Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pinnacle BD 500: REDUX

Pinnacle BD 500: REDUX
It has been almost exactly a year since I posted my first review and comparisons of the Pinnacle BD 500's. At that time I liked them well enough, but found them to be missing something when compared to the Definitive Technology SM 350 (which I still think is a great and exciting to listen to speaker). In the last year I've learned a lot and gotten better at measuring and listening. So one year later why not revisit and see if I still feel the same.
I have been a big fan of Pinnacle and currently run the larger BD 2500 towers, BD 750 bookshelf and BD 700 center speakers in my home theater. (Someday I'll get a review of at least the BD 750 bookshelf speakers.) With the incoming Dolby Atmos standard I wanted to prepare to use it by getting a few pairs of matching of Pinnacle BD 500 bookshelfs to use as ceiling mounted speakers. The BD 500's share only the tweeter with its larger sibling bookshelf speakers (BD 750/650), but I was hoping for some relative similarly in sound.
I bought this pair second hand, and I believe them to be an earlier revision to the series II that I bought on Woot previously. While the cones of the mid ranges look the same, they mount differently, the baskets are different, and magnets appear to be also. I don't have the tools to test TS parameters to verify any further. Tweeters are lacking what looked like a heat sink on the back of the magnet that my original one had, and the crossovers are also different. To that end, without getting another pair and with nearly a year between this and my last experience with them; this isn't a perfect revisiting of that previous review.

The Pinnacle BD 500 remains a good looking little black speaker. If you are in to the high gloss look, these easily match and beat the Definitive Technology SM 350 and TEAC LS-H265. The finish is thicker than just paint, having seen one the finish crack after a pair of BD 500 OW's fell from their mount, the finish itself is probably 2mm thick. It's very nice.



Here is the cross over

Here is what Sound and Vision got when they reviewed a Pinnacle BD based 5.1 system. The BD 500 is the red trace.

As you can it's got some nice waves to it. How close did I get to replicating that? Pretty close.
Below are the close mic measurements. 

Something different and bad seems to be going on with this crossover design choices. Pinnacle lists the X-Over point at 5 kHz. From the measurements it looks like the midrange is crossed over at 5khz, but the tweeter is crossed over at 2 khz. As seen in the 1m measurements. I think that this overlap maybe responsible for the excessive null between 2khz and 5khz
Below are the @1m measurements. Both individual driver and full speaker.

Below is a comparison with the Pioneer BS22 @1m

I used the Pioneer as my main comparison speaker. They are common, and pretty good for the money. Thought a bit warm and can be muddy. The Pioneers are clearly the superior speaker here. The grills remain a killer, but we are acceptably flat from 400 hz on.
Listening impressions
While nothing is particularly harsh sounding, something always seems missing when listening to music on the Pinnacle BD 500's. Voices are very forward.
This isn't meant to be a direct comparison between the Pinnacles and another pair of speakers, but I used the much loved Pioneer BS22's for any AB testing. The Pioneers are not perfect, but they are a great budget choice for many and very easily found online and in retail stores.
The Heavy - Short Change Hero
For anyone who has played Boarderlands 2 you already know this song. A slow, melodic song, thick with guitars and bass. When the song breaks from it's slow, The Good The Bad and The Ugly esq into at the 1:24 mark, all the impact that should be associated with it is lost. Kelvin Swaby has a wonderfully unique voice, and while for the most part it seems to be reproduced well enough, at times it's the lower regions have been sucked out and are missing.
Petey Pablo - Part 2
I've always like this song, and I've used it in the past because of Petey's deep gravelly voice has been easy to get wrong in other speakers (JBL Loft 30). When nothing else is going on the Pinnacles seem to do that well enough during the intro. Once the main part of the song starts it is a whole other story.  Again, it is still Petey, but now he is well behind some really loud high hat ticks, and a xylophone or something. The level of treble become very over baring quickly here. I can imagine this being problematic to any 2000's rap track.
 Justin Timberlake - Suit & Tie
The oddball song of the group. At first I wasn't sure I hadn't switched back to the Pinnacles. Everything sounded ok at first. There was reasonable and clean bass. But even though Justin Timberlake's singing voice is a bit higher than many, soon you could pick up where it's fullness was lacking and even the first time I could pick up on anything being truly harsh sounding. When Jay-Z has his verse, it is noticeably thin doesn't carry the weight that it should. But even on the Pinnacles, the sound was still enjoyable and in some ways better than the performance of the Pioneer BS22's, which much cleaner, less muddy bass, though not as deep.
 Billy Idol - Rebel Yell
If you don't love this song then you're no one I want to know. A classic rock song, that should be on everyone quintessential 80's play list. I don’t think there is a lot going on in the upper registers here. So the increased tweeter output wasn't much of a factor here. But there is a distinct lack of fullness in the Billy Idol's voice, a little like it's coming out of a tin can. The eclectic guitars are also underwhelming.
Five Finger Death Punch - House of the Rising Sun
Up to this point, in every song I listened to you can at least hear the instruments. Maybe they were too bright, or too mellow, but at least they were there somewhere. In House of the Rising Sun, they are just straight up missing. One of the guitars (the deeper, probably drop D tuned one) is just gone. Not represented at all. Strange to hear such a major difference to the whole song, more than just what's emphasized and what's not.
I could continue with a list of a dozen more tracks, but the overall results are similar across the gamut.

 TL;DR
I wanted to really like the Pinnacle BD 500's. They were one of the first non big box store speakers I tested and at that time and thought they compared pretty well. I do run a 5.2 Home Theater consisting of the all big brother speakers in the Black Diamond line and have been very happy. They are a HT speaker though, and aren't board flat, but have a pretty gentle upward trend that makes them exciting but not offensive.  
But I would avoid the BD 500's, I have learned a good bit since I last reviewed these speakers and can no longer have them on a list to recommend to people. Much better speakers are more easily accessible and can be had for less.