On the whole this is a system that you can get completely lost in, thanks to its innate warmth and sophistication, and we really can’t find anything to fault from a performance perspective – everything just clicks, and the interplay between the tonally-matched speakers is mesmerising. If pushed, we’d concede that it doesn’t quite attack film soundtracks with the same ruthlessness as the THX-certified Teufel System 9, but it doesn’t stop the Pioneer’s performance being anything less than sublime.
But some of the credit should go to the VSX-LX51 receiver driving it, which provides the ideal raw materials the S-81s need to deliver this knock-out performance and as a result proves itself to be a worthy partner.
The S-81’s music performance is just as assured as its film handling and demonstrates many of the same qualities – a smoothness of tone, a fast, rhythmic delivery and plenty of detail. The fronts’ wide frequency range enables it to convey punchy kick drums and delicate hi-hats in one fell swoop without batting an eyelid, and they sound astonishingly bassy even with the sub switched off.
The S-81 is a magnificent speaker system that continues Pioneer’s rich vein of form after the VSX-LX51, BDP-51FD and BDP-LX71. The sound on offer is sensational with films and music, plus they’re beautifully constructed and mightily attractive (even if the sub doesn’t really match). Pioneer, keep up the good work.
Score in detail