By Patrick Avenell

In keeping with its greater push into retail chains and the reduction of its presence in the specialist channel, Pioneer has launched an entry level home theatre speaker system, including a bookshelf, floor-standing and centre channel speakers and a subwoofer.

Called the FS51 (RRP $1,299), Pioneer insists that this system is a considerable step up from typical entry level home theatre systems. Pioneer’s chief speaker engineer Andrew Jones, who has apparently created $100,000 professional speakers, designed this system, with the engineer charged with including as much as possible in a home theatre at that price point.

Jones was called on to create this new home theatre when Pioneer in the USA asked him to create a system that was as impressive in both audio quality and appearance, yet fiscally efficient enough to slap a US$1,000 price tag on it for sale at BestBuy. Jones was successful in his quest.

Features include radio-frequency bonded, curved cabinets for both aesthetics and improved sound, flush-mounted grills for each driver and metal speaker grills as opposed to cloth.

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Although the launch of an entry level home theatre system is not revolutionary in itself, set against the backdrop of the unique, at times bizarre, Pioneer audio press conference in the Blue Mountains, this release was imbued with significance.

Although Pioneer planned on introducing media to the new products, the press conference became almost entirely focused on Pioneer’s distribution strategy, with the audio specialist looking to expand its Apple and mass chain presence in 2011, with the offset of this being a reduction of the specialist channel.

This discussion inevitably led to an exegesis of the how similar this movement was to what happened in flat panel TVs 10 years ago. Rather than keep flat panels at the high end with high price points and high margin, the general retail market and then the mass market became flooded, with average sales prices collapsing. Even new panel technology has not been immune, with LED LCD TVs suffering a 56 per cent drop in ASPs.

Pioneer knows this suffering well, with the supplier withdrawing from the plasma category despite having one of the best-reviewed products on the market. To combat history repeating, Pioneer is heavily focused on new products, with around 10 per cent of Pioneer 2011 sales to be generated from new releases (with RRPs presumably holding up) from Pioneer’s four key categories: audio, in-car, pro-DJ and partnerships (such as Pure and Simplism).

This new FS51 home theatre is one such product, hence the significance of this release.