Pioneer Elite EX Series In-Wall/In-Ceiling Loudspeakers


When you think of Pioneer, undoubtedly the first thing you think of is flat-panel TVs. Next, A/V receivers and Blu-ray players might come to mind. Probably the last thing you’d think of would be in-wall speakers. Me too, and I’d wager that most home theater enthusiasts don’t even know the company makes them. For that and other reasons, I was curious about the top of the line Elite EX Series in-wall and in-ceiling speakers that Pioneer used in a demo room at CEDIA 2009. (Pioneer also offers a passel of other products including headphones, DJ gear, DVD players, car audio and more.)

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I admit I went in thinking that Pioneer in-wall speakers were sort of an afterthought in the company’s lineup, to be offered, say, as part of an add-on sale to a plasma monitor purchase. I was wrong. The top of the line Elite ES Series incorporates some serious engineering, including what Pioneer calls CST (Coherent Source Transducer) technology, where the tweeter is concentrically mounted flush at the base of the bass/midrange driver cone, to maintain sonic coherence and function as a single point source. The idea of a point source is nothing new–many speaker designers feel that such a configuration offers superior imaging. However, Pioneer claims that the EX Series’ design offers superior directivity characteristics and off-axis response compared to typical coaxial drivers, where the tweeter protrudes from the center of the woofer.

EX Series speakers (available in five in-wall and in-ceiling LCR and angled-driver configurations, along with a powered subwoofer), all employ a 1-3/16-inch graphite tweeter, a 5-1/2-inch magnesium-cone midrange driver, and either a 7-1/16-inch or 6-1/2-inch aramid (synthetic fiber)/carbon-composite-cone woofer. The speakers also feature a treble contour control to tailor the high-frequency response. Depending on the model, frequency response ranges from either 26 or 28Hz to 100kHz (did I read that right? Yes–that’s the most extended high-frequency response speaker spec I’ve ever seen). Nominal impedance is 6 ohms and efficiency is 87dB for all models.

Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.

The system I heard featured three S-IW691L LCR speakers, three
S-IW891A in-walls and four S-W1EX 12-inch powered subwoofers.
Associated equipment included a BDP-09FD Blu-ray player, SC-09TX
10.2-channel A/V receiver, PRO-141FD 1080p monitor, PRO-FPJ1 projector
and a Stewart projection screen. Prices are as follows: S-IW691L,
$1,999 each; S-IW891, $1,899 each; S-IC891A, $1,799 each and the S-W1EX
subwoofer, $1,700.

The sound was impressive. I learned many years ago that in-walls
have evolved from their low-fi origins as crappy speakers barely fit
for the bathroom of a fast-food restaurant to high-quality sonic
reproducers; still, I was pleasantly surprised at the presence of the
EX models, and their ability to go from subtle to bombastic. I’d like
to have the opportunity someday to listen more to evaluate the
dispersion characteristics of the CST drivers; for now, I can state
that the surround sound in the installation I heard was immersive, and
never did I get a sense that I was listening to speakers stuck to the
walls rather than a coherent soundfield.

High Points
• The Elite EX Series in-wall and in-ceiling speakers incorporate novel
driver technology to deliver clear sound with plenty of presence.
• They’re in-walls, so they don’t take up floor space and can disappear into a room.

Low Points
• Figure on the time and cost of professional installation for these
in-walls unless you’re up to the task of a major home installation
• Since they’re going to be mounted in a wall or ceiling, you’re not
going to be able to tweak their placement to the nth degree for optimum
imaging and soundstaging the way you would for freestanding

I never really thought of Pioneer as a full-blown loudspeaker
manufacturer before. (True, they are the distributor of the highly
respected TAD loudspeaker line.) Live and learn. Their EX Series
in-wall and in-ceiling models sound good and deserve to be taken
seriously. Pioneer might not be as well known for its in-wall speakers
as brands like Sonance, SpeakerCraft, Polk, Definitive Technology,
Niles Audio or others, but the EX Series are deserving of consideration
if you’re looking for high-quality in-wall speakers.
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