There is no doubt that, until now, Pioneer SP-BS22-LR is the best bookshelf speaker. This pair of old-fashioned speakers couldn’t be that special if Andrew Jones didn’t design it.
For someone who doesn’t know about Andrew Jones, he is Pioneer’s Chief Speaker Engineer and known as the designer of some of the world’s best speakers, some cost at $80,000. BS22 is one of his most favorite speakers that he designed and created. His goal with this bookshelf speaker was to surprise newcomers to HiFi with a great value product that almost anyone can afford.
BS22’s design is simple and modern looking at a two-way bass-reflex design that weighs 9.1 pounds. The cabinets are made from medium-density fiberboard sheets and the black ash color is only one available. Andrew put a pill-shaped removable fabric grill on the front to protect the speaker and if you remove the grill, you’ll get a slightly brighter sound. At the rear, you can see gold 5-way binding posts which are much nicer than the most speakers at this price point. Because there’s a port at the back of BS22 that can move some air, putting it right up against the wall is not recommended.
This speaker has 4” structured surface woofer, 1” high efficiency soft dome tweeter and 6 element sophisticated crossover. Comparing to the previous design, the tweeter includes a larger magnet which helps to add efficiency of the speaker and to reduce dynamic compression at higher sound levels. It means that you can listen to these at a very loud volume.
BS22 has a simple and stiff design, which makes many people think of a cheap bundle. But, like they say, the devil is in the details and we can’t underestimate Andrew Jones. The reason making BS22 amazing is how well he applied high-end values to a small and cheap bookshelf speaker. It doesn’t mean that BS22 can dethrone every loudspeaker but to be honest, Jones has made an outstanding bookshelf speaker at this price point.
Sound quality makes BS22 become the best bookshelf speaker in this price point. Their musicality is easily equal to many speakers which cost two or three times as its price. Comparing to previous model, BS41 (costs $180), it is clearer, has more bass and ability to play louder.
The upper bass did a good job down to the fifty to sixty heard range. Mid-bass is firm focused and beautifully structured. The outstanding point of BS22 is its mid-range, which is extremely smooth and totally right with just enough weight behind vocals and instruments. It helps to provide an amazing listening experience. Both male and female vocals sound completely authentic and extremely natural. You can’t find any speaker at this price point which is able to refine mid-range as good as BS22 does. Especially, you can easily listen to these all day without fatigue because of its enjoyable sound.
Sounded Rich and Balanced
Handling Miles Davis’s jazz music has never been easy for the speakers in this price range because of the complexity of layers and instrumentals. However, BS22 performed incredibly well. The highs are detailed, not overly pronounced and the mids sounded rich and balanced. No matter whatever music genre you listen to, BS22 can do a nice job even when playing at high volume. I also did a test with the choristers of the Turtle Creek Chorale and the result was a well-defined, dimensional soundstage although it was somewhat abbreviated in depth and size.
BS22 doesn’t play especially deep beyond the upper bass, but it remains composed at higher outputs. When reaching its dynamic limits, there’s a bit of port (or cabinet) noise but it did a nice job with some of blue note jazz songs like Sinkin Soon (by Norah Jones) or Song for My Father (by Horace Silver). And especially, BS22 avoids the mid-bass boom which makes potential subwoofer matching such a nightmare.
And if you’re a hardcore fan of music, maybe you’ll find out that there’s a bit too much sibilance with BS22. As an example, when you listen to “Take me home/ You silly boy” by Holly Cole, you’ll realize that there is more “sss” than you prefer. Lastly, beyond the absence of true low-bass, one of the most important mistakes of BS22 is a diminution of macro-dynamics. The speakers compress gently but firmly and flatten out the large swings as if carefully measuring its own physical limitations, self-censoring if you will.
Besides bringing good sound quality when reproducing music, BS22 is amazing when being in the line-up of your home theater system as front or rear speakers. When I watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, BS22 had an active, lively midrange and the tweeter produced clear vocals. However, this bookshelf speaker had to struggle with some other lower frequencies in some scenes of the movie. You can pair it with a subwoofer to solve this problem
The Bottom-line: BS22’s stiff and simple design makes it look like a cheap bundle but it’s not problem anymore when you listen to its sound. This pair of speakers is absolutely the best bookshelf speaker.
BS22 is absolutely the best bookshelf speaker at this price point. In spite of stiff and simple design, its sound quality’s just amazing. It doesn’t matter if you want to build a music system or home theater, this is the one for you. You can start with BS22, then add additional speakers as your budget allows. If you have Pioneer’s floorstanding FS52, then the BS22 can be more to the rear and become the rear surround speakers.