Most HTIBs come with five satellite speakers and a subwoofer, but over the past year or two, some models have reduced the speaker count down to three, two, or even one superspeaker, plus a sub. These virtual surround systems reduce the speaker clutter and wire tangles, but genuine five-speaker arrays still produce the best, most enveloping surround sound. With Pioneer's radically new HTZ-740DV ($800 list), you can go either way: get virtual surround from the tallboy speakers flanking a tiny center speaker or detach the skinny towers' top micro satellites and stick them in the back of your home theater to get bona fide 5.1 surround.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.At first glance, the 740DV's silvery 42-inch-tall towers don't look all that different than those from Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, or JVC. But closer inspection reveals a very significant departure: the Pioneer's towers are two-piece designs. Their top sections are, in fact, surround speakers. Leave them on the towers, and the receiver/DVD player's processing will create a virtual surround effect from the integrated tower-surround speaker array. The surround speaker can be mounted flush to the tower or angled to bounce sound off your sidewalls to create a more diffuse, enveloping surround effect.
So far, so good, but the resulting sound won't duplicate the spaciousness of a 5.1-speaker array. If that's what you want, detach the surround speakers from the towers and place them in the back or sides of your home theater. Pioneer supplies caps to cover the naked tops of the towers and bottom covers for the surrounds.
The ultracompact center speaker will look swell on top of your TV. And the remarkably slim 3.5-inch-wide subwoofer is roughly the size and shape of the receiver. The entire ensemble is finished in matte silver with chrome accents.
One small knock: The svelte receiver/DVD player's setup and menu navigation chores aren't as intuitive as those found on Pioneer's receivers and DVD players.