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Pioneer LX01: Surround sound anywhere in the room

We can't help but think there must be some black magic involved in cramming as much stuff as Pioneer has done into the LX01 -- it's just a shame it forgot a very important speaker

Pioneer has certainly managed to pack a helluva lot into the LX01. Firstly, it's a Freeview receiver with PVR functionality. You can save programmes to the built-in DVD writer or 160GB hard disk. But that's not all -- it's also a fully fledged surround-sound system offering eight channels of glorious cinema-style audio.

The most interesting feature is the new surround-sound technology Pioneer has engineered. When you put a normal sound system in your living room, it's important to have the speakers in the correct location for the surround effect. Pioneer thinks this is a hassle, so it has developed a new speaker that produces 'omni-directional' sound. In theory, this means you should get the surround effect anywhere in the room. Crave has yet to see a system that manages this, but we'll certainly be keen to test the LX01 to find out how it measures up.

The LX01 looks fantastic, even with the frankly enormous sub-woofer, and will fit in especially well if you're lucky enough to own a Pioneer plasma TV. The unit will even upscale Freeview and DVDs to 1080p. You can even rip your CD collection to its hard drive, as well as play tunes off your iPod and USB memory sticks.

There's also a funky LCD touchscreen remote included, which Pioneer reckons will simplify using your various pieces of equipment. For example, it will control your Pioneer plasma TV as well, but these options are only available when you press the TV button, when a whole new menu system will be revealed. This will certainly save on dozens of unsightly buttons, which can only be a good thing.

The only glaring omission from this system is a dedicated centre speaker. While Pioneer claims it doesn't need one, we aren't sure we agree. The purpose of the centre channel is to increase the audibility of dialogue in movies -- without one, speech can sometimes be lost in other sound effects.

The press release from Pioneer claims the speakers all have a "distinctive three-dimensional shape". Obviously we were shocked and surprised to learn these speakers won't be coming in 2D versions. No word on price yet, but you'll be able to get your hands on all of its 3D glory in October. -Ian Morris