Our Verdict 
Superb amount of features for a budget price, but performance isn’t up to scratch
For 
Excellent spread of features and connections
Extensive file compatibility
Well built and compact design
Budget price
Against 
Disorganised sound
Lacks detail, cohesion and punch
Streaming is frustrating
Reviewed on

The Pioneer X-HM72-K micro system appears quite the overachiever.

The sheer number of features it offers – from Bluetooth streaming to high-resolution support – is astounding at this price, but operational and sound quality issues beg the question has it bitten off more than it can chew?

Features

Let’s start with the positives. This Pioneer micro system has a 50W amplifier to power the pair of speakers included, but it’s the features under the hood that appeal the most.

Whether your music consists of CDs, high-res files stored on your laptop or streamed songs from your smartphone, this Pioneer will play it. It also offers extensive file support.

From bog-standard MP3s to high-resolution files of up to 24-bit/192kHz in WAV, FLAC or AIFF formats, this nifty little system can handle it all. It even plays DSD files – quite an accomplishment for such a product. 

You can also play high-res files by plugging them into the USB port on the front panel. If you’re an Apple user you can play songs stored on your smartphone or tablet through the same USB port, which also charges while playing.

Other physical connections include 3.5mm and two line level inputs, and a digital optical input.

MORE: High-res audio - everything you need to know

Streaming

Bluetooth, AirPlay and DLNA are the highlights of the Pioneer’s streaming talents, although they’re less reliable when it comes to playing music wirelessly.

During testing we experience an alarming rate of dropout with both Apple and Android devices. Bluetooth may be the most convenient streaming feature, but it’s also frustrating to use.

Connecting to the network via the system’s built-in wi-fi can also be fussy. It often takes a couple of attemps, so we opt for the more stable (and quicker) wired ethernet route. On the plus side, the vTuner Internet radio service plays songs swiftly and seamlessly.

We find the CD drive to be the simplest and most stable way of playing music. CDs also deliver a more solid, organised and detailed performance than streaming.

More after the break

Sound

The really disappointing thing is that the Pioneer X-HM72-K just doesn’t sound that good. Play Stevie Nicks and Dave Grohl’s You Can’t Fix This and while the little system can go pretty loud and is fairly well balanced tonally, it doesn’t sound particularly solid or subtly detailed.

The nuances in Nicks’ vocals – her nasal twang and the emotion breaking through as the song reaches its peak – aren’t as clearly defined as they can be.

Timing isn’t precise enough either, resulting in a sound that lacks agility and liveliness. The funky beats of Gagarin by Public Service Broadcasting sound vague and laboured when they should be fun and jaunty.

There is some good news though. This Pioneer avoids the harsh, thin presentation of many similarly priced alternatives.

Build and design

Overall, the micro system is compact and solidly built, and looks smart thanks to the main unit’s uncluttered aluminium fascia. The disc-loading tray is fairly quiet and it operates smoothly, as does the volume dial.

The main unit comes in either silver or black but, strangely, the small speakers – nicely made, but a little plain looking – are available in black only.

The main unit’s display is large and clear enough to be easily read from a distance, but one big niggle is that the CD track number is hidden away at the bottom corner, which means you can’t see clearly the track you’re skipping to.

The remote control handset makes more sense and is nice to use, with a sensible layout and responsive buttons that make it easy to hop between sources. There is a free iOS/Android control app, but we prefer the straightforwardness of the trusty remote.

Verdict

It’s one thing to offer a plethora of features at a budget price, but that generosity is lost if the system doesn’t sound entertaining.

If features rate higher than outright sonic performance, then buy the Pioneer X-HM72-K. However, in order to fully enjoy your music collection, we’d urge you to look in the direction of more capable rivals, such as the Denon D-M39DAB.

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