Review: Pioneer's Pricey Micro System Is Versed In Connectivity & Broad Sounds
By Tony Ibrahim | Friday | 27/01/2012
The market is flooded with iPod and iPhone connect devices that can do pretty much everything short of making you coffee. With consumers drowning in variety, the task of picking the right micro system to invest your hard earned dough in can be daunting.
Pioneer has pulled their weight by offering a series of Slim Micro Systems that intertwine a myriad of connectivity options contributing to the charm of your flat screen TV with its sublime aesthetics.
The top of the range X-SMC5-K is an iPod/iPhone Micro System geared to the playback of music stored in Apple's iTunes. Compatible AirPlay technology will stream your iTunes library to the micro system, with your music being managed by a dedicated Air Jam App. Airplay will also stream music simultaneously to multiple Micro Systems, allowing users to place a few units throughout their home which can then be managed easily from their unifying iPhone.
For a fixed connection that'll charge your device simultaneously, there's a retractable dock on board. The idea of having a dock that slides out of sight when not in use is pretty sound, but when mounting your valuable iPhone onto it, the nerves begin to creep up as you worry about damaging either the phone or the dock itself. Using your passive hand to support the base of the dock-draw eases some of these nerves.
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Non iPod users can still get their money's worth compliments of an USB port for the playback of tracks in high quality, or a featured auxiliary (3.5mm) port. If you have the right cabling, the USB port is the preferred option as it'll display the device's content as does a file manager on the system's capable display.
What really puts this system in a league of its own is its wireless connectivity. It's compatible with DLNA, Wi-Fi b/g and Bluetooth. DLNA is great for opening communication between different, albeit compatible devices, but it will require an Ethernet cable to be plugged into your router/modem-router which is not included in the box.
Bluetooth Streaming from a mobile phone is effortless, requiring your run-of-the-mill pairing to simply playback tracks from any smartphone/mp3 player that has compatible Bluetooth technology. Ideal for Android users, Bluetooth is the easiest way to manage your music playback, which will be paused when you receive an incoming call. As with all Bluetooth devices, remember to take it off the 'speaker' option once you answer the call, unless you want everyone in your house to hear.
Another adorned feature is its internet radio capability. Once it latches on to your home network, the system's natural intelligence scans for available internet radio stations, which it then organises into loads of categories, such as genre, countries, artists and more. Navigating through the vast list of internet radio stations is a bit of a chore, using sluggish navigational keys found on the remote control to browse the newly-compiled library.
The high end X-SMC5-K comes with a capable CD/DVD player, which displays movies on a TV screen thanks to a HDMI port. The DVD player is not some shoddy substitute; rather it's a fully competent addition that even benefits from Full HD up-scaling.
40 Watts worth of output speaker power turns out to be enough for movie and music playback. With the volume amped up with 80% of its maximum, you'll notice a wide range of musical layers, clearly discerning one sound from another like a multi-speaker system. But, whereas a 5.1 clearly massages individual sounds to deliver a clear playback experience, the X-SMC5-K doesn't do much in terms of sound enhancement.
If you pump the sound to 90%, the sound pouring from its speakers will seep through adjacent rooms and hallways, but high notes will begin to screech, deterring trance and electro enthusiasts. Those attuned to house music, R&B and rap will find it more capable as it is more adept to low end notes and bass. Though, don't expect it to have so much body that it begins to shake the lose fixtures in your room.
It's more like a 2.1 system that takes up little space and a single power point, but somehow manages to cram the entire spectrum of connectivity options in, discriminating as few devices as possible. When you realise this elegant micro system substitutes your basic home theatre, DVD player and iPhone charger, the value becomes much more noticeable.
Verdict: Although it would make a mediocre home theatre substitute, as a companion to the TV in your bedroom, it would rock. Perks such as Bluetooth and DVD capabilities are reserved for the high en X-SMC5, which sits at a pricey $699.
Apr/May 2011 issue
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