Pioneer Z-Series Review: What can a S$4k car sound system really do?

William’s Take:
The Pioneer DMH-ZF9350BT head unit keeps all bases covered with plenty of wireless capabilities, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto are fast becoming standard equipment on most new cars sold these days, the latter two are a great addition and what I would say are almost required features on a head unit now. Also on a practical note, installation flexibility is good with the ability to fit a 9.0-inch 2-DIN display into a standard 1-DIN slot.

The DMH-ZF9350BT has a very clean and intuitive user interface. Most functions are within a few taps if not less via the highly responsive oleophobic (i.e. ‘anti-fingerprint’) 9.0-inch touch screen. In this review we run the Pioneer system with various file formats from 16-bit/44.1kHz redbook CD ripped files to 24-bit/192kHz Hi-res downloaded music files. We even threw in a couple of DSD files for good fun. This slick- looking head unit took all those files and rendered blissful music out of them.  

With more than 80 years of audio equipment manufacturing experience behind them, Pioneer has put all of its know-how into the TS-Z65CH 16.5 cm component speakers.

They are intended for people who desire high resolution, timbral accuracy, great tonal balance, and clarity at any volume. The Z series speakers were designed in Pioneer’s Tohoku facility in Tendo, Japan – the same factory that produces the highly acclaimed Carrozzeria products sold only in Japan. 

The midrange clarity displayed by the Twaron aramid fiber and cellulose hybrid woofer is accurately staged thanks to an oversized ferrite motor weighing nearly 500 grams held in a stamped steel frame. This speaker cone is very stiff, yet incredibly lightweight. This allows it to move a lot of air while retaining excellent high frequency definition.

The surround is formed from butyl rubber to withstand the warm and humid environment of sunny yet rainy Singapore. The other half of the component speaker is a 29-mm aluminum alloy driver with a unique diaphragm shape that reduces distortion and improves power handling too.  A proper crossover network marries the two components together with gold-plated connectors and an adjustable setting to tweak the tweeter to suit your listening preference.  

Watch our review of Pioneer’s transformable head-unit that turns into an Android tablet when removed from the car

The opening track on contemporary Jazz band Film & the BB’s ‘Tricycle’ demonstrated the system’s ability to reproduce all the transient attack of this recording – done before the unnecessary compression and loudness war in the recording industry. All the snares and kick drums had a meaty punch to them without sounding compressed and truncated.

We also played Joan Baez’s ‘Diamonds & Rust In The Bullring’ album, with the song ‘Swing High, Swing Low’ essentially an acapella number.  We were teleported to a concert in a spacious ‘bull fighting ring’ with a copious amount of spatial information from just a stereo recording of the event.  

The Pioneer Z series components do an awesome job of realistically reproducing all the detail and resonance of a beautiful recording by Akiko Meyers and Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ sounding gloriously full-bodied and smooth, proving that Pioneer’s ‘Open and Smooth’ sound concept isn’t just marketing hype.

The rear passengers are also treated to Pioneer’s Z series goodness, in this case, the TS-Z65F speakers boast an incredible frequency response range up to 96 kHz, which allows you to enjoy high-resolution music with all the details intact.  The sense of airiness in the system was felt and enjoyed on the Joan Baez album again comes in as a great example.  

Having listened to all the flac, wav, dsf files formats we decided to switch to streaming media via Bluetooth connection from my iPhone to see what a more ‘casual’ context would bring. 

We chose to compare Oscar Peterson’s superbly recorded album ‘We Get Requests’ and the track ‘You Look Good To Me’ with various streaming services.  Long story short, the boffins at Pioneer manage to make zeros and ones sounds remarkably similar to the Hires download when streaming from music services Spotify and Tidal.  

Blasting Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ gave the TS-Z10LS4 Z-Series 10-inch Component Subwoofer residing in the boot a good and thorough workout.  We even thought we heard the cashcard rattle in the IU.

Another great album on Spotify that showcases the balance, power and bass extension of the system is Taylor Swift’s latest, ‘Folklore’.  This album sounding fantastic is no doubt due to the pioneer GM-DX874 (Class-FD 4-Channel Bridgeable Amplifier) supplying all the power needed to give a concert level loudness sonic experience.  

Part 3: So what do we think?

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.