For the past 12 years, I’ve been doing audio upgrades in houses of wealthy hometown residents and venues. Let it be a small home studio, theater, or concert hall, and I’ve seen them all.
Pioneer is certainly a brand to consider if you’re in the market for a quality sound system. Their creations offer superior sound quality, creative features, and elegant design.
According to the Pioneer database, more than 60 models were released between 1968 and 1998. And let’s face it; the vintage audio just sounded different.
That is why I made the list of best Pioneer vintage speakers, which I actually tested.
A Short Introduction
Pioneer Electronics began in Japan by Mr. Nozomu Matsumoto in 1937, who took it upon himself to make a loudspeaker built in Japan that would produce the same quality and performance as the products he was purchasing from overseas.
Nozomu Matsumoto’s initial business was a radio repair shop where he repaired and restored products made by others. In the same store, he started creating Pioneer speakers.
Matsumoto made these speakers because he wanted to share with people the intense passion and excitement he experienced while listening to imported audio devices.
In 1978 Pioneer founded a new subsidiary company: TAD (Technical Audio Device). TAD was to produce the highest quality studio loudspeakers and components.
To this day, many renowned studios, such as Airstudio London, are equipped with TAD components.
In 1983 Pioneer launched the TAD TSM-1 TWIN and the TAD-TSM-2. In Japan, these speakers were distributed under the title Exclusive 2401 Twin and Exclusive 2402.
These TAD Labs models enjoyed a near monopoly in the 1980s thanks to their crystal-clear, exact sound, which, more than any other loudspeaker, captures the excitement and passion of live music.
The guiding principle of TAD is still the same today: technological brilliance combined with unwavering authenticity.
Until today, the quality of these exceptional monitors is unmatched. If you search for these models, you will find many replicas, some even with original TAD components.
1. Pioneer HPM-150
A milestone in speaker design. Beautiful real wood veneered cabinet with a Ufo-like distributor of the 360-degree ribbon tweeter. In addition, a solid cover with a smoked glass pane.
After getting a like-new pair of HPM-150 and listening to them for a couple of weeks now, I can confidently report that HPM-150 has a Top sound and clean bass up to high volumes.
First and foremost, the imaging on these speakers is nothing short of amazing. Until I get an actual listening area (remodeling garage into living space), they are placed on either side of a 50″ TV.
I hooked them up to a Pioneer VSX-834 (check it on Amazon) receiver as the power. I have the DVR from the satellite connected to an AUX input.
For normal TV listening – with the speakers on each side of the TV, at any volume, it sounds like I have a home theater set up.
The voices sound as if they are coming from the TV. My dad came over and thought I had a center channel speaker, or something hooked up – he could not believe how it sounded. The imaging on these truly is amazing.
Now, for what they are made for – music, I have heard many “exotic” speakers in the last ten years, but I absolutely LOVE these.
The bass is fantastic, of course, with that 15″ woofer. When listening to Rolling Stones, everything in the house will rumble except the speakers.
You can literally feel it in your bones at the start of “Paint it, Black.”
The mids and highs – the elite speakers today, are not in the same ballpark.
Even my missis, who is NOT that into music, loves these and listens to music quite a bit now.
As you can tell, this is not a critical review. The only thing I am going by is my ear. I honestly would not sell these speakers for any amount of money.
I am sure there are better ones out there, but I would guess they cost a lot more money than you could get a pair of these for.
If you can find a pair of HPM-150 or the HPM-1500 WITH the original woofer, pull out your checkbook and write the check – they are worth every cent.
2. Pioneer Exclusive 2401 TAD TSM-1 (for Pros)
The Pioneer introduced the Exclusive model 2401 in 1983. This state-of-the-art loudspeaker was available for purchase branded as Pioneer, while for the professional audio sector, it was sold as TAD TSM-1.
The Japanese developed their bolide for large studio rooms, and all those lucky enough to live on factory floors could often listen to rock music at the original volume without being bothered by nagging neighbors.
It was made for use in large studio control rooms. It delivers both high power at all frequencies and outstanding transient response – a rare blend.
Its dispersion pattern is critically controlled, as shown in tests of real studio acoustics: response is smooth over a broad listening area, and consistently precise directivity can be enjoyed.
The paper diaphragm, stiffened by rings, is held in place by a die-cast aluminum basket.
The midrange/high-frequency driver uses a 10-centimeter beryllium diaphragm that weighs only 1 gram. 3 kilograms of magnetic mass drive the magnetic flux density in the air and allow a sound pressure of 110 decibels with only 1-watt input power.
The crossover adapts the driver to the efficiency of the bass drivers through the fixed voltage conductor and an additional regulator, which “only” reaches about 100 decibels with 1 watt.
A massive horn front made of maple is supposed to make the midrange tweeter enjoyable from the astonishingly low crossover frequency of 650 Hertz to beyond the listening limit.
The testers were amazed when they saw the slightly mid-emphasized, but also for a horn system, especially under the amazingly smooth frequency response.
Also, the bass tuning – with excellent efficiency up to 40 Hertz practically without a drop – deserves thick praise.
3. Pioneer HPM 100 (Best Budget Vintage)
This 4-way speaker system uses a diaphragm made of high-polymer elements.
The woofer cone paper is made of carbon fiber laced cone, and its surface is coated with a special acoustic damping agent.
I owned HPM-100s, and they CAN sound pretty good, as mass-market speakers go. In fact, I’ve never heard them sound like separate drivers fighting a war over a box, etc.
When I read something like that, I wonder what gear was driving them, what room they were in, or where the problem was because my hearing is measurably excellent.
The frame holding the diaphragm and magnet is made of strong die-cast aluminum. The magnetic circuit suppresses harmonic distortion components with long voice coils, large magnets, and copper caps on the center pole.
