• Pioneer SBX-300
Our Verdict 
It’s testament to the quality of its rivals that the Pioneer struggles to get our thumbs-up – even at this price
For 
Thoughtful and neat design
Four inputs plus Bluetooth should be enough
Definite improvement on your TV sound
Against 
The sound lacks weight and depth
Harsh, sibilant treble
No HDMI
Reviewed on

We’ve been saying it for years – flatscreens don’t sound that good; hence the recent influx of soundbars (and now their sister devices, soundbases). 

And now manufacturers are beginning to produce better-performing, fuller-featured and nicer-sounding devices. But that’s not the case with the Pioneer SBX-300, which isn’t a patch on its rivals – even at the wallet-friendly price of £150.

Design

Pioneer SBX-300

This is a shame, because the SBX-300 is a well-designed soundbar.

There are feet at either end of the base that raises the body so it can neatly straddle your TV’s pedestal stand – and if they don’t offer enough clearance, there are simple, easily-attached extensions included in the box.

There’s also a bundled IR repeater to relay your TV remote’s commands if its sensor is blocked and you will find two slots in the back too, so that wall mounting is simple: stick two screws in your wall and hook the soundbar on.

The SBX-300 doesn’t have any HDMI connections, but most buyers will be perfectly happy with the two optical, one coaxial and single 3.5mm analogue inputs that are neatly tucked into a recess on the back.

Performance

Pioneer SBX-300

When we turned the SBX-300 on, it’s louder, fuller-bodied, more spacious and clearer – so what’s not to like?

You’ll soon discover its lack of weight and a zingy treble; the latter is a slightly annoying effect.

Even with the Subwoofer at the maximum, there’s a distinct lack of weight and depth to sound.

Next to rivals such as the (admittedly more expensive) Philips HTL5120 or even the KitSound Ovation, the Pioneer sounds lightweight and weedy.

More after the break

Pioneer SBX-300

Then there’s the sibilant treble, which has an annoying hardness.

You won’t notice this so much with movies, but get the right  – or perhaps more aptly “wrong” – track and you will hear the cymbals stick out to completely ruin the overall delivery.

Movies and TV are the primary purpose of a device such as the Pioneer, but Bluetooth onboard means that music should be part of its scope too – but it simply doesn’t sound good enough.

Pioneer SBX-300

The lack of weight from the SBX-300 remains an issue when testing movies, although the spaciousness it delivers makes for a pleasingly immersive experience.

Dialogue is projected clearly, and there is enough punch and dynamics meaning your films are always easy to follow and engaging.

Avoid the Surround mode, however – it adds poor, audible processing that fails to make the soundstage any more expansive.

Verdict

Are we being hard on the Pioneer? Sure we are – here’s a device that offers to improve your TV’s sound for just £150 and it does just that, but the quality of the competition means it isn’t enough.

MORE: Best soundbars to buy in 2014

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