I've been reading this forum and figured I should share my thoughts. I recently purchased the JBL ES25C center cannel when I saw these Pioneers. I liked the idea of the inexpensive towers but thought at their price, I wouldn't be happy with them.
My current system includes the Athena Micra 6
powered by the Onkyo TX-SR501
. This set up was excellent for my smaller room, but I bought a house with a larger living room a couple years ago. Every time the room size increased with the Athenas I felt I was losing more and more sound, so I had been wanting new speakers for a while.
Well, so I got my JBL after being impressed with a similar one I bought for my father-in-law. I hooked up the JBL and liked it very much, but didn't absolutely love it 100% but I still can't pinpoint why. I started wandering how other speakers would sound so I bought a Polk CS10 and then I remembered this Pioneer SP-C21. So I went to Best Buy and bought both.
My testing method was to turn the center cannel up to its maximum (+12) while lowering all the other speakers to their minimum (-12). Crossover was set to 80Hz as it seemed to be the fairest way to test all of them, that way the bassiest speaker wouldn't dominate. This way I could just really focus on what the centers sound like almost on they're own. I played various kinds of music using Dolby Pro-Logic II Movie mode (so the most sound would be placed in the center channel).
I took the better part of a day and involved my wife for an hour or so to get her opinion. We really did hear the same things which was nice. All three speakers sounded larger and fuller than the small Athena due to them being larger speakers in a larger room. Our least favorite was the Polk CS10. To us it seemed like the kind of speaker that is made to impress. It looks nice, and puts up a large wall of sound with plenty of tweeter energy. It is a very efficient speaker, however the detail easily gets lost in it's swooshy presentation.
The JBL was our favorite, but what was so amazing is that the Pioneer was very similar in the areas I found important. Male and female vocals sounded very realistic, a very minor difference that may just be attributed to the Pioneer's slightly lower efficiency. The dynamics were outstanding on both with the Pioneer maybe having an ever so slightly less dynamic sound, but at the same time, it may have been just a little more open sounding. The Pioneer seemed to have a little more pronounced tweeter, but I think that will end up working better with my Moderno in-ceiling speakers (1" soft dome).
What I really liked about the JBL was the ability to put vocals in the room in a way that makes them sound real. You can't tell if it's a woofer making sound or the tweeter... it just sounds real. Then I would switch to the Pioneer and think, "Wow! This is so similar! How did they do this for so much less money?" I would say that build quality on the JBL is a little better than the Pioneer, but the Pioneer was better than the Polk and closer in quality to the JBL. My wife and I both felt that the sound quality of the Pioneer is like 90% or so of the JBL and at a much lower price. And I can imagine people preferring the Pioneer's crisp very slightly more typical tweeter sound.
For me it's been a hard decision, but as much as I wanted the JBL's I am going to return it in favor of the Pioneers. Money matters more every day. I just returned the Polk center channel and picked up the Pioneer towers. I haven't hooked them up yet, but it was fun and impressive to take them out of the box. I get even happier when I look at the purchase receipt and see the price.
I would like to personally thank Andrew Jones for both his efforts in the speaker's creation and for addressing the members of this forum. I think that word of moth is going to be key in selling these speakers, as they are not likely to be demo'ed in any meaningful way to what could be their target customer (not just someone cheap, but a low, low... no budget audiophile
And a quick question for Andrew, is there any area where costs were cut that the DIY'er can improve upon? I'm just wondering if something simple like adding more polyfill is something you had to cut costs on that would improve the sound. Thank you.