Pioneer Elite Reference Loudspeaker System (SGHT Review) Page 3

Setting up the Pioneer Elite Reference speaker system involves nothing unusual. The TZ-F700s were placed to either side of my 78"-wide projection screen. The cabinets were aimed straight ahead, but the IRIS modules were toed-in considerably. Pioneer recommends that the cabinets be at least 18" from the rear and side walls. Unfortunately, the best I could manage in my room was 12" from the rear wall, but this didn't seem to compromise the system's performance. The distance from the side walls in my room was more than 5' on each side.

The TZ-F700's enclosure has anchors for spikes, which are supposed to be included with the system. However, no spikes were furnished with our samples, so I did most of my listening sans spikes. Later, I found an appropriate set in my spike orphanage (every reviewer has one). The sonic benefit from the spikes is not dramatic, but it never hurts to use spikes under a speaker on a carpeted floor—after you've determined the best positioning.

The TZ-C700 center channel was placed under the screen on a makeshift but very solid and heavy stand. I had to tilt the speaker up slightly to aim it at the main seating area. (The bottom of my screen is only 27" from the floor.) I mounted the TZ-S700 surrounds high on the side walls of the room and rotated the tweeters 45 degrees toward the rear to slightly diffuse the sound from the back wall.

None of the front speakers includes an "Auto" function for its woofer amplifier, so these must be turned on before each use or left on at all times; I chose the latter. The power draw when the system is idling is rated at 9W for all three speakers together—little more than a typical nightlight. If you leave the amplifiers off when not using them, don't forget to turn on the center-channel amp when you fire up the system. The center sounds very boxy with its woofers off!

Each speaker in the system has only one set of input terminals—high-quality, five-way binding posts—which prevents biwiring. I set up the Meridian 861 surround processor to route all bass to the main left and right speakers—that is, large left and right, small center and surrounds, and no subwoofer. (See sidebar, "Driving an Onboard Powered Subwoofer.") Using the 861's polarity-testing features, I also discovered that the center-channel speaker is out of phase with the left and right. I reversed the center polarity at the 861 so it was correct for the listening tests. The measurements might provide additional useful information on this anomaly.

I began my listening with music, some of it in normal two-channel stereo, but most in the Meridian processor's Trifield music surround mode. Before I got very far into the listening tests, I decided that I prefer to use the TZ-F700 left and right speakers fully toed-in, with the IRIS centered on the cabinet axis rather than separately rotated.

Under these conditions, the midrange sounds smoother, perhaps because of differences in the radiation patterns between the 6.5" midrange and the IRIS. Or it might be a situation unique to my room and/or setup. The measurements might provide an answer. (As I write this part of the review, I have not yet seen them.) Your situation might differ; if you install the Pioneer system in your home theater, I suggest only that you experiment. All the observations presented here refer to the configuration in which both the left and right TZ-F700s were toed-in.

On music, the Pioneers' bass is deep and rich but a bit less extended and tight than the best separate subwoofers. The midrange is relatively uncolored, though I did hear slight hints of boxiness and just a shade too much warmth. Neither of these problems was consistent across a wide range of program material, and both were easy to ignore.

The midrange timbre became a little lean at extreme off-axis listening positions, particularly with material concentrated in the center channel. This might be due to the lateral positioning of the two center-channel woofers, a common phenomenon in speakers whose drive units are oriented horizontally. In theory, however, the drivers are close enough together that this should not be a significant factor; the spacing is considerably smaller than the wavelength of the highest frequencies carried by the woofers. In any event, the audible off-axis timbral change is relatively small.