Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Speaker System Page 2

As you might reasonably expect, the SP-C21 center speaker uses similar drivers to aid in close timbre matching, with two of the 5.25-inch woofers, an extra port, and a slightly larger curved enclosure. Note that the center, at $80 each, is also a great value. If you used it as an LCR, a set of five would only cost $400.

The SW-8 subwoofer is the runt of the litter, more than an inch shorter than the monitor. Its 8-inch down-firing woofer has a paper cone with a polypropylene dust cap and rubber surround. “The diameter of the inverted dust cap is almost as large as the cone, so it adds considerable strength and damping to the cone,” notes the manufacturer. The port is on the front. Amplification is a modest 50 watts RMS.

Associated equipment included a Rotel RSX-1550 A/V receiver and OPPO BDP-83SE universal disc player. All movie demos were Blu-ray Discs with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. In a rare trifecta, all music demos were in high-resolution formats: two SACDs, one DVD-Audio.

The Devil Is a Better Entertainer
M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil was by far the highlight of my movie sessions. Characters are trapped in an elevator; which one is the devil? The score waxes aggressive from the opening moments, signifying the devil’s entrance with sawing basses of doom and snarling trombones of evil before the first words of dialogue are spoken. Not only did the strings and brass have more inner detail than typical soundstage-recorded fare—they were gritty, astringent, visceral, and thrilling. The center lived up to the high standard that the monitors established. Even something as prosaic as two people talking quietly over coffee sounded highly realistic, with a softly vibrating purr embellishing the low voices. Elevator dialogue was of course recorded with a truncated but discernible decay. The high resolution that supports all of the above was accompanied by a high degree of listening comfort. Volume was a set-and-forget affair.

Predictably, lesser material produced lesser results. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is as compelling as you’d hope a great movie’s sequel to be. But the David Byrne and Brian Eno songs that dominate the soundtrack didn’t lift free of the dialogue and ambient effects. The only moment that popped was a brief scene featuring a pianist surrounded by standing listeners. This isn’t a bad soundtrack; it merely isn’t a great one. To their credit, the Pioneers were revealing enough to tell me the difference.

Ditto for my audition of Jonah Hex. I won’t deny that the movie has its moments. Any film starring Josh Brolin and John Malkovich can’t be all bad. But it didn’t give the Pioneers much to work with. My notebook commented: “No highs, no lows, must be a movie based on a comic book.” Voices and music had no bottom end, drums were castrated, and explosives were muted. I don’t blame either the speakers or the sub for this, as I heard a modicum of bass effects during the previous two movies, especially the first. Here again, the Pioneers provided an unforgiving window to the source material, a mark of their neutrality.

Fantastic Fantastique
Orchestral music in a highresolution format often tells me a lot about how a product sounds in a short time. The Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique that slid into the OPPO was a 10-year-old Telarc SACD with Paavo Järvi conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In retrospect, it is now apparent that the Telarc SACD era was a golden age—the high-resolution surround equivalent of RCA Living Stereo LPs. The Telarc sound—smooth midrange and welldeveloped but not hyperreal highs—filled the front of the room, with just a little surround fullness in the back. The sub depicted lower strings and percussion with minimal brushstrokes, but it did it deftly, without calling attention to the speaker/sub crossover. The Pioneer EX speakers I reviewed a few years back would have offered an extra degree of transparency, but these newer Andrew Jones speakers got the overall balance and feel right.

Sweeter Than the Day, also on SACD, turned me into a Wayne Horvitz fan. His approach to piano is Satie-meets-Monk, a kind of Europeanized jazz. This quartet with guitarist Timothy Young, string bassist Keith Lowe, and drummer Andy Roth makes the most of his sombre, reflective melodies and sophisticated yet accessible harmonic palette. The mix is 5.1 informed but not hobbled by a two-channel aesthetic. It keeps the piano and guitar in the front left and right channels, with a shimmer of cymbal in the middle and a spectral presence in the surrounds. The piano sound was as natural and balanced as I’ve ever heard from any combination of content and loudspeaker. When the band offered texture treats—Young’s 12-string electric guitar on “Julian’s Ballad,” Horvitz’s prepared piano on “George’s Solo”—the high-resolution treatment became mesmerizing.

Seal IV is a rare jewel in a tin setting, which is perhaps inevitable for a mainstream pop artist. This DVD-Audio version, one of several in Seal’s catalog, was less interesting for the high-resolution aspect (which in this case was too subtle for my ears) than for the use of surround. Seal’s voice is the rare jewel I referred to, and this album takes more than one approach to mixing it in 5.1. Some tracks limit the voice to the front left and right channels—and the monitors rose to the challenge. Other tracks put an unvarnished Seal in the center channel, with a slightly reverb-sweetened version of that distinctively husky voice in front left and right and just a faint suggestion of it in the surrounds. Here the center shone, distinguishing the vibrant voice from the instrumental muck with which producer Trevor Horn surrounded it. The better the mix, the more the speakers responded to the unique beauty of Seal.

Let’s set aside the shopworn “champagne performance on a beer budget” cliché and conclude with facts, reasonable inferences, and defensible judgments. First of all, Pioneer did well in picking Andrew Jones as its speaker-designing partner. He’s got great ears. For these products, the man and the company have somehow managed to get hold of highquality parts and relatively intricate manufacturing processes at low cost. While this modestly priced Pioneer SP-BS41-LR speaker system hasn’t altogether abolished the immutable truth of price-to-performance ratio, it has bent, massaged, and finessed it to the extent humanly possible. These speakers are well-rounded performers that are easy to listen to and, with the right content, deeply involving. It goes without saying that they’re as good for music as for movies. They amazed me. If you want great sound for as little money as possible, this is the hottest ticket in town.

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neo444's picture


LokiyaLuis's picture

lines around my eyes and varied face areas that absolutely nonexistent from my face through such active methodology.
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Rex41's picture

These speakers are great. They work for both music and movies. The bass response is excellent.Highs are not pushed or over the top.The better the amplifier you hook these up to, the better they sound. I have these paired with the Sp-CS21.The CS21 is an excellent center channel, voices sound crisp,clear and defined. Bass response is excellent as well.
Pioneer and Mr. Jones really did a great job on this set of budget speakers. It's nice to get a quality product with a great price.

SunriseGatefield's picture

This is a very tempting system. I note that Pioneer is offering a step down system with the same Center and Sub with SP-BS21s in place of the SP-BS41s--for just $399. (The BS21s apparently bear A. Jones's signature as well.) I'd be interested to know how the BS21-based system would compare... for the budget-conscious (or simply budget-constrained!) that lower price tag is particularly compelling!

JJM956's picture

I'm new in the home theater area and ordered this system. I wanted to know what connection I needed to hook up that sub-woofer to my receiver.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
The best way is to connect the receiver's LFE or subwoofer output to the Line In connector on the sub; I don't think it matters if you connect to the Left or Right input. Then, set the sub's Frequency control to its highest value (150Hz), since the sub doesn't have a crossover-bypass switch. Finally, in the receiver's menu, set all speakers to "small" and set the receiver's crossover to 100Hz, which is the frequency at which the response of the sub and front speakers cross...very nicely, I might add, wioth no dip in response.
MikeLeone's picture

I am confused about something. I have an Onkyo TX-NR509, which lists "110 watts minimum continuous power per channel, 6 ohm loads, 2 channels driven at 1 kHz, with a maximum total
harmonic distortion of 0.9% (FTC)".

And the Pioneer speakers are all (SP-BS41 and SP-BS21) listed at 6 ohms, with the BS21 listed for 80 watts, and the BS41 listed at 130 watts.

So am I correct that I need the BS-41s, since the Onkyo will push more power than the BS-21s can handle? I will mostly use them as 5.1, but may sometimes use only 2 channel mode, which means (I think) that the Onkyo will push 110 watts to 2 speakers, and the BS-21s can't handle that.

Or am I totally consfused?

Thanks for any help.

Thoth2012's picture

Your Onkyo at 110 watts per channel is fine for any speaker of any kind unless you get into lower Ohms, but besides that it is always better to have as much power as you can afford. The 110 watts is your receivers most likely the max output not continuous and even if it is continuous 110watts that only means it can run at 110 watts with no damage to your internal amp, the volume control is what is going increase the power output of your Onkyo so as long as you do not push any speaker to the point of distortion or past the rated power input of the speaker, so you always have to be careful when playing any speaker to high volumes. You blow out a speaker faster with an under powered amps/receivers than you will with high powered equipment, I have blown a lot of speakers over the years both ways too little power and too much power, rule of thumb never ever push a speaker to the point of distortion, If you have to little power you will not only blow your speakers out you may damage your power amp/receiver at the same time and if you have a lot of power more than your speaker can handle and you push the speakers till they distort and sound bad you will blow a tweeter first or destroy your speaker completely. So on that note your Onkyo has a nice supply and both speakers are fine to run. I have learned you can not have too much power the more in most cases the better the sound you do not have to use all you have.

Thoth2012's picture

That just means that your Onkyo can run at 110 watts for a long period of time without any damage to itself thus continuous, it does not mean that is the amount of power that it is sending out to you speakers as soon as you here sound, 110watts would be very very loud. I would say that you may have to turn the volume up to the half way point on your Onkyo to reach that kind of output. Most of the time you are most likely only using anywhere from 5 watts to 30-40 watts in general listening even at 40 watts I think It will be pretty loud. I hope this helps.

Thoth2012's picture

I think you can still buy outboard power monitors for stereo so you could see how much power your are using, I think if the are still available they will only monitor the two front main speakers on a 5.1 system but that is fine, they are fun to watch also, leds that flicker to the beat of music as to how much power the music is demanding from your equipment.

Thoth2012's picture, this the best place I could find for power monitor kits, not easy to find already built ones these days.

a sethi's picture

Strangely, this system is discontinued on the Pioneer website. They instead have on their current list (in the same range) the cheaper "SP-PK21BS" 5.1 Speaker Package or the more expensive "SP-PK51FS" 5.1 Speaker Package including two floor standing speakers.

Would anyone be able to shed some light on the capabilities of these two systems as compared to the SP-BS41-LR.