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Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 review: Best floor-standing speakers under $1,500

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The Good The Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 produces startling clarity, precision surround-sound imaging, high-contrast dynamics, and solid low bass extension. The speakers are well made and look even more expensive than they are. Being able to play Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks will come in handy in the near future.

The Bad There's still a lack of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X-encoded discs that take advantage of the Elite system's Dolby top-mounted Atmos drivers. The speakers are so good, they can expose poorly recorded material.

The Bottom Line The Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 speaker is the best Atmos floorstander we've seen anywhere for the money, and its capability with music is pleasantly surprising.

8.6 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Sound 9
  • Value 8

When speaker designer Andrew Jones sits back on his chair, fire-a-crackling, wine-a-mulling, and looks upon the year that was 2015, he can rightly say, "That'll do, pig. That'll do."

While he may or may not be a fan of the film "Babe," the sentiment is the same: it's been an extraordinarily good run for him. In 2015, two of CNET's favorite speaker brands were headed by Mr. Jones and resulted in models such as the fantastic ELAC Debut F6 (Jones' current gig) and the excellent Pioneer SP-EFS73 floorstanders (reviewed here, one of Jones' final projects before departing Pioneer).

There was a time when the words "high-end speaker" and "Pioneer" didn't belong in the same sentence but Andrew Jones changed that, and the SP-EFS73 is an excellent example of his art. True, there are models at an equivalent price that rock harder with bigger bass -- such as the PSB X2T or the SVS Prime Towers -- but the SP-EFS73 has a deftness of touch that confidently whispers "hi-fi."

Jones has long championed value for money in hi-fi and this year he has proven to be a man of his word. ELAC's Debut series and the midtier Pioneer Atmos range offer some of the most bang for the buck in loudspeakers today. On the Pioneer side, the SP-EBS73-LR bookshelf speakers -- in the same product family -- offer an even better value, But if you have the extra cash, the SP-EFS73 gives a bigger sense of scale and even more finely honed detail. At $1,400 per pair, these tower speakers are still relatively inexpensive compared with their "high-end" competitors.

Design and features

02-pioneer-elite-sp-efs73.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The Pioneer SP-EFS73 is a floor-standing speaker compatible with next-gen surround technologies Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (assuming, of course, that you have the compatible source material, Blu-ray player and AV receiver). This three-way floorstander comes with two sets of "CST" drivers -- essentially a 4-inch concentric tweeter and midrange driver. One of the CST drivers is forward-facing, while the second, ceiling-facing driver is designed to reproduce Atmos height effects by bouncing sound off your roof.

07-pioneer-elite-sp-efs73.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The speaker is medium height at a little over 3 feet tall, and the three 5.25-inch bass woofers contribute to its 7.4-inch width. Like all of Jones' Pioneer speakers, they curve at the rear to reduce internal reflections to a depth of 8.7 inches. The optional spiked base adds an inch in both directions to the bottom of the speaker. The speaker is rear-ported for both the midrange and bass chamber, so moving the speaker away from walls will cut down on the potential for boominess.

Setup

We tested the speaker as part of the Pioneer Elite System, which includes the SP-EC73 center channel, a pair of the aforementioned SP-EBS73-LR bookshelves as rears and a SW-E10 10-inch subwoofer, all connected to a Marantz NR1605 AV receiver.

pioneer-elite-sp-ebs73-lr-01.jpg

Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73-LR

Sarah Tew/CNET

Setup and calibration of the complete 5.1 system was straightforward. We did a manual speaker calibration, running the SP-EFS73 towers "full-range," and used the NR1605's bass management to set the SP-EBS73-LR bookshelves and SP-EC73 center channel speakers' crossover to 80Hz. We also tried 100Hz; both crossover points worked well.

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