McGary Audio

Essential Sound

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Home Theater Speaker Review!
Andrew Jones SP-PK52FS
Home Cinema 5.1 Speaker System,
EAN Raves About Pioneer Elite SC-79 Receiver

©Everything Audio Network

Price: only  $549.99 (system)
Likes: great sonics for the $
Dislikes: the sub is subpar
Wow Factor: I was wowed
More info: SP-PK52FS

by John Gatski
  Typically, I do not review speakers that sell for a hundred bucks or less, but I never say never. There are some amazingly good speakers cropping up now and again that are dirt cheap, compared to the audio world I normally reside in. Case in point, is speaker designer Andrew Jones collaborative speaker line with Pioneer. These speakers are designed by Jones (of TAD fame) and manufactured in China. What you get is pretty good-sounding, new speakers for bargain-basement, used prices. And you can buy them at places like Best Buy and Amazon.
  The SP-PK52FS system reviewed here, sells for $549 retail. That’s it. I am talking about two L-R tower speakers, a horizontal center, eight-inch driver powered subwoofer and two rear book shelf speakers — for less than six bills. But, you ask, are the speakers any good. And I say yes. The subwoofer is marginal, but the rest of the system is so good that the money you save buying this system can get you a better sub. 

  The SP-PK52FS system consists of two SPS-52 small tower speakers with three 5 1/4-inch woofers and 1-inch soft dome tweeter, a pair of SP-BS22-LR bookshelf loudspeakers for the rear (5-inch woofer, 1-inch tweeter), and the SP-C22 center channel speakers with two 4-inch woofers and a tweeter. The SW-8MK2 powered subwoofer rounds out the system — with an 8-inch woofer/port design.
  The SPS52 ported tower and four drivers are well matched. Crossover frequencies are centered at 250 kHz and 3 kHz. The speakers are fairly efficient, at 87 dB, 1W/1meter. Nominal impedance is 6 ohms. The compact tower measures 35-inches tall by 8 7/8-inches wide and 10-inches deep. The speaker weighs a modest 25 pounds. For its price, the cabinet is adequately braced, and it does not negatively intrude on the clean sound from the drivers at reasonable levels

Big Sound from mini towers

  The SPC-22 center channel contains two 4-inch woofers and the same 1-inch soft dome tweeter as the towers. Rated response is 55 Hz to 20 kHz. Efficiency is 88 dB. The enclosure measures 18 1/8-inches wide by 7-inches tall and just over 8-inches deep. It weighs a bit over 13 pounds. Since it is rounded on the bottom, an included spacer is needed to get it to set flat on a stand.
  The BS-22 surround speakers contain one four-inch woofer each — with the aforementioned soft dome tweeter. It is ported as well, offering bass to a claimed 55 Hz. Efficiency is 85 dB. The BS-22 weighs just over 9 pounds and is just over 12 inches tall and 8-inches wide.
  The SW-8MkII subwoofer, self-powered with a 100-watt peak amp (50-watts continuous), is a single eight-inch woofer, augmented by a fairly large port to enable it to get down to a claimed 38 Hz. It weighs 20 pounds. Overall, the speakers are built well, way beyond the price range, and as my testing revealed, the sound is three times the price.

The set up
  I set up the Andrew Jones 5.1 system at my secondary video evaluation room in Delaware. This 22 ft. long, 12 ft. wide room is a good review set up for home theater speakers. Plenty of space to position them to optimize their sonic signature. To present the six-speaker system at their best, Pioneer sent along its flagship Elite receiver, the $3,000 SC-79 with digital amplifier modules and ESS Sabre32 DACs. This is the third digital powered Elite receiver that I have reviewed, and all have been among the best of the high-end receivers.
  I positioned the two tower speakers about four feet from each end of a stand-mounted LG 5700 50-inch LED, and placed the center tower on a stand behind the TV. I located the subwoofer in between the left tower and the TV stand. The three fronts and the sub were about two feet from the back wall. 

