Customer Review

87 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent performance, Bluetooth problems with the originally shipped units, poor customer support, September 25, 2013
This review is from: Pioneer SP-SB23W Andrew Jones Soundbar System (Electronics)
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Below is my original review. I have upgraded my rating to 3 stars after receiving my replacement unit. I give the soundbar itself 4 stars, but still feel I have to knock off a star due to the embarrassing problems with the originally shipped units, difficulty contacting customer support, and Pioneer's delay in acknowledging the problem. The tone I got from Pioneer and fanboys of the product seemed to be annoyance that I discovered a serious flaw that required a recall.

Anyway, with the updated Bluetooth, the soundbar sounds very good using optical, stereo audio, and Bluetooth. Bluetooth pairing is easy, but the unit can only pair to one device at a time. To pair with a different device you must unpair it from the device itself. You can't just clear the Bluetooth pair from the soundbar because is will automatically repair with the original device. Also, when using Bluetooth, when a new song starts, the first second of sound is sometimes clipped. I have not had this problem with Bluetooth headsets. I'm not sure what the reason is.

I do like this soundbar and will be keeping it hooked up for now.

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I hate to have to give a negative review of this speaker bar. I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to test it and at first was fairly impressed. As issues occurred and I discovered how difficult it is to get in touch with Pioneer support, I realized that this review was going to be a critical one. For specs, read the Amazon description. You don't need me to repeat any of that.

First, the unboxing. This speaker bar comes in a very large box, much or which is empty space. That is because the speaker bar is long and thin, and the subwoofer is a cube. They both are placed in a large outer box, the only alternative to which would be two separate retail boxes. Most everything you need is included. Be careful not to lose the rubber feet necessary if you won't be wall mounting the speaker. What is with them? Little strips of rubber to keep the speaker from wobbling on it's curved form factor? It is challenging to get each side's foot lined up without moving the opposite side. This seems like an afterthought when they realized that a curved bottom looked nice, but didn't work unless wall mounted.

The cabinet does look good. The grill is removable. The remote is functional, but looks and feels cheap.

Set up was very easy. Follow the sequence of steps to pair the wireless subwoofer and you should have no problems.

The speaker comes with an optical cable, so the first test was with an Apple TV via optical cable. The sound was very good, in the top half of speaker bars I've used with regard to sound quality, which it should be for the price. Physical placement of the subwoofer required some experimentation to get the best tone. There is no tone/frequency adjustment for the sub, just volume. The volume needs to be carefully adjusted to get the best sound. The sound is better than my Viore LCD TV's internal speakers, which actually aren't that bad. The sub woofer is a big plus. Neither comes anywhere close to my Infinity 6.1 system, but that is to be expected.

Stereo imaging seems best approximately 6 feet from the speaker. Too close and there is too much separation. Farther away and the channels seem to merge.

Next I used stereo audio cables to connect to a Sony Blue Ray player. The sound quality seemed identical to the optical cable/Apple TV.

Mode selection does some preset equalization.

The problems started to occur when I tried to use Bluetooth. With every device I paired (iPhone 4, Retina iPad, and PowerBook) the sound was horrible. The problem is that only the right channel it being decoded and is being played through both speaker channels on the speaker bar. I suspect improper Bluetooth implementation. This brought a solid 4 star speaker bar down to 3 stars.

The drop to a 2 star review is due to Pioneer's poor customer support. There is only one 800 number listed for all issues. I waited on hold for over 15 minutes twice and never got through. I called once during their lunch break when their message says to call back later. Several other calls resulted in a busy signal. I had forgotten what one sounded like!

If I ever get through to Pioneer and find a solution, I will update my review. Until then I must live with my disappointment.

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Update 10/2/13 (and please see comments)

Pioneer engineers were informed of the problem on 9/30/13. I have not heard back from them about the cause or a solution. If you care about Bluetooth connectivity, you should wait until this issues has been addressed and resolved. At this time it appears that Bluetooth connectivity does not work properly.

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Update 10/6/13

It is now confirmed, the Bluetooth function was not implemented correctly for current production. This should be true for all units and with all brands of input devices. With respect to the other reviewers, none should be able to have proper Bluetooth functionality, at least as of this date. I recommend they go back and check their system with proper stereo test tones.

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Pioneer has confirmed that the bluetooth does not work properly. Reviewers who claim it works for them must be wrong since all shipped units apparently were defective.

