Pioneer Andrew Jones 5.1 Speaker System Review
- By Harold Dale
MSRP - $549
- By Harold Dale
MSRP - $549
The market is flooded with inexpensive home theater in a box systems, and cheap speakers that really do little to excite anyone. We have never had a company come along and really try to push the envelope of what was available in the budget speaker range and produce something that was actually GOOD until the first generation of the Pioneer Andrew Jones speakers. Well those speakers were a huge success and highly popular even with people not looking for a budget set of speakers. Now they have redesigned them and done a complete update and I have them in house to check out and see just how much of an improvement you can make on a full 5.1 speaker system that costs less then $1,000.
My system consists of,
JVC DLA-RS40 projector with 84" screen
DirecTV HD-DVR receiver
Custom HTPC with Nvidia graphics running OpenELEC
When looking at the build quality of these speakers you have to take into account the price of them. The MSRP on this complete system is only $549 you can not really expect one inch thick MDF and rosewood veneers at this level, with that in mind I will try and describe the materials used to construct these.
Cabinet - The cabinet is made of 3/8" MDF, this is the real stuff too not that porous HDF that most cheap speakers use.
Port - The port is made of black plastic and is pretty sturdy and does not flex when I push on.
Cabinet finishing - Cabinet is finished with a thin vinyl that is made to look like black ash wood.
Crossover construction - The crossover is on a PCB using an air-core inductor on the tweeter circuit, and an iron core inductor on the woofer circuit. It has what looks to be poly caps and ceramic resistors.
Wiring and Binding posts - The binding posts are very solid feeling and are mounted to a terminal cup that is made of the same thick plastic the port is made but with a different texture. The wiring appears to all be 18Awg copper wire.
Driver construction - The drivers on these appear to be the biggest improvement over the previous generation speakers. They have a pressed in sort of carbon pattern to help make them more rigid and I imagine able to make them a bit thinner and lighter cones as well. While the midrange and woofer drivers look identical, they do have different model stamps on the back so they may actually be spec'd slightly different from each other although I am not certain.
Movie Selection Impressions
Star Trek (2009) Blu-ray DTS-HD MA - This movie is quite action packed and has a great surround track to it. The opening scene of the movie with the big battle against the future Romulan ship was quite spectacular. Explosions were going off all around me and everything was very equally leveled and very clearly defined in both sound and direction. It is one of the better representations of this movie I have heard. All dialog was well defined, not lacking in any way and balanced perfectly. The only thing I found lacking in any sense was the output from the sub, while it helps a little in the 40hz range you just do not get any of the low end slam you get from larger higher end subwoofers that would really excel in movies of this type.
Fantastic 4 Rise of The Silver Surfer DTS-HD MA - I really like to use this movie to test surround effects as there are a lot of scenes with normal characters in the front with a lot of subtle things going on in the surround channels. The people talking not in the front were very clear and completely discernible while still being able to make out the surfer going around the other channels behind and to the sides of me in every aspect. These speakers seem to really be able to make everything blend very well in movies. Again the only thing really lacking on this setup is the sub. It just does not extend to the deeper notes which for movies is what you really want.
Music Selection Impressions
Eva Cassidy - Live at Blues Alley - This is by far one of my all time favorite albums. The mastering and vocals are just some of the best and what makes it even better, it is live so you get all sorts of environment effects and sounds that you just don't get with studio produced recordings. Bridge over troubled water just sounded amazingly good. The mid-range is just top notch and rather shocking from speakers at this price point. I also found my self checking to see if my center channel was on and even a couple times the surround speakers. The sound stage is just completely enveloping from just these two speakers. Next I put on People Get Ready, this has a very nice subtle beginning with just a light guitar, and vocals and it is just so detailed and wide open sounding. Instrument placement and vocalist placement are very easy to place and you really get a sense of being there at the performance.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of The Moon - This is another album that I am extremely familiar with. I have been listening to this album since I was just a kid. The first track I always like to listen to on this one is Time, it is great for testing how well the speakers are able to handle the top end notes of all the clocks and how easily they will fall apart and become shrill and painful to listen to. I have to say these speaker handle it amazingly well, they seem to reproduce the intensity of the clocks quite well without becoming too overwhelming and unbearable. Vocals on this track were also amazingly good and the drums in the background were very distinct and really carried a nice effect across the entire sound stage as I would expect them to live. The next track I generally like to check out is Money as it gives a lot of different types of sounds all at once and really shows me how well the speakers can handle multiple instruments and sounds at the same time without losing detail. These speakers are very detailed and again extremely surprising at this price point! I did not notice any real detail loss at all.
Pros and Cons
- Great looking for the cost
- Small size and footprint
- Huge Value
- Mid-range balance and tone
- Much better control of the top end over the previous generation
- Looks and selection of materials might not be for everyone
- The sub does not play very deep (Useful if going for a bookshelf configuration though)
- A bit more expensive than the previous speakers
When I first listened to these speakers I had them hooked up to a low end budget receiver and I was not very happy with the sound at all. I really did not expect the receiver change to make a large difference, but when I hooked my SR805 back up the change was huge. The mid-range was greatly improved, the sound stage was huge and much more detailed, the bottom end cleaner and more pronounced. It honestly was like a different set of speakers, like I had spent twice as much or more on them! So these might sound pretty decent on a budget receiver, but they very much thrive when paired up with some nice clean power from either a higher end receiver or a real power amp, you will notice a large improvement for sure and it will really bring these speakers to life.
Harold's Recommendations and Comparison to the Gen 1 speakers
I went in with the mindset that they really just couldn't improve that much on the first gen of these speakers as they were already a benchmark for the budget market and offered amazing value that had never been seen before in this side of the market. What I found was that I was completely wrong, the mid-range especially on the Gen 2 speakers has improved greatly. They have also managed to control the top end a lot better and tighten up the bottom end greatly. In all honestly it sounds like I went out and spent twice as much as the original version and got a huge upgrade, in reality they are only slightly more expensive. These offer an incredible value, a value that I don't think can be matched by anything out there. Anyone looking to spend less then 1500 or so on a full 5.1 speaker system should very seriously take a look at these speakers as I guarantee they will surprise you. The only thing you might find wanting is to upgrade your receiver to a higher end model or wanting to add an external amp as they really seem to come alive with some clean power behind them. The big movie buffs might also decide to pass on the sub included in the kit and go for something that extends a bit deeper, or someone looking for a more compact system may grab the bookshelf speakers for the fronts and use the sub to fill in the notes that they can not reach. In any configuration I think many would be pleased with the sound and feel they likely would not need anything more than these.
I wanted to note that when I started writing this review the MSRP on these was at $629, at the end of writing this review the MSRP had dropped to $549. So even at the great price they were at, Pioneer is still pushing to make it an even better value. Also I wanted to mention that while I do not particularly care for the sub, there really is not a better sub that you can get out there for the money. I think in the bookshelf setup it would actually help a lot to give a more full range sound.
Andrew Jones Speaker Package at Pioneer's Website
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