Voices were natural on SPC-22

  The rear speakers were placed about seven feet behind the listening position on stands just a little higher than ear level when sitting in the primo movie watching position. I linked the receiver and speakers with Kimber speaker cables, and a Wireworld RCA cable connected the receiver to the subwoofer. Sources included Oppo and Yamaha BD players, along with downloaded hi-res music from the computer to the SC-79 via USB connection. HDMI and USB cables were provided by Wireworld.

The audition
  As soon as I fired up the animated Bolt Blu-ray and watched that first chase scene, I could tell the AJ’s were no computer-shopper speaker specials. The dynamic effects of the movie, the vocals and the music soundtrack impressed my sonic palette. Not as full in their projection as my $50,000 Westlake home theater system, mind you, but nonetheless, the system’s reasonable musical accuracy and sibilant-free signature of the voices were like speakers costing a lot more bucks. I had the towers running full-band and their woofer trio kicked out solid bass to 45 Hz at - 3 dB, according to my AudioControl RTA.
  The surrounds did a good job relaying the spatial cues, width and rear channel ambiance. They did not get hard sounding until above 95 dB, a testament to its design and driver selection.
  On the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel, the relentless fight scenes were handled with a surprising degree of precision — given the price of this speaker system. I usually expect speakers in this price range, to generate an ample amount of ear grit and blur when you turn it up, but the AJ’s just got out of the way and let the sound do its thing — when cranked up to reasonably loud level in this fairly large room. Also, I was really surprised how good the center channel handled dialogue and was able to fill the room.

BS-22 surround contains 4-inch woofer

  The only downer was the subwoofer; it did not have enough sub 50-Hz grunt to really shake the room with low-end bass effects from a variety of movie soundtracks. In fact, routing the .1 bass to the towers yielded better results, according to my real-time audio analyzer; I got more output at 40 Hz. On the bass crescendos, the two fronts sounded cleaner as well. The sub often exhibited a flabby, distorted bass. After a few hours of listening, the sub began making a horrific noise. The inner portion of the port tube separated from the outer port tube at the glue seam. (This sub was a demo and could have been stressed in shipping, but it did break.) 
  Resilient in my quest to finish the review, I popped into the system review, an Episode Triple 10-inch driver sub (two active and one passive radiator) into service, the sub gave me abundant, clean 45 Hz and under bass for the rest of the review. Of course, it costs more, but it showed me that the each of the other speakers in the system can do their part with no issues.
  On music, the AJ system fared well on high-res downloads and some of my own high-res SACDs and PCM. Playing the the Pink FloydDark Side of The Moon SACD in surround from the Oppo BDP-105 through the SC-79, the, ulti-channel delivery was sufficient in its musical space between the layered tracks. The AJ’s delivered quite a bit of the openness that I hear on much more expensive speakers. I let the tower do all the bass duties of the system, and they were fine for most music. The small drivers kept the Tower lean and mean in the upper bass. For music, me likes this speaker system. How could you not like them — at this price.

As soon as I fired up the animated Bolt Blu-ray and watched that first chase scene, I could tell the AJ’s were no computer-shopper speaker specials. The dynamic effects of the movie, the vocals and the music soundtrack impressed my sonic palette.

  No matter what music I played, the AJ’s handled the challenge, including classical violin, piano and percussion. The Hammond B3 from the Allman Brothers — Live At Fillmore East SACD, was showcased in all its glory — with the overdriven, bluesy full tone of a Leslie and the Hammond B3 keyboard.
  The sound from the AJ main/sat ensemble is so good that the subwoofer experience was quickly forgotten. But i would suggest that Pioneer and Mr. Jones create a new sub that matches the quality of the rest of the speakers, maybe a bigger, double 8 or a single 10. So what if it costs a little more.

The verdict
  A big thumbs up on the Andrew Jones SP-PK52FS system. Subwoofer not withstanding, these low-cost transducers really do get the job done. More accurate than you would predict for under $600 retail. The sub does not measure up, but you don't really need it with the Towers. Or use another brand of sub like I did. Based on value and performance, I must give the SP-PK52FS system a Stellar Sound Award. I ‘d say an 8 out of 10.

