It seems everyone has had a stab at a soundbar. Now Pioneer has joined the scrum with its three-strong range making an entrance.
Better late than never. The Pioneer SBX-N700 is the flagship model, sitting above the SBX-N300 (£170) and SBX-N500 (£250).
And Pioneer has been very brave with this one, going all-out with features.
You can play music from your smartphone via Bluetooth or wi-fi direct, or send the phone's screen display to your telly thanks to the N700's Micracast compatibility.
YouTube videos on a phone can be sent to your big screen, and DLNA functionality means files on your home network can be accessed too.
There are two digital optical audio connections, plus a 3.5mm minijack input and USB connection for music playback, but no HDMI input. There is the solitary HDMI output for connecting to your TV.
USB and 3.5mm inputs are front facing, while the optical input, HDMI ARC output and LAN socket can be found at the rear.
Three equalizer settings (Gaming, Movie and Music), a ‘Surround’ sound mode, and a LipSync function to marry sound with picture, all offer a degree of personalisation.
A ‘Night’ setting compresses dynamics to prevent sudden shifts in volume from disturbing the neighbours and Auto Level Control evens out volume across source inputs.
But be aware: settings can be changed only by using the on-screen menus via the TV input; spontaneous flicking between sound modes during DVD playback, for example, is a no-go.
So how does this Pioneer soundbar fare? Pretty well, actually.
We spin Spiderman on Blu-ray and there’s sharpness to windows shattering and zap to Spidey’s web shooter. Voices are, in most cases, prominent, and ample detail is on hand.
Pioneer has worked hard to integrate the SBX-N700 soundbar to the wireless subwoofer and it’s paid off. Bass is delivered with power and tonally it's in keeping with the bar’s higher frequencies.
But buildings crashing to the ground feel more like soft, booming rumbles than well-defined thuds.
There’s limited scale to the soundfield as the Green Goblin glides towards you and vocals are prone to being slightly drowned out by background sound in busier scenes.
More after the break
Which brings us on to looks. The black-coated plastic bar of the SBX-N700 looks sleek and feels sturdy. Its 90cm width stretches across the front of a 50in Sony TV nicely.
It intrudes on the bottom of our screen slightly – that’s without the two optional 2cm feet attached – so it doesn’t exactly sink into the shadows of the TV stand.
But neither is it distracting, and there is a wall-mounting kit provided, too. Volume, input, sound modes and set-up menus can be controlled by a neat remote.
Otherwise, you can download the free Android and iOS-compatible Pioneer Control App and connect it to your wireless network to get remote control.
The soundbar market is a mixed bag of good, bad and downright ugly. But the Pioneer SBX-N700 is one of the better choices.
It’s not quite the dream start for Pioneer’s soundbars. But, if you’ve got £350 to spend, this is worth considering putting in front of your television.