Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pioneer SP-BS22-LR vs. Polk Audio RTi6 Bookshelf Speakers

I am in the process of downsizing my audio equipment...I had parted with a large Klipsch subwoofer a few years ago and now have moved away from a complex surround sound system to merely a soundbar for TV/video viewing and a pair of bookshelf speakers for my music listening.  Nearing 40 I figure my living room should look a bit less like that of a college dorm.

So gone also now are the large Klipsch floorstanding speakers, replaced by the aforementioned bookshelfs.  None of this is to say I wanted my music to sound like crap.  On the contrary as I have ordered an Orbit turntable, if anything I want my music to sound at least as good as it has to date...just with a less imposing equipment and expense presence.

So it was that I was coming across the recent reviews for Pioneer's Sp-BS22-LR speakers.  They have gotten amazing reviews from numerous sources over the past year.  At a piddling $129 they were deemed to be some of the best speakers under $500 and were a huge bargain.  Designed by one Andrew Jones who I guess is a sort of wunderkind of speaker design I figured I'd give them a shot as I had intended to replace the floorstanding Klipsch speakers with my Polk Audio RTi6s that I had been using as rear surround speakers in my audio system.  If the cheap Pioneers were better sounding than my five year old Polks then I'd merely Craigslist the Polks and enjoy my find and audio improvement.

Setting them up side by side the Pioneers are slightly smaller and are certainly better looking--their curved housing is eyecatching and they fit on bookshelves much better than the Polks.  When it came to sound, again, put side by side, the Pioneers more than held their own.  The high end and textures of sound coming from the Pioneers was excellent.  Hearing the minute instrumental changes in Miles Davis's playing on Kind of Blue was could make out the minute warblings in each note--something perhaps not a distinct in the Polks.

Unfortunately the Pioneers have a fatal flaw that resulted in me returning them and using my aged Polks.  They just can't handle high volume and base levels.  I hadn't turned them up very loud (at least not in my mind) nor was I playing anything very bass heavy when the Pioneer (I had one of each speaker hooked up at the same time) began failing...the dreadded "waffling" where the main driver cannot produce the low end at the volume it is being asked for and just begins producing a pathetic crackling sound, pathetically trying to a cubic of air at a speed it can't handle.  I've always imagined it as the cone reacting in a sort of uneven wave-like manner vs. a uniform in and out "punch" when this happens.  I suppose I'll have to look it up.

Regardless, this inability to produce proper sound at a high volume level was a killer in my mind.  My Polks kept up with what I wanted without hesitation and went far beyond the Pioneers exhibiting no "waffling".  So while I can recommend the Pioneers to someone looking to use them as computer speakers or for a kids room or maybe a bedroom where volumes are not going to be very high, I cannot recommend them for anyone's main listening system...not at any price.


Andrew Steere said...

You know, there's a guy I know who makes speakers in Lee, NH, and he has a couple low-dollar choices that sound really nice, and higher-end stuff that sounds even better. The website is right out of 1995, but I'm amazed at how well my little $220 speakers perform.

spalind (Dan Spalinger) said...

Thanks for that Andrew! I'll check them out for sure!