Pioneer’s HTZ-BD32 is one of the many, many Home Theater in a Box (HTiB) systems on the market. It has the usual specs you’d expect, including a built-in 3D Blu-ray player, 5.1-channel surround sound, Wi-Fi, and a handful of additional inputs for your set-top box and other items. The BD32 also includes an iPod/iPhone dock and all the speakers necessary to create that 5.1-channel sound field.
Unboxing and setting up the BD32 is a pretty easy affair. Everything you need, with the exception of HDMI cables, is in the box. The speakers themselves (four matching cubes for left/right/surround, a dedicated center channel, and subwoofer) all hook up easily via pre-terminated, color-coded plugs. If you manage to mess this part up, you don’t know a center channel from a subwoofer, and Pioneer can’t help you there. A single HDMI cable to your TV is all you need to get that beautiful Blu-ray picture on your screen, but the BD32 also includes two additional HDMI inputs and two additional optical inputs, so your other components can share in the surround sound fun.
Pioneer has done a nice job of making sure you get the BD32 up and running quickly. A quick start setup runs when you first power the unit up, and it takes you through the usual items, including network setup. Once this is done, you end up on the home screen, where you are able to select your input of choice via text and pictures. It seems that most of the UI is aimed at the novice user, and it truly is easy to use. The home screen features pictures of each input with the input name, making it easy to find your source of choice. One feature that I would have liked to see would be input naming, since you’ll just have to remember what you plugged in where, but then again, there aren’t a lot of inputs to keep track of, so it’s probably not a big deal.
Before we talk about audio quality, we need to talk about price. Expectations have to be adjusted to match the BD32’s MSRP of $499. HTiB’s are generally aimed at those looking for an easily deployed surround sound system, and a good many of the serious contenders cost a good bit more than the BD32 does. When they include a Blu-ray player (and most do), it’s even better, since you are getting more features in the same box. These systems are more about ease of setup and use, and generally need to make sacrifices to make a certain price point. And (spoiler alert) the subwoofer is usually the component that gets sacrificed.
That all being said, for the price, the BD32 doesn’t sound too bad. General TV watching was a pleasant experience, with the front three speakers giving a pretty even and clear image of what you’re watching. The speakers themselves have a fairly neutral sound that isn’t too bright, but still cuts through the mix well. I live on a busy street, with lots of traffic noise to contend with, and the Pioneer had no issue getting me clear audio without having to crank the loud knob up too high. But bass isn’t spectacular. The subwoofer is not self-powered and honestly doesn’t sound great. I wouldn’t expect a powered sub at this price, but the included one just doesn’t have what it takes to add sufficient kick to movies — especially those with any amount of appreciable action. When you finally crank its volume enough to get a little rumble, the sound just falls apart and turns “burpy.” Unfortunately, the BD32 does not have any provisions for adding your own sub, so you’re pretty much stuck with what you get in the box.
At the heart of the BD32 is its Blu-ray player, and in stark contrast to the sub, I was pretty impressed by its video performance. Discs loaded quickly and the image quality was on par or better than what you’d expect from a player at this price point. I didn’t experiences any lag or pauses, and movie watching was completely unproblematic. The BD32 is 3D-capable, but I didn’t have a compatible display to test with.
In addition to Blu-ray 3D, you’ll have a few streaming services to keep you entertained, including Pandora, Netflix, YouTube, and Picasa. I’m a huge Hulu fan, so I was disappointed to not see that included, but the execution of the four included services is just fine. Again, easy to use.
The BD32 doesn’t leave your portable devices out in the cold, either. It has an included iPod/iPhone dock and a “portable audio” input, making it easy to bring your device of choice into the system. DLNA streaming capability is also included, and is implemented about as good as any other DLNA device. Access to any of these “inputs” is as simple as navigating around the home screen of the BD32. Super simple.
In the end, you might think the weak subwoofer would be a total deal killer for this system, but it’s not. I see this system as more of an incremental upgrade from the built-in TV speakers, rather than a full blown surround system. If you’re reading HomeTechTell, I doubt you’ll buy this for your main media room, assuming you have your own casa, but if you’re looking for something for an apartment, dorm room, or secondary room in your own house, this is a solid option. You could probably spend about the same on a separate Blu-ray player and low-end soundbar, but you honestly get a little more for your money out of this system. For day-to-day watching and overall “liveability,” this system hits the mark. Setup and use are both easy. The sound quality at reasonable levels is fine, picture quality is good, and it has some of the key add-ons like Netflix and an included iPod/iPhone dock. The additional inputs definitely make this a more flexible system than some of its competitors, and with 99.9% of people needing a set top box for their cable/satellite provider, the BD32 has you covered. While it may have some shortcomings, the pluses outweigh the minuses for me.
The Pioneer HTZ-BD32 is available now from a variety of retailers, including Amazon, for an MSRP of $499.