Pioneer started with the radical styling of its HTZ-55DV system, added MP3 CD support, and reworked the satellite speakers a bit to come up with the HTZ-77DV home theater in a box (HTIB). The slim-line DVD player/tuner is tiny--about the size of a small telephone book--and the separate, blue fluorescent display looks cool and lets you put most of the system out of sight. However, it lacks a DVD changer and some connection options that you can find in similarly priced kits. Pioneer started with the radical styling of its HTZ-55DV system, added MP3 CD support, and reworked the satellite speakers a bit to come up with the HTZ-77DV home theater in a box (HTIB). The slim-line DVD player/tuner is tiny--about the size of a small telephone book--and the separate, blue fluorescent display looks cool and lets you put most of the system out of sight. However, it lacks a DVD changer and some connection options that you can find in similarly priced kits.
Shrinking the system
Pioneer succeeded in making the HTZ-77DV so small by building all the amplification into the rather large (16.5 inches tall and deep, and 7.5 inches wide) subwoofer, which you can stuff in a corner or next to your entertainment center to move it out of the way. The kit's small satellite speakers are equipped with a lone 3.5-inch driver. The 6.5-inch subwoofer's internal amplifier serves up 30 watts to each of the five sats and uses 50 watts for itself.
The real brains of the operation reside in the silver DVD/tuner box, which boasts the latest 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converters, Dolby Digital, DTS, and MP3 decoding. But the back-panel connections are a bit sparse; you get just standard composite and S-Video outputs for your TV. At a list price of $865, we expect to see component video outputs. However, if your TV is modest (32 inches or smaller), you'll find that this DVD player is up to the task. Digital and analog input provisions are few. You'll be able to hook up a satellite receiver with a digital audio connection as well as a VCR; however, you can't connect a turntable. In addition, 5.1-channel DVD-A/SACD inputs didn't make the cut either. Thanks to this component's separate display, you can hide it as well.
Don't misplace the HTZ-77DV's universal remote or you'll be stuck with just the DVD player's Play/Pause, Stop, Open/Close, and Power On/Off buttons--you can't even adjust the volume or select an input without the remote. The soft-touch microbuttons on the DVD player didn't always function unless we moistened our fingertips. The remote is pretty well designed, although it's too easy to punch its Tuner or Tape buttons when trying to raise or lower the volume.
Once you dim the lights, you'll forget just how small the sats are. We revved up Sylvester Stallone's Grand Prix racing flick, Driven, and the HTZ-77DV dished out the soundtrack's throaty rumble of megahorsepower with flair. Dialog--even Stallone's trademark mumble--was articulate. Loudness capability was a bit above average for a HTIB with very small sats. The Pioneer's DVD sound is clean and clear, avoiding the harshness we've heard from some microsats.
The Woodstock DVD's heady mix swirled over our listening room; the surround effects on the Jimi Hendrix and Who tracks were surprisingly huge. The sat/sub blend was smooth, so midrange quality was good, but the sub wasn't terribly powerful. Bass from CDs and DVDs didn't have the solidity and punch we heard from the sub. Even the Pioneer's less expensive but larger sibling, the $620 , had a bit more low-end grunt.
The $865 HTZ-77DV is more than sonically competitive with Sony's svelte HTIB but lacks that system's DVD changer. If you're not too concerned about playing MP3 CDs, also consider the nearly identical HTZ-55DV. And if size and style aren't your biggest criteria, we recommend that you look at Pioneer's less expensive HTD-510D or JBL's powerful .