Anchored around the rather substantial main unit, this system is powerful (100W per channel) and has some versatility, although there are a few key features missing - somewhat justified by the price.

Dolby Digital, DTS and Pro-Logic II decoding are joined by a handful of surround sound modes and Pioneer's own unique 3-Spot technology,which lets you site the rear speakers on top of the front stereo pair in order to enjoy a pseudo-surround experience without the messy cables.

There is no component video output, although the Scart is RGB and S-video capable. Pleasingly, there is an optical digital audio input, so that you can connect other gear if required.

The satellite speakers are nicely designed,but their specifications look a touch hopeful and asking them to accept 100W each is probably going too far.

The front stereo pair are quoted with a frequency response down to 85Hz,while the centre claims 75Hz and the rears 100Hz.

The subwoofer,meanwhile, is as thin as a rake and carries a 160mm driver, with a frequency response quoted at 30hz-2kHz.

Setup should be straightforward. The onscreen menu system is superb and the features are fairly standard,but the remote throws a spanner in the works by being a little unintuitive.

That said, the colour-coded speaker cable (which is also decent quality) is a help, although the spring-clip terminals on the speakers are just about the tiniest we have yet seen!

There is no doubt that this Pioneer system delivers the goods when it comes to the picture. If you do not have a progressive scan-capable TV and have no plans to buy one,then the picture from this model is as good as you could hope for.

There is also excellent detail and very realistic colours,with skin tones in particular looking wonderfully natural and lifelike.

Colour saturation can be an eye-opener on cartoon fare (where it is meant to be over-the-top) but is restrained on 'ordinary'material.

The sound system does a good job as well,but can't quite match the picture.The satellites are,as we suspected,not capable of handling everything the amplifier section can throw at them.

With the volume kept to a sensible level there is a pleasing sense of cohesion,although dialogue can be a bit strained.The subwoofer needs to be talked down from its factory settings (eliminate anything that boosts bass output!) to keep it under control. Left to roam freely it booms uncontrollably.

Surprisingly, the system holds up pretty well on music sources, with an enjoyable performance from a range of CDs - again,when played at modest volumes.

For the price this is a thoroughly decent system, with the picture worthy of genuine praise and the sound just about holding up its side of the bargain.