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Pioneer HTS-560DV review: Pioneer HTS-560DV

Pioneer HTS-560DV

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
7 min read
Like most of Pioneer's home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs), the HTS-560DV departs from the standard A/V-receiver-plus-DVD-player-mated-with-silver-plastic satellites and subwoofer formula. The Pioneer's four trendily thin, high-gloss black tower speakers were designed to compliment flat-screen TVs, and instead of a typical 17-inch-wide control unit--which normally houses the combined A/V receiver and DVD player--the HTS-560DV's main control center is a tiny, 8.5-inch-wide display unit. The separate HDMI-equipped DVD player is full size (albeit a slimline model), and it can be placed wherever it's most convenient--and, if need be, away from the Display Unit. The Pioneer HTS-560DV's elegant speakers and electronics will attract style-conscious buyers, but those with more discriminating ears will be underwhelmed. We expected better sonics from this $550 system. Instead of the usual space grabbing A/V receiver/DVD player the Pioneer HTS-560DV uses two smaller components: a mini 8.5-by-2.5-inch "display unit" and a slimline DVD player. In addition to showing volume level, surround mode, and various setup info on its LCD readout, the display unit houses the system's main controls: volume, source switching, surround, and power buttons. Everything else is controlled via remote. The HTS-560DV's included DVD player matches the display unit's silver color; it's a shade less than 2 inches tall, 17 wide, and 8.5 deep. We're not sure why, but the system comes with two remotes: one for the display unit and one for the DVD player. Since the display unit's remote handled just about all of the player's functions just fine, we used the one remote for all of our evaluations. It's nicely laid out and has large, highly legible buttons.

The four 43.25-inch-tall tower speakers' elegance is far beyond what we've come to expect from a $550 home-theater system. Their curved high-gloss front baffles, cloth grilles, and black ash cabinets must be mounted on the supplied circular wood bases--wall mounting isn't an option. We did note that the tower speakers' rear panels are unfinished, but that won't matter a bit if the speakers are placed near walls. Pioneer's silver-plastic center speaker is 10.5 inches wide and 3.75 high but doesn't visually match the towers. The silver subwoofer is sturdily constructed from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and measures 7.75 by 14.75 by 17.25 inches.


Pioneer HTS-560DV

The Good

The Pioneer HTS-560DV is a home-theater system with an ultracompact control unit, four two-way, high-gloss black tower speakers, a compact center speaker and a powered subwoofer. The included DVD player offers an HDMI output with 720p/1080i upconversion, and the system has an easy-to-use automatic speaker-calibration function.

The Bad

The subwoofer is overly boomy, and the tower speakers underperform. The subwoofer-based input/output jacks may pose location and wiring challenges. The menu system is less than intuitive.

The Bottom Line

Pioneer's HTS-560DV system looks pretty slick and comes with a full roster of features including automatic speaker calibration and HDMI output, but its sound quality is lackluster, especially for music.

The reason the HTS-560DV's display unit can afford to be so tiny is that most of the system's electronics and its amplifier are housed in the subwoofer. As a result, the subwoofer--not the display unit--is where all of the connection jacks are located. Depending on the sub's placement in your room, it might be some distance away from the rest of your A/V sources, so you might have to buy long interconnect cables to make the connections.

We had everything screwed together and plugged in in about a half an hour, and were then ready to use Pioneer's Auto Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System (MCACC) with the supplied microphone. The autocalibration was pretty accurate overall, but it pushed the subwoofer volume level way up, so the sound was very bassy. To correct that, we went into the manual setup mode and lowered the sub volume to our taste. We also experimented with the HTS-560DV's BassMode control, which offers only two settings: Music or Movie. We opted to leave it turned off. The sound was still overly full, so we balanced the sound to our liking with the bass and treble controls found in the sound menu. Navigating the sound options via the display unit wasn't as intuitive as it should be--you have to use the front display, as there's no onscreen menu--but if you persevere, you'll eventually get what you need.

Because the DVD player is a detached unit, you'll need to set that up separately (it does, of course, have onscreen menus). It's pretty straightforward, but beginners may be flummoxed by the vagaries of the video and audio options. For instance, after we turned on the HDMI output, DVD sound reverted to stereo with all of our 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS-encoded DVDs. We had to manually restore 5.1 output by navigating to the correct menu option. The Pioneer HTS-560DV package includes the 6-piece speaker set including four towers), the mini display unit, and the separate single-disc DVD player. All of the HTS-560DV's power amplifiers, connection jacks, and Dolby/DTS surround decoding electronics are located in the system's subwoofer. Unusually, Pioneer submits the far more stringent than average Federal Trade Commission (FTC) power ratings for the system's six amplifier channels: the HTS-560DV delivers 25 watts for each of the five speaker channels and 30 watts for the subwoofer. Don't let the company's honesty throw you, the system sounds as powerful as your typical "1,000 watt" HTIB.

