All-in-one systems should be easy to set up and easy to live with. Pioneer’s new entry-level system certainly fits the bill on both counts. With colour-coded speaker sockets and small, attractively designed satellite speakers, this system will be up and running in no time - and you’ll hardly notice it’s there.

Budget systems tend to scrimp on the speakers though, and those supplied with the DCS-232 are certainly on the lightweight side. They carry 77mm drivers and have quoted frequency responses as low as 90Hz (front and centre) and 100Hz (rear). These figures seem realistic and will mean that a lot will depend on how well the subwoofer fills the bottom end of the soundstage.

The sub in question is rather small, but carries a 160mm drive unit capable of reaching down to 30Hz - so this sub isn’t getting as down and dirty as some, but it should still be enough to add the muscle to a home cinema performance.

For those who don’t like the idea of speaker cables snaking all over their living room, Pioneer offers an intriguing option. The ‘3-Spot’ configuration sees the rear speakers mounted on top of the front stereo pair. You need to engage the Front Surround mode on the receiver and then you will get a pseudo-surround sound experience.

In action the Pioneer DVD player included in the system wins laurels for its excellent picture. The lack of progressive scan output is a shame, but the RGB Scart signal is obviously coming through loud and clear. Images are very detailed and colours are beautiful.

The sound system however, doesn’t do this picture justice, struggling to remain coherent at anything other than modest volume levels.

The subwoofer needs to be seriously reined in (why are subs always set their highest levels out of the box?) or it runs riot over the weaker satellites.

At lower volumes things hang together fairly well but there remains an issue with indistinct dialogue.

And what of the 3-Spot surround feature? It does add extra width to the soundstage, but does not come close to matching a conventional setup.


If you have a small room and only need modest sound levels this system could still do the job, and the picture should be good enough for anyone not set on progressive scan.

Anyone looking for a really powerful sound system, however, should look elsewhere, although it's hard to be too critical given the competitive price.