AV Systems Guide
Performance - II
It would be a shame to let the Pioneer’s Blu-ray player idle away so we brought out two of our standard Blu-ray test discs for this class of products, Michael Jackson’s This Is It and Superman Returns. After a decent showing with our MP3 tracks, can the sound bar make a stronger, better impression with the higher quality of audio?
This Is It – Michael Jackson
Who doesn’t like the King of Pop? Wanting to change things up we included some of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits as part of our testing tracks so that the eclectic mix of vocals, keyboards and guitars can really give the Pioneer HTZ-HW919BD a chance to show its worth.
We started off with Beat It, which is a well-loved classic in some part due to Eddie Van Halen’s excellent guitar work. Unfortunately, the Pioneer sound bar made a slight hash of reproducing certain sections. The guitar distortion was inaccurate and lacked bite, much like we experienced with Sail On Soothsayer from our MP3 testing. However, the device did score points for paying attention to detail. The slight sound of fingers plucking guitar strings was audible on the track and the general flow of the song was also rendered well.
One of the commendable features of the Pioneer HTZ-HW919BD was its attempt at providing a neutral tone. Unlike some of the previous sound bars we have encountered, the Pioneer attempted to maintain balance between trebles, mids and highs. This was shown off when we played Wannabe Startin’ Something where the sound balance was almost close to perfect. Highs were still slightly muffled in our opinion, but overall the song sounded funky enough to be considered enjoyable.
On Jam, the Pioneer sound bar displayed decent transient response. Both the cymbals and drums sounded crisp. Natural and expansive organ reverb was also one of the noticeable high points of our play through. However, low frequency performance left a lot to be desired once more. When we tested the HTZ-HW919BD with They Don’t Care About Us, the sound bar was unable to do justice to the track. Previously in our experiences with sound bars, the Philips HTS7140 sound bar had bass that overpowered the rest of the music, the Pioneer sound bar errs on the other extreme. Better performance and more power from the subwoofer was required but not delivered, making the song seemed like it lacked “oomph”.
This unit’s strength and prowess definitely lies with the handling of mid-tones. It tries to remain as neutral as possible. As is obvious from our testing though, when tasked with tracks that test the extremes of the audio spectrum, the Pioneer HTZ-HW919BD struggles.
Moving on to movies, we tested the Pioneer HTZ-HW919BD sound bar with our Blu-ray copy of Superman Returns. While movies also have soundtracks and musical elements, they also pose other demands of speakers in the shape of sound effects and dialogue. A good sound bar should help convey audio that enhances the emotion and feel of the scene without overshadowing the visual elements.
Superman Return’s opening sequence has all the elements mentioned above. The Pioneer’s soundstage, in particular its good directionality, made the audio sound impressive. From the looks of it, the HVT technology seemed to be doing its job. The opening theme and melody flowed well drawing the listener in. However, the lack of impact which had persisted throughout our testing reared its ugly head once more. We would actually suggest you turn the woofer all the way up to its maximum setting of +6 just to get this sound bar to make the grade.
Even after tweaking the equalizer settings, the Pioneer HTZ-HW919BD sounded like it was ill prepared for the airplane scene at the 33-minute mark. While the dialogue and background music used to heighten the moment were handled well, the actual sound effects were disappointing. In short, the Pioneer gets all the frills right but is unable to deliver on the important parts. It is almost like ordering steak only to find out that the mashed potatoes are perfect while the meat itself is subpar.
|This Is It - Michael Jackson||Score|
|Wannabe Startin' Something||8.0|
|They Don't Care About Us||7.5|
|Airplane Scene [33:00 mins]||7.5|