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Christmas Gift Guide

Pioneer HTS-910DV review:

Pioneer HTS-910DV

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The Good Wonderful sound quality; separate receiver; all-metal satellites; hefty powered subwoofer.

The Bad The receiver's cooling-fan noise intrudes on quieter DVDs and CDs.

The Bottom Line Pioneer's engineers have miraculously coaxed full-bodied sound from a trim package.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

Pioneer's top-of-the-line home theater in a box (HTIB), the HTS-910DV, was designed to offer a unique combination of trim good looks, plentiful features, and full-bodied sound. Instead of the usual flimsy, plastic sats, this svelte kit sports gorgeous, all-metal satellites with nicely sculpted metal grilles, a full-sized powered subwoofer, a progressive-scan DVD player, and a separate receiver. Pioneer's top-of-the-line home theater in a box (HTIB), the HTS-910DV, was designed to offer a unique combination of trim good looks, plentiful features, and full-bodied sound. Instead of the usual flimsy, plastic sats, this svelte kit sports gorgeous, all-metal satellites with nicely sculpted metal grilles, a full-sized powered subwoofer, a progressive-scan DVD player, and a separate receiver.

Not just another HTIB
Most of the time, home-theater buyers have to choose between space-efficient but lightweight-sounding kits and larger ensembles that can belt out component-quality sound. That's why we're so excited about the 910DV. Yeah, it's compact--the receiver and the DVD player stacked together are about the size of a small receiver--but its sound mimics that of a larger package. While it's true that the five petite, two-way sats won't intrude on anyone's decor, the 22-pound fiberboard sub is pretty beefy, measuring 8.4 by 17.8 by 15.8 inches. But as far as performance goes, big size is a plus: the sub's 8-inch woofer and internal 100-watt amplifier generate substantial low-frequency power.

The DVD player spins all standard formats, including MP3 CDs. It offers composite-video, S-Video, and component-video outputs, and HDTV-ready TV owners will be interested to know that the player can output progressive-scan video. However, it lacks 3:2 pull-down circuitry to eliminate interlacing artifacts from DVDs that were originally shot on film.

The receiver delivers 30 watts to each of the five sats and offers Dolby Digital and DTS surround decoding. Connectivity choices are routine except for one difference: this is the first kit that we've seen with front-mounted audio/video/digital input jacks. It's too bad that Pioneer didn't include bass and treble controls or onscreen speaker setup menus.

This kit comes with two remotes: one for the receiver and one for the DVD player. Thanks, Pioneer, but we'd rather have one really good remote that handles both components. The receiver's smallish remote can operate the DVD player, but it's cluttered with way too many functions and buttons and is no fun to use in the dark.

Big-sounding little speakers
The 910DV uncorked the joyous sounds on the newly remastered concert DVD, The Last Waltz. We immediately noticed that the sats sure don't sound like tinny, small speakers; the audio is balanced way over to the warm side of neutral. But we're not implying that the 910DV's sats are soft or muddled--the kit had no trouble conveying the energy and visceral power of the fight scenes on the Ali DVD. You can hear the way both fighters are breathing hard, and you can also discern the ambiance of the ring. But a big part of the system's power can be attributed to the sub, which is punchy and powerful enough to get your mojo workin' in small to midsized rooms. We noted one quirk: The receiver's whirring cooling fan was audible from across the room.

Video quality was also crisp and clear, with ravishing color depth via the S-Video connection on a standard television. Die-hard videophiles who own HDTV-ready TVs should buy a separate player that has 3:2 pull-down circuitry.

Plenty of kits handle home-theater hijinks but stumble on straight music reproduction. Not this one, though; CDs sounded sweet and open. The 910DV exhibited a surefooted poise on acoustic jazz workouts such as trumpeter Kenny Dorham's classic, Whistle Stop. The entire rhythm section--Kenny Drew's piano, Paul Chambers's stand-up bass, and Philly Joe Jones's drum set--unfurled a palpable, swinging groove.

The HTS-910DV carries a $1,150 (list) price tag, but you can find it on the street for closer to $700, which is a bargain, especially if you're looking for a nice-sounding kit with tiny sats. Then again, if you can handle larger speakers, go ahead and scope out the , which offers full-sized sound that's even more impressive.

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