When Pioneer’s LX01 home cinema kit arrived in the Stuff office, it was immediately flung into our February issue’s Hot Five and branded ‘as hot as Cheryl Tweedy toting a flamethrower’. Our reasons were simple: not only is it one of the best-looking one-box systems we’ve seen, it can do a host of clever things including creating surround sound from just four speakers.
This is all thanks to its two front speakers having dedicated drivers on their angled faces, which means there’s no need for a centre speaker under your telly. This and the glossy black finish mean the LX01’s certainly very stealthy – but is it any good?
Best home cinema system in the world…ever
After some hours camped in our test room, we can reveal that this Pioneer is by some way the best home cinema-in-a-box system in the world.
To start with, there’s its sheer capability – you get a 250GB hard-drive, Freeview tuner, the ability to upscale DVDs and video from the hard-drive to 1080p and the ability to decode HD audio formats such as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. So, plug in a suitable HD source and you’ll be treated to surround sound audio that knocks the spots off anything else previously heard in the all-in-one-box market.
Then there’s the connectivity. The hub’s stark appearance belies an inner sophistication – it houses USB inputs for audio devices and PCs, a DV-in for your digicam – while the 400W amp supplies ample back-up with three HDMI inputs and one output.
Even the control system, so often an afterthought, is a classy affair. You get a remote with a touchscreen LCD, and also a separate display unit linked by a long umbilical cord to the hub. This can be mounted on a wall or table and, naturally, has connections for iPods and other MP3 players.
But it’s the LX01’s ability to marry the convenience and looks of an all-in-one system with superb performance that really impresses. Picture quality is astounding from both the DVD player and hard-disk recorder: edges are crisply drawn, motion is handled with assuredness and background noise is kept to a minimum.
Movie sound, meanwhile, is superbly well-integrated thanks to Pioneer’s sophisticated automatic calibration and equalization, which helps to fine-tune the delicate balancing act between the speakers and sub. This means it has genuine punch and drive. As long as you place the front speakers either side of your screen and fairly close to it, even the ‘invisible’ centre channel is surprisingly convincing and impressively clear, serving up highly believable dialogue.
This isn’t to say that the LX01 is perfect. Its one weakness is that it’s too recessed in the mid-range to deliver truly satisfying hi-fi sound, although it’s never harsh or lumpen. This isn’t much of a black mark – while better sound could be certainly be wrung from separates, the LX01’s style and other capabilities more than compensate. If you can cough the slightly hefty price tag, it really is some system and offers oodles of style with only the barest hint of compromise.