Pioneer EX Series Surround Speaker System Take Two
Of course, there's the little matter of the $1,500/pair stands designed for use with the S-2EX, but you don't have to buy those. They are an attractive cosmetic match for the S-2EXs, but excellent stands from other sources are available for a lot less money. But they had better be substantial, with a large top plate. (Stands can also make a sonic difference, but that's a story for another time!)
My first reaction, using the S-2EXs with the Parasound amp employed in the main review, was that the smaller Pioneer speakers were a bit too lean and hard-sounding—a difference much more audible on music than on film soundtracks. But all that changed when I substituted the new NAD Masters Series M25 amp (review pending). Suddenly the sound opened up, but wasn't lean, hard, or bright. Combined with a good subwoofer, it actually sounded more open than the S-1EX, with less of the latter's slightly excessive warmth and a bit more clarity through the mid and upper bass.
We took measurements on the S-2EX, but limited them to our usual ±15° frontal average (violet) and 30° off-axis (both the S-1EX and S-2EX use the same mid-tweeter concentric driver, so the far off-axis performance of the two speakers should differ very little). The results are shown in Fig.5. This result is every bit as smooth as that of the S-1EX. In fact, the S-2EX is actually a little flatter in the 2kHz-10kHz region, a region where the S-1EX is slightly recessed. That may be what I heard as brighter but ultimately more open sound.
Fig.5: Pioneer S-2EX, pseudo-anechoic response at 30° (red) off-axis in the horizontal plane.
I strongly recommend that anyone auditioning the S-1EXs also take a close listen to the S-2EX as main front channel speakers or speakers for two-channel stereo, if that's what you're shopping for. For home theater use, particularly if you plan on using a subwoofer, you might, with the right amplifier, actually prefer the sound of the S-2EXs to that of the S-1EXs. I did. So much so, in fact, that I regretted not being able to spend more time with them.