Pioneer AVR with B&W Speakers

I have the following system:
  • Pioneer VSX-1021 A/V receiver
  • B&W 600-series speakers (683 front L/R, HTM61 center, 685 bookshelf surrounds, ASW610 subwoofer)
  • Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player
  • Sonos wireless audio system
  • Sony 55-inch XBR TV
All in all, the sound is outstanding, and the image of Blu-ray discs is also amazing. However, a friend says the overall setup is not balanced—in particular, the receiver is cheap compared to the other elements. I do not have much space for a higher-end receiver, so is there any other solution? Is this setup really unbalanced, since it sounds great to me?

Ricardo Monnerat

First and foremost, if the system sounds great to you, that's all that really matters. Having said that, the AVR is, in fact, somewhat underpowered for your speakers, which are all rated with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. The 683 can handle up to 200W, the HTM61 can handle up to 150W, and the 685 can handle up to 100W. According to our measurements of the VSX-1021, with five channels driving 8-ohm loads, it reaches a distortion level of 0.1% at 46.1 watts and 1% at 56.7W; with seven channels driving 8-ohm loads, it reaches 0.1% distortion at 44.5W and 1% at 53.7W.

On the other hand, the B&Ws are reasonably sensitive—the 683 and HTM61 are rated to output 90dB SPL at a distance of 1 meter with an input of 1W, while the 685 outputs 88dB SPL under the same conditions. So in the end, I think your AVR is fine—and, as I said to start with, if you enjoy the sound, that's what counts.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to

mailiang's picture

There are three things that come it into play when it comes to how much power you need. Speaker impedance and sensitivity which Scott talked about and room size. If your not driving your AVR beyond it's means and you have plenty of headroom so that any demands on your system are handled cleanly, you shouldn't be overly concern about the performance verses price level of the equipment you are using.


A guy in Saskatoon's picture

Would your friend made the same "unbalanced" comment if you had played something for him first (considering that you are correct about the sound) without seeing the receiver? A person can spend LOTS of money on components that individually appear to be great, and may even have great professional reviews, but when they're put together in a system just don't work out. Now if in the near future you get the bug to upgrade (a condition one of my non-audioholic friends calls an addiction) but you have space issues you could get another receiver with audio pre-outs and an additonal power amp (like an Emotiva) to place somewhere outside of the cabinet. But I would also echo Mr. Wilkinson, if it sounds GREAT to you, you're the one that listens to it day in and day out; don't upgrade just to keep-up-with-the-Jones.

K.Reid's picture

I like the choices you have made...and the above to comments are correct. If it sounds good to you, then nothing else matters.

You may want to consider the following: 1) be sure that you perform soundfield calibration using the MCACC feature in the Pioneer a/v receiver 2) make sure you use quality speaker wire 3) use care with speaker placement (i.e. are your front speakers too close/far from your walls and execute careful subwoofer placement) and 4) consider adding a second ASW 610 subwoofer to help balance potential uneven bass response in your room - corner placement may not always be best.

alan-h's picture

Are there any current or upcoming LCD, plasma or OLED flat screen TV's that have a two-tuner "Picture-in-Picture" feature?

Several years ago, even with the much smaller CRT picture tube TV's, many manufacturers offered a two-tuner PIP feature.

You would think that with the much larger LCD and Plasma displays currently available that a two-tuner PIP would be a standard feature.

I do not choose to purchase another tuner device (DVD,VCR etc. etc.)to obtain a "second" picture in a current model LCD or plasma large screen display.

Thanks for your help and suggestions.

thx2468's picture

I have the same B&W set of speakers installed on my efficiency apartment using a Sony receiver STR-DA5400ES along with the Sony amplifier TA E9000ES powering the 2 front speakers on btl mode 200watts/ch and the centre speaker at 150 watts. Can someone please tell me if I am doing something wrong with my set up? The autocalibration and some personal small tweaks makes it pleasurable for films and music.
Thank you!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Your setup seems eminently fact, it's downright brilliant. According to our measurements, with 5 channels driving 8 ohms, the STR-DA5400ES reaches 0.1% distortion at 39.4W and 1% at 45.0W; with 7 channels driving 8 ohms, it reaches 0.1% at 37.3 and 1% at 41.9W. With only 2 channels driving 8 ohms, it reaches 0.1% at 157.5W and 1% at 186.6W. So adding an extra power amp for the fronts and using the AVR's power amps only for the surrounds is actually a great idea in this case, as long as you don't crank the surround channels too much.