Microsoft has beaten the competition to be the first to release a high-definition (HD) gaming console that is capable of rendering 720p and 1080i video signals. The new Xbox 360 is not only capable of HD gaming and video, but it can also deliver it all in full digital surround sound glory. This is where Pioneer steps into the picture. Taking advantage of the Xbox 360's HD capabilities, Pioneer has specially designed a companion surround sound speaker system for the it – the HTP-GS1.
The color scheme, design and contours of the HTP-GS1's control panel matches very closely to the Xbox 360, making it look like a natural extension of the console when they are placed together in your living or game room.. Besides sharing a similar design, the HTP-GS1's remote can also be used to control the Xbox 360.. The universal remote control works with the Xbox 360 out of the box with dedicated Xbox guide, media center, cursor, as well as the X, Y, A and B buttons just like the official Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote. Sliding open the remote panel allows access to more sound settings of the HTP-GS1 such as audio input selection, sound level and even TV control.
During our brief moment with the HTP-GS1, we must say that we were most impressed with its powerful audio capabilities. The 5.1 surround sound system comes with 600W total RMS (for five satellites speakers and subwoofer) and it actually sounded like a quality mid-range speaker system. Mid and high notes were well articulated for such a system, and while the subwoofer managed to blend in nicely, the quality of bass output was less satisfactory. Of course, for any speaker system, input quality as well as satellite placement presents a huge impact on your total audio experience.
To create a truly realistic surround sound environment for gaming or movies, you'll have to be finicky with satellite placement and depending on the space and layout of your room, it might be quite a task. For this, the HTP-GS1 comes with an intelligent system called MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System). Through an audio receptor, MCACC can calibrate itself for optimal listening experience. While it's not perfect, who can argue when your speakers can auto calibrate itself at the press of a button.
Besides using it with the Xbox 360, the HTP-GS1 is also a full fledge home theater speaker setup. It comes with additional optical and a coaxial inputs so you can connect it to your existing Hi-Fi or DVD players as well. The HTP-GS1 comes with built-in DTS and Dolby Digital decoders for powering up all your movie needs and for digital music lovers, the speaker system has a 'Sound Retriever' feature that claims to improve and 'fill out' the sound quality of compressed audio files. For the PC users, this is a similar technology to the 24-bit Crystalizer used in Creative's X-Fi sound cards.
The HTP-GS1 is a lovely speaker system. Besides its aesthetically matching interface with the Xbox 360, we are convinced that the HTP-GS1 can faithfully reproduce the full audio prowess of the Xbox 360, but our only gripe is the weaker bass delivery. On the whole, HTP-GS1 is a decent home theater speaker system and can be very effective for a medium sized hall. The MCACC setup is a godsend for those who do not know how or just too lazy to calibrate and position their speakers. The Sound Retriever feature though, is a hit and miss. If you like your CDs clean, you wouldn't appreciate it, but then again some people will swear that it enhances all their music. The HTP-GS1 is retailing for US$445 (S$699) in the market now. With the upcoming Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive for HD movie viewing, we strongly recommend it to both gamers and movie buffs who not only demand the best picture quality but also a strong multi-purpose 5.1 speaker system.