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Update 10/14/13
Received a phone call from Pioneer today followed by an email. My replacement unit should arrive Wednesday 10/16/13. I'll put it through its paces for a few days and will then update my review accordingly.

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Update 10/18/13
The replacement unit arrived. I'll update my review once I've fully tested it.
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Comments

Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 50 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 27, 2013 3:53:58 PM PDT
EMSurfDoc says:
I don't usually use bluetooth, but was able to reproduce what you said with both iPad 4 and Macbook Pro Retina. Has anyone tested this with non-Apple products? BTW, my apple products work fine with my Prius car stereo bluetooth.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2013 3:59:05 PM PDT
J. Schwartz says:
Thanks for verifying my experience. I was surprised to discover I don't have any non-apple products to pair with the sound bar.

I also have no problems with any of my apple products with other stereo Blue Tooth products.

I still have not been able to get through to Pioneer by phone. I may email them.

Posted on Sep 30, 2013 10:29:36 PM PDT
It works flawlessly with my Windows Phone, Dell XPS 12 and iPad 3rd generation.

I noticed a lot of issues in the best buy store because of the interference with other Bluetooth devices in the store. See if there are other devices in your house which are causing interference.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2013 10:02:08 AM PDT
J. Schwartz says:
Sandeep,

Are you sure about it working with your iPad? This is turning out to be fairly reproducible. Have you tested it with either a stereo song with very prominent differences between channels, or with pure test tones for each channel? The devices pair, but only one channel get decoded and is sent to both sides of the speaker bar. If yours is working, the engineers at Pioneer may want to talk to you since they are trying to figure this out.

Thanks,

Joe

Posted on Oct 1, 2013 12:00:50 PM PDT
EMSurfDoc says:
I want to reinforce and clarify J. Scwartz's point. Apple devices do not have problems pairing with the Pioneer sound bar. Moreover, the problem is not limited to Apple devices. After I paired my wife's SONY Vaio, the music sounded beautiful and almost stereo. However, when I adjusted the balance and turned off the right channel, there is no sound. Turning off the left channel does not do anything. In conclusion, all devices pair flawlessly, but only the right channel sound is broadcasted to the sound bar. Or the sound bar only processes the "ride side" channel. I will try to borrow my friend's Samsung Galaxy to see if the Samsung also has issues with the Pioneer. I am guessing that this is a Pioneer bluetooth issue. All my Apple products pair and sound fine with my JBL bluetooth speakers in my car.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2013 7:40:24 AM PDT
Memphis Sean says:
I paired the speaker with a Google Chromebook, MacBook, and iPhone 4 and had the same missing channel/Bluetooth issue with each device. It's a pity, as the speaker sounds wonderful otherwise. I'll be calling Pioneer today.

Posted on Oct 12, 2013 9:36:41 AM PDT
Thanks for the review! Does this bluetooth flaw effect android as well? I have a samsung galaxy s3 that I would want to pair with this speaker.

Posted on Oct 12, 2013 11:29:33 AM PDT
Charles Berg says:
Received an email back from Pioneer. They don't have any working inventory to swap for our bad unit. In the meantime have figured out a cheap fix to save myself some hassle. I went on Amazon and bought this: HomeSpot NFC-Enabled Bluetooth Audio Receiver for Sound System Which is an external, powered Bluetooth audio receiver for $26.00. Just incase you can't copy and paste that link it is called "HomeSpot NFC-enabled Bluetooth Audio Receiver for Sound System" I hooked that into the analog inputs (red/white rca inputs) and instead of using Pioneer's Bluetooth I use this for now and it works great. When they are able to ship me a "fixed" or "refurbed" unit I will consider what I will do at that time. For now everything works, and the speakers do sound great, so hopefully this will help you folks to get by for now. If I do decide to go with their refurb'd unit I can just use this little gem on any stereo or old portable boom box to add Bluetooth music to.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2013 12:25:27 PM PDT
J. Schwartz says:
Yes, the flaw effects all paired devices. The Bluetooth problem is with the speaker itself. I have not heard of a credible successful pairing yet. People who claim it works for them are wrong. They just haven't properly tested the system.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2013 12:26:32 PM PDT
J. Schwartz says:
Thanks. Great idea! Pioneer should reimburse you for it.
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