The screener uses a 10cm cone type instead of a large aperture to emphasize directivity.
The diaphragm is a lightweight cone paper with increased rigidity. The magnetic circuit utilizes a large magnet and edgewise-wound voice coil to improve efficiency, and a copper cap is used for the center pole to reduce distortion.
For the tweeter, die-cast aluminum is used for the frame to stabilize the characteristics, and epoxy adhesive is used to bond the voice coil assembly to the cone paper.
The super tweeter uses a unique piezoelectric speaker with a high-polymer element as the diaphragm.
This high-polymer has many features, such as a lightweight vibrating system, good directivity due to its full surface drive type, less abrupt characteristics due to resonance, and resistance to large input power.
The enclosure is a bass-reflex type, and the network uses low-loss MP-type capacitors and a simple circuit type that emphasizes phase characteristics.
I’ve heard many speakers, and I really haven’t heard my HPMs sound bad, even with some added imagination and effort to hear the flaws that people like to describe.
I’d go so far as to say they are better than most speakers out there but not as good as traditional “audiophile” speakers.
If you are into high-quality two-channel hi-fi, these are one of the best you can get for reasonably cheap.
Also, if you are looking for pleasant enough speakers for a garage system or TV (sound effects, they’re really good!
4. Pioneer S-F1
Pioneer’s speaker development staff has completed a 4-way coaxial speaker system that is ideologically based on their accumulated experience and structurally free from preconceived ideas.
The Pioneer S-F1 used a coaxial array of square cone drivers, a radical approach that minimized distortion and delivered a completely natural sound.
Alas, you had to pay for luxury – the price of a pair of speakers reached $7000.
The flat speaker has the speaker’s vibration surface and the baffle’s front surface on the same plane, which eliminates the disturbance of the frequency response caused by the cavity effect, resulting in straightforward sound quality.
Another major advantage is that the sound source position of each speaker unit is aligned.
Furthermore, by making the flat speaker coaxial, the arrival time of sound waves from bass to treble is the same at the listening point, resulting in a clear and distinct sound image with sharp contours.
At the same time, because the center points of the wavefronts from bass to treble are coincident, the direction of arrival of the sound waves is perfectly aligned, unlike the conventional method of placing each unit separately.
Due to these synergistic effects, planar speakers employing the coaxial type produce a realistic sound image.
The S-F1 custom uses a honeycomb diaphragm structure with carbon graphite as the diaphragm material surface material.
That diaphragm material is used for the bass and mid-range speakers to expand the piston bandwidth and obtain a smooth frequency response to the high-frequency reproduction limit.
The result is smooth frequency response and excellent heel characteristics up to the limit of high-frequency reproduction.
The diaphragms for high and ultra-high frequencies use beryllium foil as the surface material, as used in the S-955 and other models, and a honeycomb structure to achieve faithful piston vibration outside the audible bandwidth of 20 kHz and above.
To take advantage of the characteristics of the planar diaphragm and further expand the piston motion bandwidth, a nodal drive system is employed in which the voice coil is directly connected to the nodes of the lowest-order vibration mode. This eliminates low-order split vibration and expands the piston motion bandwidth by two.
In the case of a woofer, the voice coil of this node drive system is huge, 32cm square.
The network section uses choke coils with silicon steel plate cores and a new LI cord (low inductance cord) made of oxygen-free copper for internal wiring.
5. Pioneer CS-900
Three-way speaker system with 90-degree rotatable horn tweeter.
A 30cm cone woofer is mounted in the low-frequency range and a cone midrange in the midrange.
The diaphragms of these units are made of FB cones. The midrange unit also has a central dome effect for improved directivity.
The high-frequency range is equipped with a multi-cellular horn tweeter.
This speaker is rotatable by 90° to provide good directivity characteristics when the enclosure is placed either vertically or horizontally.
The network uses thick copper wire and a large ferrite core to improve transient characteristics.
Level control is positioned on the front panel, and the rear panel has not only the usual input terminals but also terminals for multiple amplifiers.
The enclosure is completely sealed and has an oil finish of natural walnut.
A Word About the CS Series
This series of CS-R300, 500 & 700 were the transition from the “traditional” CS series of Pioneer speakers to the HPM series.
Before the introduction of the CS-R series, the CS series were traditional Japanese design, with multiple drivers and beautiful wooden enclosures with lattice grilles. They also had the typical sound of this type of design.
The CS-R700 was intended to compete with the JBL L-100 and other premium bookshelf speakers of the time.
They were designed specifically for the U.S. market and consumers. The look of the speakers is completely different from other speakers that Pioneer manufactured before the CS-R units.
The CS-R700 would qualify as a “rock” speaker and is designed to emulate what was known as the “West Coast sound.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just somewhat bold!
The CS-R500 is probably a better-balanced speaker but shares a little of the sound characteristics of its “big brother.” I find the CS-R500 to be an excellent performer as well.
The CS-300 uses the same woofer and tweeter as the CS-R500, minus the midrange unit. It is a nice unit as well.
Traditionally, you usually find the R-700s with the Brown/Black Grille combination, the R-500s with the blue/black combo, and the R-300s with the orange/black combo. But in theory, each was available in all three color combos.
When my pop was an audio sales guy in the 70s, he sold Pioneer gear. He said that the R-series were very exciting and sold well.
He sold a lot of R-700s and R-500s in his store.
We owned a Pioneer SA/TX-9100 combination, but when it came to speakers, I picked JBL L-100s. But I always liked the R-700s and R-500s!
So many years later, I have obtained a pair of each series, R-700, R-500, and R-300.
I use the R-500s in my “garage” system. My R-700s are brown/black, as are my R-500s, but I have orange/black on the R-300s. I recently acquired a pair of blue grilles for my R-500s.