svelte main unit with four small uniquely-shaped speakers and subwoofer. There's also a space-age LCD unit that displays information while receiving commands from the equally stylish touch-sensitive remote. Each is carefully constructed and finished in heavily glossed black to complement the company's prestigious range of plasmas.
The so-called 3D speakers are simply connected to the dual drive subwoofer, which supplies all the amplification and connects to the main unit using a single cable. Installing the system couldn't be easier, courtesy of an automatic calibration microphone with room equalisation that accurately adjusts speaker settings while you sit back and wait.
There is more to the LX01 than just a pretty face. Pioneer's excellent video processing technology will upscale standard DVDs and Freeview programmes all the way to 1080p. This is one of the few systems that offers HD audio decoding for the lossless formats found on Blu-ray discs, although you will still need a separate Blu-ray player.
Hybrid recording features a 250GB hard drive that offers up to 711 hours of footage using a variety of quality modes. You can make most of your copies on the hard drive and then copy them to disc if you want to archive permanent copies. You can also copy and store music tracks burned directly from disc or using flash memory devices or your PC. There's an integrated Gracenote database that automatically detects track, artist and album information.
Connectivity is all-inclusive with three HDMI inputs and one output for video switching with devices like Sky+ and HD games consoles while analogue alternatives include component connections and a pair of Scarts. There's also a couple of USB ports, including one that can be used to connect a printer and a DV input for extracting high quality footage from digital camcorders.
Upscaled images are encouragingly close to true high definition with meticulous detail, realistic contrast and superb cohesive movement. Watching the macabre Sweeney Todd shows the system's penchant for deep blacks without losing detail in dark scenes and there's no sign of digital noise in the gloomy shadows. Recording quality is indistinguishable from the original using the higher quality modes.
Sound quality takes second stage but is still impressive with a forceful presentation that enlivens action scenes while subtle steering and agile integration produces a smooth sound that's greater than a sum of its limited parts.
By 'limited parts', we're referring to small size of the satellite speakers and the absence of a dedicated centre channel in what is essentially a 4.1 configuration. Pioneer claims its omni-directional speaker technology accommodates this omission without sacrificing sound quality. Each speaker features separate drivers that output sound from different directions to create a more expansive sound stage.
You need to place the front pair as close to your display as possible to avoid losing focus in dialogue and the system can struggle with ambient fare like Into The Wild, but it's an involving sound. Still, at this price, we didn't expect any compromises.
Pioneer's LX01 takes the idea of an all-in-one system to another dimension with enough features to be considered a home media hub that will accommodate your every home entertainment need. The expensive price appears greater value when you consider the cost of the accumulated devices and it looks and sounds great, even if there is a speaker missing.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday