Bookshelf Speakers

Pioneer SP-PK52FS 5.1 Speaker System and VSX-822-K A/V Receiver


Setup and Calibration of the Pioneer SP-PK52FS 5.1 Speaker System and VSX-822-K A/V Receiver

Although Pioneer sent me the VSX-822 AVR for use with these speakers, I decided to do initial listening with my own receiver, so as to minimize the number of changes in my system and consider the speakers on their own. Initially I just quickly set up the speakers manually on my Yamaha reference receiver. I used them for regular, everyday listening (nothing critical) for about a week. During this time, I was impressed with the general sound of the Pioneer speakers, but not yet overwhelmed. That came a week or so later when I fully calibrated and demoed the system. By this time also, the speakers had some use and were thus well broken-in. After a proper calibration these speakers really came alive. But more on that later.

I found the setup of the VSX-822-K receiver to be fairly straightforward. Although I must admit I had to resort to the manual to figure out how to cancel the "demo mode" that the receiver is stuck in when you first turn it on (hint: run the MCACC calibration). Yes, the VSX-822 includes a fairly basic incarnation of Pioneer's MCACC auto-calibration software. It has only one memory setting for calibration, so it's not as easy to play with different setups of furniture and speaker locations as it would be with two or more memory settings. Also this version of MCACC only allows for one listening position. The mic wire was not quite long enough for my room. Granted, my listening position is far -- about 19 feet -- from my TV and receiver, but it would have been nice if Pioneer made the wire a bit longer. Fully taught, the mic wire barely reached my couch. Anyway, the setup was easy and quick, and for the most part, effective. The MCACC did a fine job of automatically detecting the speakers' size, position, distance, phase, and setting levels. At some price points, MCACC measures room acoustics and applies complex equalization to achieve a desired room response, be it flat, or "natural", etc. None of those options are available on this model, so if this version of MCACC is doing the same kind of work behind the scenes, you don't know it, and you aren't allowed to tweak it or choose from various room response curves. Regardless, although the tweaker in me wants more control over -- or at least knowledge of -- the room EQ, the resulting calibration was pleasing.

Both MCACC and YPAO recognized the FS52 tower speakers as "large", or full-range, speakers. That speaks well to the frequency response of the towers, and brings me to an important point about this system and how to set it up. Even though the towers have decent low-end response (much better than most speakers in this price range), and even though the auto-calibration systems (both Pioneer's and Yamaha's) identified them as "large" speakers, it's still very important to set them as "small" speakers and assign a reasonable crossover frequency (e.g. 60 to 80Hz). This way the amplifier in the subwoofer relieves the amplifiers in the main receiver from having to amplify those lower frequencies which demand so much power. This is nothing new: the concept of and reasons for the sub/satellite audio system have been around for decades. But this hobby (thankfully) continues to get an influx of new members each year, and these speakers in particular I suspect will likely be picked up by newer hi-fi enthusiasts who may be tempted to go ahead and set these speakers up as "large". I'll touch on the details more later, but my advice is to resist the temptation, set the towers as small with a crossover in the 60-80Hz range.

The rest of the setup (video & audio connections) was standard and straightforward. The VSX-822 has no component video inputs or outputs, just HDMI and analog composite video. It also has no video converter for analog video to HDMI, so if you do have any analog video sources, you'll need to run a composite video cable from the receiver to your TV (in addition to the HDMI cable for your digital sources). The VSX-822's setup menu system is pretty bare-bones

Although I suppose I'd rather have a manufacturer trim expenses by using a plain & simple graphical menu than by reducing features or performance. Speaking of performance . . .