Review Price £299.99
Pioneer XW-SMA4 - Performance continued
In a bass obsessed world we can understand this and it will suit the open expanse of retail stores (if any are left) and those with a penchant for R&B, hip-hop and dance tracks in particular. That said while thick bass and midrange provides an initially positive impression we did find, as with the SMA3, that over time it can deaden the listening experience as the detail and nuances of a track are lost. It means tracks start sounding alike (even when they shouldn't) and much like putting tomato sauce on everything you eat this improves some things, but kills the variety and flavour of others.
Interestingly while we had issues with the relative lack of volume in the SMA3 these are still true of the SMA4 as well. Yes the enlarged driver array does make it noticeably louder and bring a party atmosphere to a decent sized room, but other high end docks like the aforementioned Zeppelin and i-deck 200 along with the 80W Arcam rCube, 100W Soundfreaq Soundstack and 200W Audyssey South of Market are still able to drown it out with relative ease.
Pioneer XW-SMA4 - Value
Which brings us back to the opening paragraph: the SMA4 carries the same £299 retail price as the SMA3 yet provides greater audio prowess (note: we can find the latter more heavily discounted online). Of course the caveat is you lose portability, both in terms of weight and the inclusion of an internal battery, but if you intend to keep your speaker fairly static the SMA4 offers far better value for money. It also has to be said Pioneer still leads the way in wireless connectivity options making it a true do-all output for your devices.
Against this is the fact the SMA4's static nature means it is judged more harshly on its audio performance. Yes the £500 Zeppelin Air is significantly more expensive but then its reputation has long demanded a premium and in any case for £350, £280, £200 and £150 respectively the Arcam rCube, Audyssey South of Market, Soundfreaq Soundstack and (particularly) the Monitor Audio i-deck 200 are more impressive.
That said not one of these docks can match the SMA4's genuinely groundbreaking array of wireless connectivity. As such if convenience is uppermost in your mind both it and the SMA3 are worthy purchases.
Pioneer XW-SMA4 - Verdict
In giving its SMA3 and SMA4 speakers matching looks, functionality and price tags Pioneer is curiously competing with itself. That said the smaller, battery packing SMA3 and more static, more powerful SMA4 do have strong differentiators. In isolation this makes Pioneer's range intriguing, but while the SMA3 was found lacking in audio quality this still haunts the bigger SMA4. Consequently the range's AirPlay, WiFi Direct, HTC Connect and DLNA connectivity is once more the key differentiator and amongst households of mixed brands we think the SMA4 could still find a happy home.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality