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Pioneer SP-PK52FS 5.1 Speaker System Listening Tests


Unless otherwise stated, all listening tests were conducted without a subwoofer in two-channel configuration with the Pioneer SP-FS52’s and SP-BS22-LR's running full range.


Listening Scenario #1 Pioneer SP-FS52 & EMP E55Ti

Listening Scenario #1:  Friend's Home Pioneer SP-FS52 & EMP E55ti

I fired up the Audioholics demDianne.jpgo CD I had prepared for critical listening tests to get a feeling for how these two speaker systems compared. 

Dianne Reeves - Never to Far
The bass emanating from this track was incredibly punchy and tight but was somewhat lacking in extension on both sets of speakers. I felt the smaller Pioneers may have had a tiny bit more depth while the EMP’s had more upper bass punch.  The Pioneer SP-FS52’s sounded well-balanced.  They exhibited a very detailed top end.  In fact they sounded more airy and open than the EMPs in that regard.  However, the EMP’s had a larger more elevated soundstage and the vocals sounded more natural.  My friend was quite taken back at the performance of the diminutive Pioneers. 

Fourplay - Chant
The resonance in the kick drums rang clear when played through both speaker systems but it was more pronounced and dynamic on the EMPs.  The rainsticks sounded more detailed on the Pioneers however.  Both speakers played loud and clean.  This track will easily bottom out woofers of poorly designed systems.  This didn’t happen with either speaker.  The Pioneers just absorbed the power and were happy pumping out the music.

Pat Metheny / John Scofield - Say the Brother's Name
This is one of my favorite tracks from the CD “I Can See Your House from Here”.  The clarity of Pat Metheny's guitar was to die for.   With eyes closed, I felt like I was listening to a live performance in a small jazz club in NY.   The Pioneer speakers really projected the airiness of the brushes on the cymbals, while the EMP’s made the jazz guitars just pop out in your face like it was a live performance.  Listening to this track was a pleasant, albeit different, experience on both speakers.

Steely Dan – Two Against Nature
This track really highlighted the differences between the two speaker systems.  Because the EMP’s have significantly more cone area in the midrange via the MTM driver configuration, and because the midranges are in their own sealed off enclosure, the male vocals were clearer and more accurate than the Pioneers.  As I stated earlier, by not enclosing the midrange driver, the bass drivers of the Pioneer radiate back energy into the midrange driver which you could hear in the form of a slight chestiness in male vocals.  This isn’t a knock on the speakers.  The very fact I was comparing a $250/pr of speakers to an already high value competitor product costing $800/pr speaks volumes for just how good the Pioneer's really are.

We finished off the listening session enjoying some Vinyl.  We broke out the first side of a recently remastered 180G Abbey Road record from the Beatles. “Come Together” sounded great on the Pioneer speakers.  My friend commented about how pleasant and tonally balanced this system was.  He said this was the first budget speaker I’ve brought to his house that he really thought sounded great.  Whether we were listening to the Beatles or Joe Sample, the Pioneer’s never disappointed.

Listening Scenario #2 Audioholics Showcase Theater Room

Again, using the Audioholics demo CD, I did some critical two-channel listening of the SP-FS52 towers and SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speakers.  I then switched to 5.1 music and movies to evaluate the entire system via the Emotiva separates.

Pio Showcase


Pat Metheny / John Scofield – Say a Brothers Name

The brushes on the cymbals were incredibly detailed on the Pioneer SP-FS52 towers.  They sounded very open and spacious.  The reverb in Metheny’s electric guitar was a bit recessed sounding, but still very pleasant.  As I cranked the volume up, things became a little two-dimensional but still sounded well composed.  Switching over to the SP-BS22-LR bookshelf provided a more laid back, slightly more closed in experience, but it was amazing how much sound these little bookshelf speakers were producing on their own.  In a small listening space, these speakers would really shine.

Metheny.jpg  Marx.jpg

Fourplay – Chant

The bass in this tune will quickly reveal any misbehavior in a loudspeaker.  I’ve had $3k tower speakers in for review that couldn’t produce 75dB at my listening seat without bottoming out on this song.  The SP-FS52’s had no problem playing this track at very loud levels.  Instead of trying to produce the very low bass extension of this song, they simply rolled it off.  The kick drums were a bit softened as a result, but the overall tonality was pretty even.  The track proved a little too much for the little 4” drivers of the SP-BS22-LR’s when driven at higher SPL levels.  This was to be expected and why I’d recommend running these speakers bass-managed with a powered sub crossed over at 70-80Hz.

LP:  Richard Marx

The second side of Richard Marx self-titled debut ablum is just solid gold as far as I am concerned. When I cued up this record, I felt the SP-FS52’s sounded a little thin since this is quite a bright and lively recording.  So I connected the SW-8MK2 subwoofer speaker level and dialed in its response.  I found the best blend with the phase switch set to 180Hz and the crossover set about halfway (about 60Hz).  Track #5 “Have Mercy” starts out with some great drumming and a catchy hard rock guitar theme.  Richard’s voice sounded vibrant but with a good deal of sibilance that was less pronounced when I switched over to the SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speakers.  The SP-FS52’s displayed very good stereo separation, the guitars were nicely forward.  The sub definitely helped balance out the sound and provide much needed bass impact to this recording.  Track #6 “Remember Manhattan” is the WOW track of the album.  The sub added the much-needed bass punch to the song.  I was quite taken by how tactile it sounded.  I was able to achieve better sub integration with the towers than I was with the bookshelf speakers.  The towers just supplemented the sub so well that they sounded quite seamless together.  The bookshelf speakers presented a more laid back and of course narrower soundstage.  As I turned the volume up, I was enamored with just how much punishment those little SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speakers could take.  