The system's audio connectivity is limited to one stereo analog input and three digital inputs (one coaxial and two optical). The coaxial digital input is destined to be paired with the DVD player, so that leaves you with three remaining spaces to connect audio sources (two optical digital, one analog)--enough for, say, a VCR, a cable/satellite box, and a game console. Since the system lacks any video switching, you'll have to hook up all of your sources' video outputs directly to your TV and switch inputs via the TV (video) and the HTS-560DV (audio) accordingly. There's one connectivity omission that might put off some potential buyers: the HTS-560DV lacks a headphone jack. Perhaps because the input/output jacks are clustered on the subwoofer's back panel, the system lacks both a headphone jack and an "iPod jack;" that is, a front-panel line-in minijack. By comparison, you'll find at least one of them on most other HTIBs.

The included DVD player is the Pioneer DV-490V-S, which can also be purchased separately for $100. The highlight of the player is its HDMI output, which can upconvert DVD movies to 720p and 1080i resolution for HDTVs. It also boasts decent disc compatibility: you can play your DVDs and CDs--including virtually all home-burned varieties--as well as discs with WMA/MP3 files, JPEG photos, and DivX videos. Unlike an integrated player, the advantage of a standalone model is that you can always swap in an upgrade, such as a multidisc changer or a DVD recorder.

The tower speakers feature two 3-inch woofers and a 1-inch dome tweeter, while the center makes do with a lone 3-inch woofer, and the subwoofer sports a 6.3-inch woofer on its rear panel.

If you like the idea of the small display unit and the subwoofer-based connectivity, Pioneer offers three other models with the same design: the HTS-260 (small speakers, no included DVD player), the HTS-GS1 (small speakers, designed to match the Xbox 360), and the HTS-950NXT (flagship system with slim "flat-panel" tower speakers).

Pioneer 2006 HTIBs compared:

Model Quick take Included disk player? Price
Pioneer HTP-2800 Pioneer's entry-level home-theater system bundles a basic A/V receiver with a 5.1 system comprised of miniature satellite speakers. None
Pioneer HTP-3800 The step-up to the 2800 utilizes two wooden tallboy towers for the front speakers. None
Pioneer HTS-260 By consolidating the amplifier and A/V jacks into the subwoofer, the HTS-260 offers a supertiny control unit--with automatic speaker calibration--to match its five small surround speakers. None
Pioneer HTS-GS1 The HTS-GS1 is a retooled version of the HTS-260 that's designed to complement the Xbox 360. None
Pioneer HTZ-360DV Pioneer's smallest all-in-one home-theater offering delivers a receiver/DVD player with HDMI video output and a front-panel USB port. Integrated single-disc CD/DVD player with HDMI output
Pioneer HTS-560DV The HTS-560DV offers a small main control unit (similar to the HTS-260's), four tallboy tower speakers, and a full-size DVD player with HDMI output. Stand-alone single-disc CD/DVD player with HDMI output
After setting up and calibrating the Pioneer HTS-560DV's speakers, we began the audition focusing on music. ZZ Top's Fandango hard rock CD sounded about average for a $550 home-theater system. The subwoofer added a healthy kick to the band's sound, but the tower speakers were at their best at low-to-moderate volumes; things sounded increasing harsh as we upped the volume beyond a certain point. We also noted the imaging lacked precision, so the sound had a tendency to "stick" to whichever speaker we were closest to. Acoustic pop from Ryan Adams' 29 CD had an edgy glare, and the treble sound on cymbals was tizzy. Adams's vocals were fine, yet we were distracted by the boxed-in sound of the acoustic guitars. The HTS-560DV probably won't satisfy buyers that are planning on listening to music more than watching movies.

Turning to movies, the system's rich balance fared somewhat better on the King Kong DVD. The big ape's antics weren't constrained by the system's trim dimensions, and the human actors dialog was clear. When we played the below-decks transport ship scene with Sean Penn from The Thin Red Line DVD, the deep bass hum of the ship's engines was bloated and lacking in definition, and though the battle scenes had reasonable impact, we too often felt the sub was struggling to deliver the goods. On CDs and DVDs, we could frequently localize the sound of the bass coming from the subwoofer and not the tower speakers, and that shattered the illusion of listening to a larger system. The towers sounded like small satellite speakers.

All in all, we'd rate the sonics of the Panasonic SC-HT940 ($500) package slightly ahead of the Pioneer's, but it's worth noting that the latter model also includes a receiver/amplifier with a built-in five-disc DVD changer. But if you place a higher priority on sound than trim size or a slick look, we'd recommend the Onkyo HT-S790 HTIB. The big and bulky $500 system lacks a DVD player, but its sound quality is among the best in its price class.


Pioneer HTS-560DV

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 5