Rarely will you find cheap speakers talked about in the audiophile community, but there’s been a lot of press lately about some Pioneer bookshelf speakers. The big surprise? They typically sell for 129 USD a pair! Of course, I just had to check them out.
I went to my local Best Buy store and sampled their speakers. I found the Pioneers on a shelf next to some $99 Polk speakers, as well as some more expensive Polk and Klipsch bookshelf size speakers. A nice young man offered to play them with some music that I might prefer, and we tried them all. By the way, Best Buy is a good place to check out better quality speakers like B&W; I had a very impressive demo of some small B&W speakers that sounded HUGE! They cost $480, but they’re worth it.
The Polk and the Klipsch speakers clearly had a lot more highs than midrange, and little bass. In comparison, the Pioneer speakers sounded weak and muffled in the store setup. But when we turned them up, the midrange sounded more balanced and bass was incredible for such small speakers. I still wasn’t sure I wanted to try buying the Pioneer, but a sale price of $99 made me take them home.
I’m glad I did. I knew that speakers don’t sound the same on the floor of a big store as compared to in home, and this purchase proved it. In my house, there was no shortage of very clean, crisp highs. The crossover is a good quality 2nd order filter on both drivers and uses a film capacitor for the tweeter, rare features at this price point. For my taste, I would say these speakers still favor the highs slightly, but it’s not objectionable as it is in the Polk and Klipsch (which sound like typical cheap speakers and probably explains why they are more popular than Pioneer).
The Pioneer speakers trade off efficiency for more bass, so they need more power. My 25 Watt Class D amplifier got them loud enough for me. These are small speakers, around 12″ tall, so you cannot run them at live rock concert levels. If you just want it loud and don’t care about quality (especially in the highs), buy Polk or Klipsch. The Pioneers reach much deeper into the bass, making them the only inexpensive small speakers that are truly full range. When a company makes something this good at such a low price, they deserve to be supported!
I am enjoying having these speakers in my bedroom now. They are superior to the ultra-cheap Dayton B652’s in most respects including better detail and deeper bass. I have made slight modifications that I feel has improved them a little bit. One picture shows how I cut away some of the grill framing that is in front of the tweeter, but you have to be very careful not to damage the cloth. I just used heavy duty wire cutters to cut the plastic. This mod does sharpen the clarity in the highs some, but the effects here are not huge, and you will still have an excellent speaker if you prefer not to modify it at all.
Since the bass seemed a little heavy in my bedroom, I added a little ball of polyester fiberfill into the port on the back as shown in another picture. The more you add, the more the bass level decreases. If some falls inside the box, don’t worry about, it doesn’t hurt to add a little more damping inside the box.
If you want accurate, detailed speakers of good quality but low price, these are the only ones out there that I have found. You can do better, but only for hundreds more. These speakers are a great match for a Topping Class D amplifier, and your source of music. This is true audiophile quality for cheap! It probably helps that the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR was designed by Andrew Jones, one of the top speaker designers in the world.