Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Speakers - Pioneer CS99A





As long as I'm ranting about stuffing loudspeaker cabinets with multiple drivers and complicated crossovers, I thought I'd include one of the most collectible, yet mediocre-sounding speakers I've come across - the 3-way, 6-driver Pioneer CS99A. These are magnificent-looking speakers with emerald cloth folded beneath intricate lattice grills, laminated walnut cabinets, and the drivers - paper and wool fiber - inviting, warm, cozy. I've read that these have a 5-way crossover and I've also read that they have a 3-way crossover - any info to clear this up would be helpful. - Update - Anonymous commented and confirmed a 5-way crossover. Thanks!

How did they sound? Not so great. They were fine, and perhaps I could have given them a more objective review had I not been lured in by their looks and the sheer number and size of the drivers. I had a similar experience talking to a girl at a bar many years ago, but that's another story for another day. Maybe it's just me, but I can't seem to get a satisfying amount of bass from Pioneer speakers. Prove me wrong - please - send me in your picks for Pioneer speakers that provided the same THUMP as JBL. I'd like to be proven wrong on this one.

If you have any photos or stories about your Pioneer CS99A speakers, please leave a comment or email me.

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20 comments:

  1. These Pioneer CS99A's are 5-way speakers not 3-way speakers. They are laminated WALNUT not REAL OAK. And they have dual 3-way crossovers. They sound great unless you listen to RAP or HIPHOP which isn't really Music. I bought four of these CS99A's in 1974 and still listen to them every day. They sound as crisp & clear & full of solid bass as they did when they were new.

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  2. There is plenty to criticize the lattice Pioneer line for, especially those below the 63DX and 99A, (which is where I draw the line), but once I read "THUMP" and JBL, your credibility for critiquing vintage speakers sort of went out the window with me. Personally, I've never owned a pair of 99A's, but I am very familiar with them and I do own their big brother equivalent, a pair of CS63DX's, which are also a 5-way speaker produced in the same series as the 99A, except the DX's have larger enclosures and the best bass response of all the lattice speakers as a result. However I wouldn't use the word THUMP, as that is a word I personally indicative of extremely accentuated bass, the kind that makes cars rattle like the trunk lid is going to fall off, that seems only to serve the purpose of boosting one's ego, and it's the kind of bass that thank God you'll never get from a vintage Pioneer speaker.

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  3. Well I have to agree with the original poster. I purchased a new pair of the CS 99A speakers in the early 70's. Teamed them up with a Crown amp & preamp and a Thorens turntable. I was expecting great things...never happened. The bass was flabby, the mids recessed and the highs were not very detailed. It was very difficult to be able to pick out the various instruments. Everything just became "smooshed" together. The delicacy of the triangle never made its way out of the speakers. There was also a certain background noise that introduced itself during quiet passages. I already had JBL L100's and was expecting the 5-way Pioneers to blow away the 3-way JBL's. Not so, the L100's were everything that the Pioneer's weren't. Well, tried to work with the CS 99A's for about a year, even switched to Mac gear because I thought the Crown gear was possibly too bright for the speakers, nothing changed. I finally sold the Pioneers and purchased another set of L100's. Now that was a nice combo, 4 L100's being driven with a MC2105 amp and a Mac preamp.

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    1. You do realize, of course, that speakers cannot, by themselves, introduce background noise...right?

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  4. How much would one of these sell for in almost perfect condition today?

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  5. A conservative estimate, in today's market for a pair of CS99As in mint condition is $300. May go for as high as $400 to a collector.

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  6. check ebay, there's a pair that went for 818.00 just recently.

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  7. Wow, I just picked up a very, very good looking pair of the CS-99a's on Craigslist for $150.00. I'm going to keep an eye out for more of these. I had no idea that they had this kind of value. :>)

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  8. keep checking ebay you pioneer nay-sayers, another pair of cs-99a's went for $700.00 just today and if you pay close attention to ebay vintage pioneer speakers are outselling all other vintage brands day in and day out. Pioneer was the #1 brand people wanted then and now.

