When our ageing Sanyo stereo finally gave up the ghost, we decided to invest in something a bit smarter. We had a DVD player already, but had thought about updating this as well. When Christmas 2003 came round, and I got a few pounds in Xmas money (when you get older people don?t really know what to buy you.. and I?m only 29..) we thought a trip to Richer Sounds might help us out of our music-less predicament. I think I have reviewed Richer Sounds before, and I know many people favour them highly. I personally think they offer the greatest range, best prices and best advice for anyone willing to ignore the fact that the stores are not in glittering big mega shopping centers, and are often crammed to the rafters with customers and stock. A visit to the Milton Keynes store, the day after New Year?s was enough to convince us of the type of system we wanted. A deliberation on prices and funds followed. We went back the next day, and 15 minutes later were the proud owners of a Pioneer DCS-313 and two Gale 3010 speakers (more about that later) What?s the DCS-313? The DCS-313 is an integrated home cinema system. It consists of two parts ? the XV-DV313 DVD/CD receiver and the S-DV313 speaker system. The XV-DV313 is a Multi-region player (well, it is following Richer Sounds modification) allowing you to play DVD disks from around the world. Along with standard DVD playback, it handles various other formats ? DVD-R & DVD-RW (it?s not a recorder though), CD, CD-R & CD-RW, VCD & S-VCD, MP3, JPEG and WMA (Windows Media Au
dio format). I have yet to try out anything other that VCD, but I trust in that manual, and it claims all the other formats are perfectly fine. The home-cinema element comes from the various audio functions and decoders built into the machine. You can get the full surround sound effect from discs with Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro Logic, Pro Logic II & DTS soundtracks. Sadly, there is no THX ? but you wont find a system in this price bracket (or at least you could not in January) that does, not without loosing one of the other codecs anyhow. As an added bonus you get a built in FM/AM RDS tuner. This has a 30 pre-set memory in both frequencies. In the receiver box you get ? The machine itself Remote control Manuals & warranty Ariel for FM and Ariel for AM reception Power lead The S-DV313 is a 6 part speaker system. You get four satellites for the front and rear dimension, a center speaker and a fairly compact subwoofer. The package comes complete with leads to connect to the receiver. Sounds good ? what does it look like? Pretty smart! It?s a very slim-line machine at about 2? high. The chassis is silver (aren?t all these gizmo?s silver these days?) with a shiny black front panel containing the LCD Display. The front panel is trimmed off with a gun metal insert that moves over the curved top edge in a shallow arc. There is a cool blue LED in the center of the arc that lights up when the unit is on. The LCD display us multi-line, and about two thirds the width of the front of the unit. Its blue illuminated with red details. You can dip the brightness of the backlight if you choose. There are six ch
rome button s, allowing you to play disks, stop fast forward, adjust the volume and power on or off. The Speakers are quite neat. The Woofer is fairly tall (20? approx) but slim-line at around 4? wide. It too is silver, with a chrome trimmed air hole in the front. There is a 7? speaker cone in the left side. You can place this anywhere in the room, but don?t hide it as it looks quite cool. The satellite speakers are quite compact too. There are about 10? high and 2.5? wide. The center speaker is slightly larger than its quad siblings, and built to sit horizontally above or below the middle of your screen. The remote control is quite large, but well laid out and easy to use. It has two diamond shaped multifunction, four way, buttons, the handle most of the system navigation, along with various sub-function buttons ? some covered by a slide in the lower part of the handset. All of the system set-up is done using this unit. Is it any good? Too right it is! Out of the box, the system set-up is extremely easy. The cables are all colour coded, and the instructions are in plain English. You can have it all plumbed in and be watching a movie in less than 15 minutes. The first film we watched with the new toy was Gladiator. This has a DTS soundtrack, and the DCS-313 brought the film to life. The rich bass you get when you add a sub woofer may upset your neighbours a little, but I think you will enjoy the encompassing surround sound. The opening battle is fantastic, with effects such as the giant catapults throwing their flaming shots ? the sound of this moves from one end of the living room to the other. Brilliant! Music disks sound good too. This is where those Gale speakers come in. Typlically the speakers in a Home Cinema system don?t reproduce music wel
l. The y are design ed to act as part of a set-up using all the speakers, so sound tiny if you are playing music with lots of treble ? guitar tracks for instance. Replacing the front two speakers with proper HiFi boxes makes all the difference. So is there anything wrong with it? Of course there is ? not much, but a few things I think could be improved. The interconnects provided (cables to connect the lot up) Are OK, but I would like to replace them with some better quality cables. There?s the problem. The speakers are connected using colour coded plugs on the ends of the cables. You have to use the provided bits of wire, and although there is only the one end that has this (so you can still use other speakers) it would be nice to have more standard connections. It?s an integrated unit. You always get better sound from dedicated devices ? a DVD player that is just a DVD player, coupled with a home cinema receiver that is just that. However, if you don?t want to shell out lots and lots of money, and don?t have the highly tuned ear of a purist, these integrated systems are pretty close to perfection. Should you buy one? Definitely. If you live in a terraced house, you might not want to get the full effect (unless you really hate your neighbours), but you will still get much better sound, and a trendy looking machine. And anyway - you can always switch it into "Quiet mode" I checked out the prices on Richer Sound's website - I would recommend buying from these guys too - and the price has dropped a bit since we brought ours - £198.95. You should be able to get the whole package, as listed here for around £278.90 (package, 3 year warranty and Gale 3010 speakers) We were able to get rid of our stereo and DVD player
, replacing them with one sleek device. I plumbed the Freeview box in to one of the many connections on the back of the receiver, so now get surround sound football highlights (no actual matches of course ? thanks Sky). All I need now is sound proofing for the flat, blackout curtains and a pop-corn machine and we never need to go to the pictures again!