Pros: Affordable, Dolby Digital, DTS, Good power output, easy, optical and coaxial digital inputs.
Cons: It only lasted a year and a half, remote is among the worst ever designed.
I bought this receiver as a part of Aiwa's 5.1 Surround 'Home Theater in a Box' that was offered at BJ's wholesale during early 2002. Initially, I was slightly deterred because the receiver in the first box that I brought home was DOA. I had already cut the speaker wires and installed them around the room. After I hooked up all of my components, I plugged the receiver in and turned it on. Dead. Nadda. Nothing.
I called BJ's and they said bring it back. I had to package everything back up (except the wires...sshhh!) and trucked it back to BJ's. I picked up a new box and had the store manager check the new receiver before I left so I wouldn't have to make an additional trip. It worked fine, so I was happy.
I brought it home and hooked it up to all of the wires that were left hanging from the previous attempt. I turned it on and attempted to listen to a CD. The stereo sound was great but there was NO bass whatsoever. I had hooked up the powered subwoofer correctly but no sound. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get bass out of the sub. The receiver manual was no help, which I thought was ridiculous. Eventually, after hitting multiple buttons on the remote, I found an option that said SUBWOOFER:OFF. A-ha! Turned it on, and voila, I have deep bass.
This is a supreme example of how god-awful the remote control is. It's so small with so few buttons that they have to add a 'shift' button to access normal features like 'Surround Sound Mode', like 'Treble/Bass', and 'Fade/Balance.' Terrible, terrible design. They did have separate buttons for things I never, ever used, such as "Tape Monitor" and "Disk Skip".
This remote touts itself as able to control DVD players, but there's a catch: Only Aiwa DVD players. Big THUMBS DOWN. It's got four buttons that are only able to be used for DVD controls and they are totally useless as I don't have an Aiwa DVD player.
The controls on the receiver are almost as horrid. There is no way to access the subwoofer on/of with the controls on the receiver itself, which is another reason it took me so long to figure out how to get the darned thing on. You can only use the remote to do certain things, which is a terrible design flaw. There is a large volume dial on the right and the large dial on the left is used as the 'Function Selector'. I like the function selector because it was easy to use. Just turn it in whichever direction you want and it'll cycle through the inputs.
Selecting a surround sound mode was quite easy, as there are buttons on both the front of the receiver and on the remote. You can select either Stereo, Dolby ProLogic, Dolby Digital (when you use the DVD or anything with a digital signal), DTS (again, when you have something with a DTS signal hooked up). There are a few DSP options but I never used them because I thought they all sounded terrible. There was a lot of reverb and it distorted the quality of the sound.
I want to briefly discuss the hookup of this receiver since I didn't do this earlier thanks to my rant about the remote control. Hooking things up to this receiver is very easy. There are inputs for Phono, AM/FM Tuner, Tape, CD, Video 1/TV, Video 2/DVD and Video 3. There are regular spring-loaded clips for the speaker wires (left, right, left surround, right surround and center channel), and the rest of the connectors are RCA-type. There is a subwoofer non-amplified output, one coaxial digital input that is hooked up to the Video 1/TV input. There is an optical input that is hooked up to the Video 2/DVD. You can't assign any of these inputs, they are the way they are. There are hookups for the AM and FM antennae on the rear as well as an auxillary 110V switched plug that's only on when the receiver is turned on. Everything is pretty standard for an entry-level Dolby Digital/DTS receiver.
Sound quality is average at best. The bass outputted is nothing compared to that outputted by my new Sony STR-DE995 receiver. The highs are sort of chirpy and the midrange is muddy. Nothing special here at all. The surround sound is fair, and that is to say I heard sound out of the surround sound speakers while watching a DVD movie.
Only having one optical input limited this receiver greatly. I have three components which could use optical signals for surround sound: DVD player, XBox and Playstation 2. To get around this limitation, I purchased an optical signal switch from Radio Shack for about $30. This was still a hassle, as I had to get up and manually switch between each component, but it was much better than having to change the actual cords.
Now to the bad news. This receiver only lasted for a year and a half. I don't know why it died, but it died a slow and somewhat painful death over the span of a few weeks. One night I threw in a DVD and there was no sound...only static and very strange noises. I turned it off, unplugged it from the wall, let it sit for a few minutes, and started it up again. This time I had sound but there was more sound out of the left than the right. I checked the balance setting, and it was centered. Oh well, I could still watch a movie. A few weeks later, I watched another movie and noticed that no sound was coming out of the right side. I messed with the wires, messed with the speakers, and couldn't get anything. Just dead out of the right side. I tried everything I could think of, and couldn't rectify the situation. I disconnected it, threw it in an old box, and it sits in my closet now. I bought Sony's non-ES home theater flagship receiver, the STR-DE995 and I couldn't be happier with it.
I'll rate this on my own, independent of Epinions' own rating system below:
Sound: Average. Not clear, muddy, bass was easily distored.
Ease of use: Average-poor. Depends on what you want to do, but most of the features take a while to learn.
Durability: Poor. Lasted only 1.5 years. Not good, even if it only cost $200.