We shopped and priced around extensively, and the Pioneer HTIB system was the clear choice to add on to my Xbox 360. First, and foremost, this is a well designed “compact” home theater system that goes very well with a 360. It’s color scheme blends right in with the Microsoft game sytem. Pioneer got all the details right, even down to the XBOX-like “univeral” remote control.

The nearest competitor to Pioneer’s HTS-GS1 is the Spherex 51000 HTIB 5.1 Channel surround system, also license by Microsoft specifically for the Xbox 360. In a head to head comparison, to me, the Pioneer integrates best, mainly because it “looks” like it belongs with the Xbox and also has more user friendly system controls and by far is more flexible to set up whether used with the Xbox or not. I cannot comment on differences in terms of purely audio performance, but the Spherex is only rated for 300 watts total output. The latter may not be a fair comparison – read on for more on this.

These two systems are currently selling in retail stores close to the same price point (around $200). Since there introduction, both have been deeply discounted from original list price of $499. Overall, I feel the HTS-GS1 offers the most bang for the buck.

The surround speakers are uniquely and cleverly designed. The front and rear speaker are actually “stackable” which allows a front surround stage 5 channel sound speaker placement arrangement. This stacking feature is not possible on Spherex system with its omni surround satellite speakers which must have free air space above each speaker to work properly.

Front speaker stacking is an extremely useful feature for the non-purist audiophile. It lends itself to a much faster and simpler system set up, eliminating need for long(er) – hard to disguise – routing of speaker wires to the back of your listening room area. However, this diminishes the full effectiveness of a surround sound system, yet in the case of the HS-GS1, I did not find it overly detracting from the system’s “virtual” surround or front-only sound stage experience. Furthermore, I appreciate having a CHOICE in satellite speaker placement and opted to go this route for obvious advantages offered in eliminating the hassle of locating and mounting separate rear speakers and wiring complications.

The surround sound “effects” are still quite evident in this front only arrangement, because the unique stackable left and right double decker speakers can be rotated independently rotated to aim them in different dirrections. This design does an adequate job of simulating a four corner surround sound, if not fully “immersive” listening experience.

I may eventually take the additional time to separate and relocate the rear satellite speaker to the back of my listening area. Pioneer provides plenty of speaker wire for that purpose if so desired. But for now, I am enjoying the system in the front surround mode only, and saved at least another couple of hours of tedious installation work routing the rear speaker wires far away from the audio amplifier (subwoofer) origination connections.

One thing that the average consumer should know is that most comparable HTIB systems are “hyped” in terms of their true (<1% THD) audio output power rating per channel per the FTC. In actuality this Pioneer system has a total of 155 watts output power; 25W each for the four satelites, 30W for the somewhat larger size center speaker and only 25W for the subwoofer. Nevertheless, this is more than enough power for a small to medium size room and if you crank up the volume you can be prepared to damage your eardrums.

The audio amplifier built into the bottom of the subwoofer enclosure has four audio inputs, 3 digital (2 of which are for TOSLINK fiber optic cable ready inputs and 1 coaxial input), plus one tradional (wire pair) of analog audio inputs. Pioneer, generously, includes a fiber optic cable but no other audio input cables. For 5.1 channel sound decoders, such as built-in to Xbox 360, or sometimes passively outputed from a HDTV, this cable comes in handy. (Don’t forget to remove the protective dust covers on both ends of this cable before attaching to your Xbox 360 (or other output device) to the digital audio input on the back of the single enclosure, 5.1 channel audio amplifier – AM/FM stereo receiver -subwoofer. The latter has a built-in power supply and AC line cord is included with the product.

All five, individual (supplied) speaker wires are color coded to make a do-it-yourself installation that much easier to get right the first time, although bare wire attachments are still need to be properly connect the back of each standalone speaker. Unlike other HTIB system, that are permanently pre-wired, Pioneer uses standard “quick-connect” speaker wire color coded connectors to further aid in ease of installation. The subwoofer has a short pre-wired “jumper” on the back panel to quick connect to the amplifier.

As I said the remote control for this system is especially well suited for Xbox 360, TV, and home theater integration. It supports all three! In addition to buttons for controlling the 5.1 channel audio sound, it also has another set of buttons to operate the Xbox 360 and optional HD-DVD player, Media Center PC, and also can be programmed to support most TVs.

The remote buttons dedicated to 360 control are segregated, and stylized to closely mimic the same buttons on Xbox 360 game controller as well as Microsoft’s (sold separately) Universal Media Remote. On the down side, unfortunately the remote is not backlighted and none of the buttons glow in the dark when pressed. However, the Xbox Guide button is raised and larger than all the others, and the green, red, blue, yellow, color coded button that correspond to game controllers A-B-X-Y buttons, all in one row, are easy to use.

The remote control operates a nicely designed system controller with a digital readout display, with its own set of basic control buttons. Btw, a big disadvantage with the competing Spherex system is that it can ONLY be operated by remote control; undoubtedly a cost cutting tradeoff.

