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Musician’s Corner: Hands-On Review Of Pioneer's A3 XW-SMA3-K Wireless Speaker

Musician’s Corner: Hands-On Review Of Pioneer's A3 XW-SMA3-K Wireless Speaker

October 22, 2012
Welcome back to the Musician’s Corner, where we discuss music and music-related apps and accessories. Last week, we compared some fantastic headphones to really get the best quality sound from your iOS device. Today, we are going hands-on with Pioneer’s A3 XW-SMA3 wireless speaker system. Stay tuned next week for some more musician-specific apps and accessories. We’ve had fun with these headphones and speakers, but it is time to get back to the basics. Pioneer recently launched a line of wireless speakers for mobile music devices that lets you have high-quality stereo sound without the price or the space consumption. What makes these speakers stand out above others is the Pioneer Wireless Direct connectivity. Instead of using Bluetooth technology, users connect to the speaker through a localized wireless connection. That means, even if you are away from you house, you can still connect your device through Wi-Fi instead of having to eat up data on your cellular network.

To explain more, Pioneer offers the following information: "Pioneer's Wireless Direct technology allows the speaker to as as its own Wi-Fi wireless access point. Through Wireless Direct, no home network is required, giving users the freedom to use the speakers in rooms where a Wi-Fi network might not be available or outside where they can't connect to their home's Wi-Fi network. However, if the user can connect to their Wi-Fi network at home, they can use that Wi-Fi instead and not have to use the Wireless Direct feature. The XW-SMA3-K supports both Wireless Direct and Wi-Fi." The A3 also features AirPlay Wireless streaming so you can access your computer’s music library as well as your mobile device. The sleek, black box is approximately 13 x 7 x 5 and weighs a scant 7 pounds. It has a small antenna on the back that presumably makes connecting the Wi-Fi signal to your device work better. The body is made from a sturdy matte finished plastic and it features a metal grate to protect the speakers. The control panel in front is made from high-gloss black plastic to give the whole package a classy look. The A3 connects to your device through Wireless Direct, however you can also connect your iPhone directly by connecting it to the USB port on the back. The USB connector also charges your device while you are playing music. It comes with a AC power adapter that  charges the speaker’s internal battery.

The included remote control lets you turn on the speaker, skip songs, increase or decrease the volume and pause or play your device’s music from anywhere in the room. The setup of this system was terribly complicated for being a single unit speaker. You should see the setup guide. It was double-sided poster size. In reality, there are only a couple of steps, but if you’ve never used Direct Wireless before, the whole thing can be very intimidating. My suggestion: read the title of each section of instructions and only use the information related to the way you plan on setting up your device. There are instructions for how to set up the speaker in many different ways.

Once connected, you will be able to play music from your device the same way you would with a Bluetooth connected speaker. The A3 does not connect to your device for conference calls or FaceTime, however.

The control panel on the front of the speaker uses something called Capacitive Touch Control, which is both awesome and irritating at the same time. You barely have to brush your finger over one of the buttons and they will respond accordingly. This makes controlling the volume very easy. Unfortunately, the highly responsive nature of the control panel makes it so that you may accidentally turn the speaker off if you just dust the front of it lightly with your fingertips. The volume of this mobile speaker is pretty powerful. If I were to guess the decibels, I’d say it gets about half as loud as my full home stereo system. At full volume, the speakers distort just a bit. But, it is hard to tell if there is any distortion since the speaker is so loud that you have to plug your ears when you are in the same room. The remote control works from at least 20 feet away, but must have a direct line of sight with the speaker. You can’t bounce the remote’s ray off a wall or other objects.

There is a significant lag between what you do with the controls on your device and when it takes place on the speakers. For example, if you increase the volume on your iPhone, the speaker will take about a half of a second to respond. When playing a game on my iPhone, I noticed that the audio never matched the game. The speakers played the sound about a half of a second late. It is not unusual for AirPlay to lag like this. The price of the A3 is reasonable when you take into consideration that it is a portable speaker, charging station for any USB connected device and an at-home comparable speaker. The multiple ways in which you can connect your device, added to the fact that the remote control lets you access your music from more than 20 feet away, makes it priced at about what you’d expect for something this nice. The quality of sound definitely represents the price point well. You can buy the Pioneer A3 XW-SMA3-K for $399 from the company’s website, or pick it up from an authorized dealer like Best Buy. Thanks for reading Musician’s corner this week. Pioneer’s A3 speakers are a nice addition to any music lover’s home. It is worth the money and you won’t be disappointed if you invest in it. I’m looking for ideas for apps to review next week. If you are a musician and have a favorite app, send me an email at [email protected] I’m thinking about covering sheet music apps. Which ones are your favorites?

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