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Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver Review

Highs

  • High-tech Class D amplifier technology; MCACC auto-calibration; Home Media Gallery; stunning good looks

Rating

Our Score 8.5
User Score 6

Lows

  • Clunky remote control; no HDMI video processing.
The SC-07 is a real winner

Summary

With that new Blu-ray player and library of accompanying discs, you might find that you also need a new receiver to reap all the benefits that the high-definition format has to offer. After all, without HDMI connections and the ability to decode the latest high-resolution surround sound formats, what’s the point of getting a new Blu-ray player in the first place? For this reason, receivers are making a comeback in what has been, as of late, a video-centric world. Pioneer, calls it the “SBL” era: The era of sexy blue lights. On a positive note, the company’s new Elite SC-07 7.1-channel receiver is the perfect specimen for this epoch.

The average Joe might be intimidated by the SC-07, however. Take a look at the back panel, and you’ll see why. It’s absolutely jam-packed with every I/O under the sun, including four HDMI inputs and two outputs. But if you take a little time to get to know it, you’ll find that the SC-07 is really quite approachable. And, mercifully, the front panel is much easier on the eyes. In fact, Pioneer has taken special care not to clutter the SC-07 with logos and buttons. Critical functions are hidden behind a drop down panel, and branding is, thankfully, nearly absent from the panel’s front. Still, while the receiver’s gorgeous styling is definitely noteworthy, it’s nothing compared with the technology contained within.

Audio

The SC-07, along with its little brother, the 5.1-channel SC-05, are unique because they are mainstream models that feature ICEpower Class D amplifiers, which trickled down from Pioneer’s $7,000 SC-09 receiver. With the SC-07, you get the benefits of that technology for far less money ($2,200). The previous Class A/B amplifiers are comparably bulky and inefficient. Class D amps are smaller and are up to 90 percent efficient, which means the electricity is turned into kinetic energy with very little lost in the way of heat. These amps make the SC-07 a relatively green product in addition to producing more accurate audio. Pioneer calls it Direct Energy HD Amplifier technology; we call it a great-sounding receiver, but more on that later.

Additionally, you get loads of great features and capabilities for the money. For starters, this THX Ultra 2-certified receiver decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio from Blu-ray discs. Pioneer’s proprietary Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC) is also included—the manufacturers’ version of room calibration using a microphone. Wolfson DA converters sample all signals at 24-bit/192 kHz. This means that most anything will sound good through the SC-07, including digital music. Ever since the days when the industry began putting subwoofers into systems, everything went out of phase. Audio systems became out of time thanks to filters in the speakers, receivers, source content, and so on. The Pioneer’s full band phase control tightens up the sound.

Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver

Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver

With a good understanding of all the audio goodies this receiver has to offer, we began to put it through its paces. First, we used the MCACC function to calibrate our speakers to the room. You simply plug in the included calibration mic and choose the auto-MCACC from the main menu. Pioneer doesn’t believe in multiple sweet spots, so for our listening purposes, we sat front and center with our speakers equally spaced around the room. We started our test with some digital audio tracks from a computer thanks to the receiver’s Home Media Gallery. The Home Media Gallery is incredibly simple to use, and lets you access your digital media off your PC or Mac. You just have to make sure your desktop is setup to share files. Once your home network recognizes the receiver, you simply grab the content you want to share and it appears on your TV screen. Tracks from French Miami’s self-titled album sounded fuller, warmer, and more dynamic than we’ve ever heard them.

Next, we popped in the new Madagascar 2 Blu-ray disc, which has a great Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The musical score was, in a word, powerful. And that’s in no small part due to the impressive 140 watts per channel that this receiver puts out (110 watts of continuous power). Though the soundtrack was big, robust and filled the room, it was still precise and subtle when called for. Overall, the SC-07 sounded cleaner than many receivers we’ve heard at the same price point.

Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver

Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver

Video

While the SC-07 excels at audio performance, it’s no slacker in the video arena either. It features Faroudja DCDi video processing, which scales lower resolutions up to 1080p. That means if you have a legacy DVD player you want to keep in your system, this receiver is going to improve video quality. And oh, how it does.

We tried it out with our old copy of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DVD, and it looked fantastic. Colors were bright and lively, and the transfer had more detail than it did when we routed it through an old Outlaw receiver. Now, the SC-07 and SC-05 have both gotten a bit of grief because the processing doesn’t apply to the HDMI inputs. Pioneer claims it doesn’t want to scale video unless it finds a substantial benefit to doing so. In other words, given the current financial realities of the AV receiver category, it’s not cost-efficient to either consumers or the manufacturer to build in a scaler that will actually enhance the quality of high-def signals. You need a very high-end scaler to do that.

Another cool feature is the inclusion of a dual HDMI output. This option is great for media rooms that have both a flat-screen TV for daily viewing and a projector and drop-down screen for cinematic viewing. The dual HDMI output allows the same signal to go to either the TV or projector. Along these custom lines, the SC-07 also includes component video output for a second zone, so you can get high-def video from one source in two rooms.

Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver

Pioneer Elite SC-07 Receiver


Conclusion

The SC-07 receiver costs $2,200, but that’s a steal when you consider that the Class D amplifier technology it offers works nothing short of wonders. It produces rich, room-filling, warm and detailed sound on most source material, whether you’re talking about digital audio or high-res soundtracks from Blu-ray movies. Great features abound as well, like the MCACC auto room calibration and Home Media Gallery. Meanwhile, video throughput is absolutely up to the task of ushering your 1080p high-def movies to the screen unfettered, while enhancing the picture on lesser-quality source material.

Yes, the receiver doesn’t have HDMI video processing, but we’ll take that over a higher price tag any day. Quite frankly, this is an excellent accompaniment for your new high-definition home theater with Blu-ray player and HDTV. We highly recommend you try it out, or – if you have only five speakers and a subwoofer – take a look at the $1,800 SC-05. The only gripe we have with the SC-07 is the remote’s ergonomics: Compared with the SC-07 itself, it’s clunky and awkward, but functional nonetheless. In short, this one’s a real winner – and a sound investment.

Pros:

  • High-tech Class D amplifier technology found on more expensive $7,000 receivers in Pioneer’s line is included here for the first time
  • MCACC auto-calibration a bonus for getting speakers set up properly
  • Home Media Gallery lets you access all your digital media from the receiver
  • Stunning good looks

Cons:

  • Clunky remote control
  • No HDMI video processing

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