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  9. Just because something fetches big money, doesn't mean it sounds good. The Marantz 7C preamp comes to mind. That preamp sounds like a preamp from the 60's. Lots of hiss, flat, lifeless, with limited bass. And yet, it sells for 15 to 20 times its original price. I think it has to do with someone being at a perticular place when these components were new, and that perticular item brings back memories. A lot of the stuff from the 70's goes for a lot more than they should on ebay because owning those pieces brings us back to when audio equipment was made with care by manufacturers that cared for people that cared about quality. There was pride of ownership. Consumer electronics today is all throw-away-black-plastic junk. And the high-end is too over priced for most people. You got a lot more for your money in the 70's than you do today. Of course, technology being what it is, sounds better today than it did back then.

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  10. As far as this line of Pioneer speakers,none of them was that great. Bass,mids and highs,not real good. As far as the bass that they do have its,muddy and dull,flat sounding. I had a pair of R-700's that was a lot better sounding,but still a Pioneer. As far as these fetching big dollars on ebay,thats understandable,most things taged vintage,goes for way to much on ebay. $100.00 would be more then fair for a mint pair.

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  11. Agree with prior post. I've a pair of 99A's (~$500 in 1974); not perfect but better than much of the 'plastic junk' of today. I've also a Pioneer SX-1010 receiver from the same era-again $400 in 1974 money and still much better than some of the integrated circuit junk boxes of today. I'm sure there's some lurkers with '50's tube equipment that might consider all this junk. The opinion battle continues!

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  12. If you get the speakers off the ground (elephant stands) you will amazed at the differance, they will come alive with a brillance and crispness that is seldom found. Matched with a computer controlled amp of at least 100 watts per channel and you will know stairway to Heaven

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  13. I have owned my CS 99A speakers since 1976. My covering cloth is brown. These speakers are wonderful. I love the sound that comes out of them. I listen to everything from classic rock to classical. The bass is very good. I would not ruin them with rap or hip-hop. If your ear drums are not blown out they sound very good. I would almost compare them to voice of the theater speakers (which a friend has).

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  14. I have a set of 99A's I bought at Anderson AFB Guam in 1972. Sounds as good today as they did when I got them. Paid $99.00

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  15. I cannot believe you guys. I know everyone has their own likes, but compared to something like a modern Polk Tsi, these things sound amazing. I have a pair of them and they are great with any kind of music, including electronic, though I don't listen to rap (which as was stated, no music.)

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  16. They have elaborate crossovers. If not in fine shape, sound will suffer. Why would anyone expect all of the same 40 year old speakers made for 8 years to sound the same? I have a beautiful pair I restored, (and have worked on 3 other pairs)and guess what? Not only were some electrolytic caps needed to be replaced, but the voice coil wires in both horns (both sides) had corroded through where the cardboard/glue seal they went through was. Virtually on every one of these this will happen to, it's that common. The fix is easy, and found online. to check, just disconnect the pair of tweeters(one wire pulled off one kills both) and listen to the horn alone. Nothing, if you've not repaired them. I agree, however, that even up to snuff, you do not get the really low deep bass you would expect from a 15" woofer. Vocals, thoigh are as good as any top speaker.

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  17. Talking about how something sounds is what review articles and 'experts' rave about. The only ones that do not have an agenda are the ones buying the speakers. Branding, look, recommendations, approval, peer pressure have nothing to do with how it sounds to you. You may not know the difference so why spend the money? Those that claim to know the difference usually have way too much money invested to admit sub-par performance. There are only two purposes for audio systems, re-production and re-enforcement. We are talking about re-production and who can possibly tell you how it is supposed to sound? Sound is completely objective and always depends on at least two variables (I did say at least...). Talking politics would be a walk in the park compared to convincing people about the merit of a speaker that cannot be heard.

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  18. CS-99a's are amazing speakers. And I can appreciate some good "thump" every now and then. :) You have to consider what music was popular when these speakers were designed however. They really shine with classical (especially stringed instruments) and vocals. The mid-bass is actually quite impressive but they do drop off around 60-80hz. Pair them with a good sub and you'll be blown away even with modern music (rap, metal, electronica, etc.). 15" drivers weren't always intended just for ultra lows.

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  19. I have two CS 63DX for the bottoms and two CS 99a on top with a Pioneer SX1250 to drive them from jazz,blues,rock and rap. They sound amazing and I compare them to any speaker in the same price range. The CS 63DXx are the sleepers with a bass that kicks some ass like my Pioneer TT PL707 with a Shure V15 type lll with original stylus. For the money I love them. My all Pioneer gear is a real real nice system without breaking the bank. ROCK & ROLL RULES!!!

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