Delivers the goods
At first glance, the single, silver component at the center of this system looks like it houses only a five-disc DVD changer. But on closer inspection, you'll notice that along with the disc changer, Pioneer's also stuffed in a 400-watt (total power) receiver. It's not exactly packed with features, but it has the essentials, such as Dolby Digital and DTS decoding.
As far as the changer itself goes, we had no complaints. The carousel mechanism is a smoother operator than that of elevator-style changers; it skips discs in less than 15 seconds and starts playing in 12 seconds. Though the DVD player isn't a good match for higher-end TVs, those with more basic analog sets will find the video quality quite acceptable.
Lower-priced HTIBs tend not to have a plethora of connectivity options, and the 510DV is no exception. In fact, its connectivity quotient is minimal: you can hook up a VCR and one other analog source, and there's just one digital audio input and no digital output. On the video front, you're limited to one composite and one S-Video output.
On a more positive note, adjusting the speaker levels and other setup chores were snag-free, thanks in large part to the nifty remote. This one isn't riddled with gobs of buttons, so it's unusually easy to use.
The HTD-510DV's power ratings (100 watts driving the front speakers, 34 watts each on the center/surrounds, and 100 watts for the sub) are realistic. We pummeled the sats with the Saving Private Ryan DVD's full-tilt maelstrom, and they never cried uncle--hardly a given for HTIBs in this price class. Those 10-inch-tall left and right speakers look and sound bigger than most compact HTIBs' sats. Their size advantage also yields a wider dynamic range than the average pipsqueak speaker.
The 14-inch-wide center speaker sounds far more assured than typical HTIB fare, so dialog was well balanced. The passive sub's low-frequency foundation was good and deep, but it's no threat to some of the better (and more expensive) HTIBs that come with powered subwoofers, such as the or the . And while the 510DV didn't convince us we were grooving with a component system and a set of full-sized tower speakers, we were never frustrated by the sound.
The 510DV even rolled through a couple of Rolling Stones and Morphine CDs in style. The sound was easy on the ears but lacked the detail and sparkle of some of the pricier HTIBs we've heard. That said, this kit sounds equally good playing music or movies. Also, the tuner's no slouch; it did a fine job of pulling in tough-to-receive stations.
The 510DV's design priorities make a lot of sense to us: leave off the flashy features and glitzy styling doodads, then match up a set of not-too-small sats with a well-designed A/V receiver and a built-in carousel DVD changer. Pioneer clinches the deal by pricing the HTD-510DV at a very affordable $620 (list). If you can stretch your budget a bit, check out Pioneer's step-up HTIB, the $865 HTZ-77DV. Or pony up to the gutsy $1,199 JBL Cinema ProPack 600. That baby can really shake it!