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

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.

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