Product Preview: Pioneer SP-BS22 LR Loudspeaker

The $129 Showstopper

TAD Compact Reference,
TAD Reference One
Product Preview: Pioneer SP-BS22 LR Loudspeaker

Think about it–what’s a hundred and twenty nine bucks? What on earth can you buy in the high end for $129??? A pair of loudspeakers? Not only that–a loudspeaker designed by renowned Pioneer chief engineer Andrew Jones-the same Mr. Jones who penned designs for the TAD Reference One and Compact Reference. The answer is currently playing music in my listening room. The oh, so, redesigned Pioneer SP-BS22 LR. Yes it’s a lot of name for a foot tall, two-way bass reflex design. But so far this soulful, little compact is turning in a performance worthy of speakers well beyond its almost laughable price point.

Unassuming in the extreme it tips the scales at little more than nine pounds dripping wet. Midbass duties are handled by a four-inch driver with a structured surface diaphragm to aid rigidity and fend off breakup modes while the 1-inch soft dome tweeter uses a custom designed waveguide to boost dispersion and efficiency.

There’s nothing particularly intriguing about it’s construction or parts compliment. No coincident driver a la TAD. But then again there’s the hard to quantify, but never to be underestimated, Jones Factor. What makes this little devil such a delight to listen to is how well it represents high-end values in such a small and (let’s face it, cheap) bundle. The essence of its performance is found in the breadth of its midrange. Jones has fashioned a resoundingly smooth, tonally ripe signature with just enough heft and weight behind vocal and instrumental images to provide scale but not physically overwhelm the tiny stature of this enclosure.  Jones’ choices are clear. Balance above all. Vocals of either gender are authentic rather than helium filled, munchkin-like caricatures. The top end is surprisingly open which lends harmonics a fullness and dimension that is often lacking in this blue-plate realm of loudspeakers.

Credit the waveguide tweeter for dispersing treble energy in a wide enough axis so that it doesn’t lock the listener’s head in the vise of a narrow sweetspot. Bass response is mostly limited to upper midbass but it exhibits nice rhythm and timbre. While there’s clearly response further down, the BS-22 had avoided the scenario of the synthetic big port pulse or midbass boost that makes subwoofer matching such a nightmare. Sure, it won’t do dynamics or image like the $42k TAD CR-1. Yep, it’s got it’s own set of shortcomings. More on that in TAS. But I haven’t heard a two-way fitted with a four-inch midbass as it’s biggest gun flat-out perform at this level, for this little.   Believe me, I’ll have more to say in an upcoming full review. Meanwhile, if you’ve been Jonesing after something sonically satisfying on the stingy side, look no further.