Setting a new standard for performance in the affordable sound-platform genre, Pioneer’s new SP-SB03 Speaker Base was designed by the company’s resident audio guru, Andrew Jones. Like the SB23W sound bar before it, Jones brings his palpable passion for all things audio to the SB03, and the result is something special.
Unlike many sound platforms which are constructed from molded plastic, the SB03 is designed around a wood composite cabinet that’s braced internally to help squelch unwanted resonance, while also propping up heavier flat panel TVs without buckling under the load.
Inside, the unit is packed with 6 individually-powered drivers, pulling 28 watts each from 168 watts of total system power. The front face harbors dual 1-inch soft dome tweeters and a pair of 3-inch midrange drivers. Underneath are dual 4-inch down-firing woofers to reproduce the low frequencies. The system’s active-crossover design helps it achieve better continuity and higher dynamic expression than what you’ll hear from a basic, fixed-crossover system.
Around back is an extremely succinct set of inputs, limited to a digital optical input, and an RCA analog input. As expected, the SB03 is also equipped with Bluetooth wireless streaming, which is a welcome feature considering this device handles music as brilliantly as it does movie and TV audio. It should be noted here that we did encounter a few hiccups with Bluetooth streaming during playback, but nothing that was prohibitive.
The system also offers a full suite of DSP, including three different effects modes for music, dialog, and movies, as well as “3D expansion” to reproduce a broader stereo image, and Dolby Digital decoding.
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As indicated by its minimalist design, the SB03 leaves out extras like an HDMI ARC connection, which means you’ll have to program the unit to read basic commands from your TV remote if you want to keep from adding yet another remote to the coffee table. There’s also no real digital interface up front, which makes settings changes, or adjustments like subwoofer level a bit of a guessing game.
That’s not much of a problem, though, because the SB03 is hands down the best sounding system of its kind we’ve come across. Vocals and dialog are smooth, yet vividly detailed, upper register instrumentation and effects are brilliantly clear, and bass, while not as powerful as a fully dedicated subwoofer, is richly drawn and potent enough to stir up some cinematic excitement.
Bottom line: For $350, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more capable companion than the Pioneer SP-SB03 to help transform your TV audio from pale to potent in one fell swoop.