Blu-ray:  Batman Dark Knight Rises

dark-knight.JPGDark Knight Rises is without question, my favorite Batman movie of all time.  It has great action and more importantly a solid storyline.  I use this Blu-ray as a torture test for subwoofers as the opening plane scene and first flight of the Batwing during the police chase really works out a subwoofer like there’s no tomorrow.  Bane’s voice was much improved on the Blu-ray transfer over the original theatrical release.  The SP-C22 did a commendable job showing this off, though I did feel the vocals were a bit sibilant. I left the grille on and didn’t angle the center channel up as high to tame it.  The system sounded well blended as a whole.  The SP-BS22-LR’s were serving well as surround duty (bass-managed to small) and the SP-FS52 towers did exceedingly well running full-range to supplement the bass for the little SW-8MK2 subwoofer.  The sub did provide a good deal of tactile feel but it just couldn’t produce the last octave of bass present in this movie.  I did detect a lot of port chuffing when I was driving the sub hard, but don’t forget my demo room is almost 6,000ft3.  Let me make this perfectly clear; in a small room this sub would behave much better.

I cued up other multi-channel recordings like Animusic HD and really had fun sampling the tracks on this disc using the Pioneer system as a whole.  Cathedral Pictures is a particular favorite of mine and the Pioneer speakers did a commendably good job of recreating the pipe organs and percussive effects with clarity and poise. The sub provided a good deal of punch to help enhance the experience.   I’ve never had such an enveloping and well-balanced surround sound experience from a 5.1 system in this price class.  Although I like to find faults in products, I had to keep reminding myself how well this system performed for its asking price.


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Recent Forum Posts:

MLadia posts on February 09, 2021 13:18
shadyJ, post: 1306360, member: 20472
There would almost certainly be an improvement.
Ran into this old post. I eventually got an Infinity REFERENCE RC263.
shadyJ posts on March 21, 2019 18:35
MLadia, post: 1306353, member: 87319
Would it be an improvement to use another Floor-standing SP-FS552 as my center instead of the Pioneer SP-C22? Btw, I replaced the original Pioneer sub with 2 Dayton 1200s.
There would almost certainly be an improvement.
MLadia posts on March 21, 2019 18:02
Would it be an improvement to use another Floor-standing SP-FS552 as my center instead of the Pioneer SP-C22? Btw, I replaced the original Pioneer sub with 2 Dayton 1200s.
Dazz Wryght posts on March 20, 2018 14:45
Dazz Wryght, post: 1233567, member: 83977
I hope someone is still watching this thread,

I bought the Pioneer FS-52s, the SP-C22, and the SW-8MK2. I have yet to buy the SP-BS22-LR, I'm using some no name towers I had as surrounds for now.

My receiver is a Onkyo TX-NR646.

I set up the crossovers to 80Hz for all the Pioneers and 100Hz for the surrounds since the drivers are so small. I'm using the LFE for the SW-8MK2 set at 120Hz (max on my receiver). I've been consuming a mix of streaming video (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), streaming music (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.), and gaming on an XboxOne S. I've been happy with the sound in my semi-open 2600 cu-ft living room.

Recently, I found the AccuEQ mic for my TX-NR646. So I plugged it up to see what results it would produce. It got all my distances spot on. I've measured them myself previously. However, it crossover my towers at 50Hz, center at 70Hz, and surrounds at 90Hz. I immediately thought this was wrong and manually set everything back. Much reading had me convinced that 80Hz was the way to go.

After reading this article it seems that the towers are tuned to 50HZ with the center at 70Hz. So was AccuEQ correct? Should I give it a listen, or stick with 80Hz?

Update: I grabbed a pair of SP-BS22-LRs for $68 at Fry's. They are now in the rear position. I also ditched the SW8-MK2 for a pair of SVS SB12-NSDs.
Dazz Wryght posts on February 15, 2018 11:13
j_garcia, post: 1233598, member: 10856
My Pre uses a proprietary EQ and it does some things I don't agree with also, but the end result does seem to be that it does a decent job. So it isn't always perfect in terms of what our preferences might be or what we think we hear, but knowing what the system “thinks” is correct is a good starting point to tweak from.

I got the kids and the wife to be quiet for 10 mins while I ran AccuEQ. I put a camera tripod on my couch in the ‘sweet spot’ with the mic sitting at about ear level… ish. AccuEQ produced pretty much the same results I discarded previously. I then switched to 2.1 to listen to some music. I grabbed a handful of CDs to listen.

Jimi Hendrix's “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady” had a detail to them that I don't think I've ever noticed before. Sticking with this CD I played Jimi's “National Anthem” and WOW! I never noticed that there's a drummer playing rapid kicks and snare trills in the background.

I wasn't listening at a loud level. Sadly, my receiver only displays relative volume and not dB level. Turned up to about 40, which is where my family normally has it for family TV watching, I was impressed.

I then switched to movies and 5.1. I played the opening scene from “The Lion King” on Blu-Ray (DTS-MA), which was apropos being I just saw the play at the Fox, Atlanta with the misses. There was so much more immersion in sound. Birds flying by head, and elephants making my bookshelf shake. I tested again with “Rio” on Blu-Ray. The opening scene had me forgetting I was at home and not at my local Regal RPX.

There's still more testing to do. All of my TV watching is on streaming services, then there's also video games to test.

So far so good,

Thanks again.
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