Pioneer Elite X-Z9 Compact Stereo System

Good Sounding System with Lots of Audio Entertainment Options

Pioneer Electronics has been a mainstay in consumer electronics since the 1970s. One of their newest upscale Pioneer Elite products is the X-Z9, a compact stereo system that combines a stereo receiver with a built-in CD/SACD player and a pair of stereo speakers. The receiver features an AM/FM tuner, is XM & Sirius Satellite Radio Ready and has a full-featured remote control. The X-Z9 is a network receiver that features Pioneer’s Home Media Gallery for enjoying entertainment sources such as Internet Radio, streaming audio from a networked PC or music stored on an MP3 player or a USB thumb drive.

X-Z9 Receiver Features

The X-Z9 is a small, shelf-sized receiver with a stylish gloss black finish. Other than the volume control and a few logos, the X-Z9 looks like a black box until the power is turned on and its animated, easy to read display is activated. Initially the display shows the Pioneer logo, then changes to reveal the selected source, volume level or day and time. The clock includes a timer that can be used to wake up to or go to sleep listening to music, a nice feature. The front panel has power on/off, a USB input, an analog audio input for a portable player and a 3.5mm headphone output jack. The built-in CD/SACD player has touch-sensitive controls on the top of the receiver. Just a light touch opens the disc drawer or operates the player’s functions.

Most of the receiver’s advanced connectivity is found on the rear panel, including an iPod multi-pin connector (iPod cable included), separate XM and Sirius Satellite Radio inputs, a LAN (Local Area Network) port for Internet Radio or connection to a networked PC, analog audio in/out jacks for a tape deck (or other analog component), and even a phono input for a turntable.

The speaker output terminals are for bare wire or speaker cables with binding post connectors. The system comes with good quality, large gauge speaker wire, instead of the skimpy ‘dental floss’ speaker wire that’s included with many systems.

Internet Radio

One of the more interesting features on the X-Z9 is Internet Radio, with literally hundreds of radio stations, podcasts and other content from almost anywhere in the world - some are major stations and others are amateur broadcasts.

I even found air traffic control communications, police communications, and other unusual content. Listening to Internet Radio is easy. Simply connect the receiver to an Internet router via the LAN connection on the rear panel, select Internet Radio from the Home Media Gallery and locate a station. The station identification scrolls across the front panel display. Pioneer’s Internet Radio partner is vTuner and a list of stations can be found on vTuner.com. Up to 30 Internet Radio stations can be stored on the receiver and recalled when desired. An on-screen display would make it easier to select stations, but the receiver’s bright display is adequate providing you’re close to the receiver.

Home Media Gallery

Playing audio files from a network requires a PC running Windows XP or Windows Vista, and since I use a Mac I was unable to test this feature. However, the Home Media Gallery supports the following audio formats (with some exceptions, depending on whether the format is compatible the server):

  • MP3
  • LPCM
  • WAV
  • WMA
  • AAC
  • FLAC

X-Z9 Speaker System

The X-Z9s bookshelf-sized speakers are a gloss black finish that nicely complements the receiver. The three-way bass-reflex speakers have a five-inch woofer and a five-inch midrange with a one-inch concentrically aligned tweeter in the center of the midrange driver.

The speakers are magnetically shielded so they can be placed adjacent to a television without concern for affecting the picture.

Listening Tests

I tested the Pioneer Elite X-Z9 with the speakers placed on speaker stands, which I would recommend instead of a bookshelf. Placing the speakers on stands without the influence of a bookshelf allows for more accurate evaluation of the speakers. The X-Z9 system has a full, rich sound quality with all types of music. Bass response is more than enough for mid-sized rooms and its midrange and high frequency performance is clean and detailed.

The AM/FM tuner also performed well and had excellent reception.

Summary

The X-Z9 is a well-matched system and its sound quality compares favorably with a component stereo system with a stereo receiver and a pair of speakers, although at $1,799 it’s more than you might have to spend to get a good system. Its well-matched receiver and speaker system takes the guesswork out of selecting a stereo receiver and matching it with the right speakers. Its sound quality is well suited for a moderately priced main system or as a bedroom, den or dorm room system, especially with its clock and timer. The Pioneer Home Media Gallery with built-in CD/SACD player and other connections offer almost endless sources of music, news, talk, sports and other audio entertainment. It has an easy to use interface and remote control that requires little time to understand and use, so you won’t have to spend hours reading the manual, maybe just a little experimentation.

Although it won’t play DVDs, it could be connected to the audio output of a television or a DVD player and used for stereo sound with much better fidelity than the small speaker(s) built into most TVs. The Pioneer Elite X-Z9 is worthy of your consideration if you’re looking for a good stereo system that’s easy to use, sounds good and offers lots of listening options.

Specifications

  • Receiver Output (continuous): 40 watts x 2, 20Hz – 20kHz, 1.0% THD
  • Receiver Dimensions (W x H x D): 15 ¼” x 3 ½” x 13 11/16”
  • Weight: 11 lbs. 1 oz.
  • Speaker System: Bass reflex, three-way bookshelf enclosure with five-inch woofer, five-inch midrange with one-inch concentric tweeter
  • Speaker Dimensions (W x H x D): 8 5/16” x 14 5/8” x 12 1/16”
  • Weight: 21 lbs. 3 oz.
  • Price: $1,799
  • www.pioneerelectronics.com