Pioneer S-CN301-LR review

Polished, insightful performers committed to revealing your music Tested at £200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Polished, insightful performers committed to revealing your music


  • +

    Impressively detailed

  • +

    Clean, refined sound

  • +

    Fast, responsive dynamics

  • +

    Clear vocals


  • -

    Slightly disjointed bass

  • -

    A little picky with placement

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

We’ve been smitten with Pioneer’s range of home cinema amps and budget Blu-ray players recently, yet it’s been a while since a pair of its speakers have passed through our test-room doors.

So a warm welcome is given to its latest standmounts – the S-CN301-LRs. That might be a mouthful to pronounce, but remove the speakers from the box and they create a favourable first impression.


Pioneer S-CN301-LR

Pioneer S-CN301-LR

A polished-veneer finish makes them not only one of the smartest speakers at the price but one of the best built too.

Around a third smaller than most rivals, they can happily take pride of place on any bookshelf – good news for someone who’s lacking room space or doesn’t have the budget for stands.

Needless to say, though, quality stands such as the Soundstyle Z2 would unquestionably deliver a more solid performance than any shelf.

We give them a home on some Atacama Nexus 6 stands (£70) and, a couple of minutes into our first track – Alfie Boe singing Bring Him Home – it is obvious that good things can come from small packages.

We’re met with clear, clean-cut vocals and an open, room-filling soundstage.


Pioneer S-CN301-LR

Pioneer S-CN301-LR

Coupling terrific detail with nimble dynamics, the Pioneers dance around Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker: Waltz of the Flowers and keep neatly on their toes up and down the frequency range.

There’s a meticulous sense of each instrument’s purpose as it flows fluidly in and out of Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132:1 Assai Sostenuto – Allegro. We’d go so far as to say that, at this price, they’re the most revealing speakers we’ve heard.

What’s more, it’s a clean, measured and refined presentation that makes longer listens welcome.

They do feel a bit lightweight far from a wall, however. We found that forsaking a more expansive soundstage by moving them close to a rear wall is justified by a more assertive bass presence.

But even then, bass notes lack some depth and seem a touch divorced from the solid relationship between the midrange and treble.

This is a more noticeable hindrance to upbeat, bass-driven music where rhythm is key.

Put them head-to-head with their direct rivals, the Dali Zensor 1s (also £200) and that lack of drive makes Wyclef Jean’s Perfect Gentleman feel oddly tame – we much prefer being rapt by the Dali’s giddiness as a result of a finer balance between refinement and excitement.


The S-CN301-LRs may not induce as much head-bopping as we’d like, but their distinguished, spick-and-span sound, insightful capability, and way with words will work wonders for anyone with a music collection that isn’t very bass-driven.

And with a nicely finished neat design, they’ll surely be as appealing to the eyes as they are to the ears.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test