Affordable High-End Hi-Fi Still Exists
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Great sounding, reasonably priced home stereo has gone the way of 78 RPM records, Sony's (SNE) Walkman and even Apple's (AAPL) iPod. Listening to music on a smartphone just isn't the same. Music always sounds better coming from equipment designed to handle the full range of audible sounds. And now thanks to one audio pioneer there are some very affordable products which, once again, fit the bill.
High-end audio products, in many cases, are now very expensive luxury items. Fewer people buy them so prices for new gear usually rise. In many cases those prices skyrocket. I know of people who think nothing of buying hi-fi components costing more than $100,000 per piece.
Britain's Andrew Jones (not the designer, painter or baseball star who spells his first name Andruw) is currently in the top echelon of audio equipment designers. He has worked for a number of legendary high-end audio companies (KEF, Infinity) before landing at Pioneer to lead that company's TAD Reference line of products.
The TAD Reference speaker systems (speakers and matching amplifiers) he has designed have sold for more than $80,000. I've heard them, they sound amazing. Then again, they should at that price.
Jones also designs equipment for the much-less expensive Pioneer line of hi-fi equipment including a pair of stand-mounted speakers, a pair of floor-standing speakers, an amplifier and a subwoofer. Prices are amazingly low while the quality level is sky high.
The Pioneer SP-BS22-LR is described a bookshelf" speaker. "SP" stands for speaker and"BS" means bookshelf. It's only 12.6-inches tall. It fits on a shelf or on top of a cabinet but will sound better sitting on a speaker stand. And that sound quality belies its price. Pioneer lists the SP-BS22-LR at $129.99 for the pair. You can find them selling online for even less.
The speakers were just named one of Stereophile magazine's "Products of The Year, 2013."
I've been listening to Jones' larger Pioneer design the SP-FS52. "FS" means it's a floor stander. (Pioneer isn't too innovative when it comes to naming things). The products though are pretty special.
The FS52's have three 5-1/4-inch woofers and a 1-inch dome tweeter per channel. The cabinets are just more than 35-inches high and curved and vented on the back. The finish is black and utilitarian. The sound is anything but.
These speakers sound real like music. They produce bass which goes a little deeper than their bookshelf brethren and share the same realistic midrange (where most of the sounds we hear come from) and smooth,, extended highs.
Overall, they are truly amazing home speakers. It is difficult to believe the SP-FS52s retail for only $129.99 each. If you don't tell your friends they will never guess the real price. I'm not suggesting that these speakers sound as good as Jones' $80K offerings, but I think there is definitely a large dose of the Jones magic to make them worth seeking out.
Pioneer also had Jones rework one of its popular integrated 2-channel amplifiers. Integrated means the amplifier has a control (pre-amplifier) section as well as circuitry to power your loudspeakers. Pioneer's A-20 "Direct Energy Design" offers 50 watts per channel, a number of analog inputs (including one for playing vinyl) and a remote control all for $299. It is a perfect match for either of his speakers. Add a turntable, CD player, computer or smartphone and you're all set.
And Jones has also come up with a matching powered subwoofer (SW8MK2, $159). The idea is that when the sub is combined with his bookshelf and/or floor-standers you have the basis for the best-sounding, affordable home theater surround-sound system on the market today. Pioneer also makes a full line of 5.1-channel amplifiers and receiver if that's what you're looking for,
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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