PIONEER: Their $129 speakers versus Harbeth Compact 7s

I’m not going to claim they are the equals of my Harbeth Compact 7ES-3s, but the $129 Andrew Jones-designed speakers by Pioneer (SP-BS22-LR) are quite remarkable. My point in posting is not really to compare them with my Harbeths, but to make the following observation:

I’m becoming convinced that modestly priced components that are very good at doing a few things you care about very much can offer satisfaction far beyond any expectations based on price.<<

That’s the case with the Pioneer speakers, which I believe now have a list price of $159.

I listen almost exclusively to classical music and chamber music, in particular. These Pioneer speakers have a way of presenting string quartets, piano trios and similar ensembles with a truly remarkable sense of realism. The few things I care about more than any others include the timbres and textures of unamplified instruments (i.e., the woodiness of a cello, the rosiny sweet gruffness of a violin) as well as rendition of the recording venue’s ambiance. The Pioneer speakers do these things extremely well.

They have earned quite a bit of commentary and praise since their introduction. Needless to say, they don’t do as many things as well as the Harbeths (nearly 25 times their price), but I find that for me, the above observation rings true. The tone colors, textures and spaciousness that the Pioneers get so right, despite other imperfections, give them the ability to reward me far in excess of the expectations I had for them.

Andrew Jones, of course, is the designer of Pioneer’s megabuck TAD speakers, and I think it’s especially admirable that he took on the challenge of designing speakers at the very opposite end of the cost spectrum. I’m not about to sell my Harbeths, but I really don’t feel significantly shortchanged when I replace them with the Pioneers from time to time.

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