The bottom line, this Pioneer system is a very high quality product that WILL EXCEED the average electronic consumers expectations, and therefore is worth every penny of the purchase price.

PRODUCT REVIEW:

If you’ve got an Xbox 360, then you’re probably very happy with the system’s fantastic graphics, bountiful title selection, and sleek design. Now, what about a high-performance sound system to enhance your gaming experience? Designed to match the style of the Xbox 360, Pioneer’s HTS-GS1 5.1-Channel Surround Sound System may be just what you’re looking for. After setting up this home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) system, we sat back and enjoyed several hours of pure gaming bliss. Whether we were battling online against other Halo 2 gamers, or saving the planet in the Xbox 360 title, Prey, this system delivered awesome and inspired surround sound.

Easy Set-up and Configuration

Everything you need to set up the HTS-GS1 is included in the box. Using the handy Quick Start Guide, we had the entire system wired in less than an hour. The easy-to-follow instructions and color-coded wires made the set up of the center speaker, subwoofer, and two rear and two front speakers a cinch. One word of warning: the included wires are an adequate length for a small-to-medium sized room, but if you really want to spread out, you’ll need additional wiring to complete the task. But for our purposes, the HTS-GS1 provided everything we needed to get the job done.

The HTS-GS1 is an ideal choice for any small-to-medium sized space
that is dedicated to Xbox 360 gaming.

Once the speakers were in place, we took advantage of the system’s auto MCACC microphone calibration technology. We simply placed the ultra high-end calibration microphone on the back of the couch — directly behind our favorite gaming position — and the HTS-GS1 automatically adjusted the sound for the distance, volume, speaker size, and equalization. Once the system calibrated the speakers to match the layout of our room, we were off to the races –literally — tackling the toughest race tracks available on Project Gotham Racing 3.

Although all the connections were easy to distinguish and connect, we do have one complaint: there are loads and loads of wires to deal with. This is not a problem unique to the HTS-GS1, but we found it a bit ironic that a home-theater-in-a-box designed to complement the Xbox 360 — a gaming system noted for its clean design and wireless capabilities — would be so overloaded with wires.

Sleek, Xbox 360 Design

This surround sound system offers an attractive white design, accented with gray speaker grilles, and features five small satellite speakers (center, two front, and two rear), and a large subwoofer that is about the size of a standard CPU tower. Although the subwoofer is a bit bulky, it houses all of the system’s electronics and connectivity jacks. And since this theater system lacks a DVD player (the assumption is you’ll use your Xbox 360 for movies), the display unit is quite small; in fact, it’s not much bigger than the included remote control. It features tiny, silver control buttons and a large, circular power button. The front panel delivered all the information we needed via a scrolling single-line display. The included easy-to-use remote control is packed with features, and, like the rest of the system, it also matches the Xbox 360 design. With it we could control all of the system’s features, as well as our Xbox 360 gaming console.

Sound Designed for High-Performance Gaming

With the HTS-GS1 we could hear every audio effect the Xbox 360 had to offer — from the lightest wind to bone-rattling explosions. The system delivers great audio performance with a powerful 600 watts of total RMS power, and dynamic 5.1-channel surround sound with Dolby Digital/Pro Logic II and DTS decoding. In addition to playing video games, the Xbox 360 also plays DVDs and MP3 files. We took advantage of both and spent an afternoon watching movies, and an evening listening to a stack of CDs. The system responded to every form of entertainment that we could throw at it — games, film, and music — with crisp, clear, and powerful sound.

The HTS-GS1 also features Front Stage Surround Sound, a virtual surround-sound feature. To test this function, we moved all the speakers to the front of the room. Through its sophisticated digital sound processing and directional speakers, the system can mimic surround sound without the hassle of running wires to additional rear speakers. Although the traditional surround sound set-up delivered the best audio surround sound quality, the Front Stage option was still much better than our regular, old television speakers.

The HTS-GS1 can be a bit pricey when compared to other home-theater-in-a-box systems, but Pioneer’s design may trump the cost for those who want an attractive, surround-sound option that matches the Xbox 360’s style. And even though his system may not be the optimal home-theater system choice for a large family room, the HTS-GS1 is an ideal choice for any small-to-medium sized space that is dedicated to Xbox 360 gaming.

Pros

  • Attractive, Xbox 360 design
  • Simple set-up and great sound
  • Ideal for any small-to-medium sized gaming room

Cons

  • Lots and lots of wires
  • Sometimes pricy compared to similar HTIBs (Try to find a good deal on internet)

What’s in the Box

Receiver/subwoofer, five satellite speakers (two front, two rear, and one center), display unit, remote control, two AA batteries, two display unit stands, AM loop antenna, FM wire antenna, display unit cable, optical cable, power cord, five speaker cables, microphone (for Auto MCACC setup), non skid pads (small and large), mounting brackets, screws, operating instructions, and warranty card.