Home Cinema Review Extra:
Wowing Us With The Pioneer Elite SC-79
 ULtra THX 9.2 Channel Receiver
Info: Pioneer Elite SC-79

  This is the third of Pioneer’s top Elite receiver I have reviewed, and they never cease to impress. Versus separates these receivers can hold their own as audiophile playback gear, but offer all the multichannel, home cinema, DLNA, USB, and now 4k, compatibility available to videophiles.
  The SC-79 has two major advances over its predecessor, the SC-68. It now uses a Pioneer-developed, digital amplifier section design (previously the receiver utilized ICE modules) and it has implemented the eight-channel ESS Sabre32 D/A chip, the premiere audiophile D/A chip that is contained in numerous separate DACs and audiophile players.
 Other features include DLNA Wi-Fi playback at up to 24/192 and USB asynchronous playback from computer audio systems up to 24/192. Compatible formats include AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSD (2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz) and Apple Lossless. You can also stream your MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and FLAC music files from your compatible PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  Other features include HDBase T Multi-Zone Control, Spotify, Airplay and V Tuner, 4-K pass-through and full compatibility with Android, Windows and Apple audio products. It will also decode multi-channel DSD from SACD players with discrete output via HDMI. Other cool audio tools include the MCACC audio calibration setup and the PQLS bit stream master clock.   Video is processed to a immaculate presentation, thanks to the Q-deo processing. Of courser, you can bypass the video processing with a push of a button, and route your video straight to the LED, plasma or projector.

The sound wowed us
  As mentioned in the speaker review, the amp delivers impressive, detailed multichannel soundstage with dynamics and timbre of separate amps and preamps. As good as the Andrew Jones speakers are in and above their price class, the SC-79 ultimately shined when I connected it to my $50,000 Westlake/NHT cinema 5.1 speaker system. The DTS Master HD, uncompressed PCM and Dolby True HD soundtracks from Blu-rays were simply awe-inducing for a receiver. Wide, deep detail from effects-laden movies — with exceptional dynamic range. Thanks to the Sabre32 DAC chip (its sonic signature I know well — having reviewed at least a dozen products with that circuit), there is a smoothness to older soundtracks, which allows you to turn it up.
  The uncompressed 24/48 PCM soundtrack of the Meet The Robinsons cartoon feature film, for example, was presented with a massive dynamic energy intensity, as well as wide separation as the effects in the rear steered to the front and kicked back to the rears again. Nicely done, my notes say.
  For audiophile stereo playback, I also hooked the receiver up to my $25,000 Pass Labs SR-2 and $12,000 MartinLogan Montis electrostatic speakers. Using a thumb drive full of 24-bit audiophile music, the Pioneer Elite SC-79 powered them to near perfection. A neutral, flat, smooth character with plenty of dynamic reserve. You wouldn’t think a receiver could sound this good, but the SC-79 ain’t no ordinary receiver.

  The SC-79 is built like an Elite product: heavy duty chassis, massive power supply and quality A/V internal components. I like Pioneer’s approach to make sure the receiver has all of the vital controls on the remote duplicated on the unit. If I am at the front of the room near the receiver, I can just adjust it on the spot.
  The unit is rated at 150 wpc, which means that the receiver can deliver that much to any channel, based on demand. I like Pioneer’s all-channel rating, which simply states that it can deliver an overall 850 watts to all channels at 1 percent distortion. It is likely that the three front channels would get the 150 watts max, the primary surrounds and effects channels would get less. Still, it has plenty of horsepower for all but the largest theater rooms.

Award winning receiver
  During its EAN test tenure, the Pioneer SC-79 quickly became one of our favorite high-end receivers. In the high-end receiver game, via the big-guns from Japan, I believe the Marantz, Pioneer, Onkyo and Yamaha make some of the better products on the market. After hearing the Pioneer Elite SC-79, the others will have to step up their receiver game. A Stellar Sound Award with a capital “S”.
—John Gatski

  John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio Network©Articles on this site are the copyright of the Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.

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