The Pioneer RCS-9H offers recording and versatile speaker placement in addition to its typical one-box system capabilities.

What's more, it combines the best of both recording worlds by featuring DVD-R/RW and 80GB hard-disk recording. Phew! And despite all this functionality, Pioneer has kept the main unit discrete and simple.

The one of thing the RCS-9H doesn't have is a component video output for the very best picture quality to your flatscreen, but we found pictures via its RGB Scart were more than enough to please us; in fact they are almost irreproachable. Recordings are almost as impressive, and still watchable in the lower-quality recording modes.

Like Pioneer's DCS-323, the RCS-9H incorporates the brand's 3-Spot Surround technology - for 'pseudo' surround when the speakers are placed at the front of the soundstage only. And it provides a big, enjoyable sound, whichever layout you opt for.

This is one of the most flexible setups we've seen at this price point.