Last night, 15 AVS members gathered at Pioneer Electronics in Long Beach, CA, for an exclusive sneak peak at the latest product from speaker-design wizard Andrew Jones. The new soundbar will be officially unveiled on Wednesday, June 26, at the CE Line Shows in New York City, and until then, I can't publish its model number, price, or image.
AVS members in Pioneer's listening room; standing behind them are (L-R) speaker designer Andrew Jones, AVS Director of Content Scott Wilkinson, and Pioneer Director of Product Planning Chris Walker.
I can say the new soundbar is based on Jones' insanely great-for-the-money bookshelf and floorstanding speakers, with a similar curved cabinet. The 2-channel, self-powered soundbar uses the same tweeter and smaller 3" versions of the same low-to-midrange drivers as the BS-22 and FS-52. Each channel is reproduced by one tweeter and two low-to-mid drivers, and each driver is powered by its own class-D amp with active crossovers and DSP as well as a relatively beefy power supply, which means it can play plenty loud without breaking a sweat.
To handle the low end, the soundbar will ship with its own 6" subwoofer—not very large, I grant you, but surprisingly potent based on what we heard. The sub connects to the soundbar wirelessly, making it easy to place anywhere in the room. In fact, "easy" is the watchword for this system—it's designed to be super simple to set up and use. The soundbar can learn the TV's power and volume commands so it can be controlled from the TV or set-top box remote, though it comes with its own credit-card-size remote as well.
With onboard amplification, this 2-channel soundbar is not intended to be used with an AV receiver or other speakers; instead, it's designed to replace the TV's internal sound system. As such, the basic setup is to have your source devices (Blu-ray player, cable or satellite receiver, game console, etc.) connected to the TV via HDMI and the TV's audio output connected to the soundbar. Three inputs are provided—optical digital with Dolby Digital decoding, 2-channel analog, and Bluetooth with AptX uncompressed audio for many Android devices and Windows phones; it will also stream compressed audio from iOS devices.
Jones wanted the soundbar to go beyond TV and movies; he also wanted it to sound good with music, so he created three DSP presets—Music, Movie, and Dialog. The prototype we heard last night was configured only with the Music preset, so we listened mostly to music from CDs, which sounded amazingly clean and clear with plenty of volume and low-end punch. I was especially impressed with male and female vocals as well as an orchestral selection. My only concern was with a piano-centric track, which seemed just a bit congested in the low-midrange, though that could have been in the recording.
As I mentioned at the outset, the Pioneer soundbar will be officially introduced next week in New York, and I'll be there to cover the news, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, I'd like to thank Pioneer for hosting a sneak peek at what is sure to be a very popular product. Clearly, Andrew Jones has done it again!