With the dizzying array of inputs, outputs, surround-sound certifications and endless gradations in sound quality available in home A/V receivers, it takes an expert to sort out exactly what you need and don’t need for and given setup. You could, of course, wrestle with every option, price out dozens of different receivers, and compare cost versus quality for every single one, but if your goal is to cover all the bases, future-proof your system, and bring the cops to your house with house-rattling output, sometimes it might make sense to just go all-out.
If you end up taking that path, Pioneer’s new SC-07 and SC-05 receivers, codenamed “Susano” during development, probably belong on the short list of receivers worth investigating. Both bring buckets of options, high-def sound, and next-gen media compatibility to the table, but without prices that rival those on economy cars.
At the core of the SC-series’ capabilities as an audio receiver lies the Direct Energy HD Amplifier, a high-end Class D digital amplifier built with technology borrowed from Bang & Olufsen’s ICEpower division. Pioneer claims the amp is so efficient that it wastes virtually no power, but retains the sound fidelity offered by less efficient amps. Notably, it’s also the same style amp found in Pioneer’s flagship SC-09TX.
Pioneer Elite SC-09TX
As for that alphabet soup of surround standards, the Susano receivers support all of the latest, including DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus. Since the decoding process for each one is completely lossless, no sound data is lost while dicing up a signal into many different channels.
Like many other high-end receivers, the new SC models also support room tuning to tailor their output to the exact speaker setup and room configuration you find yourself with. The issue of “phase lag” or group delay, a problem that crops up when different frequencies seem to reach the ears at different times, has also been dealt with via Pioneer’s Full Band Phase Control, which allows owners to compensate for it at the source.
Outside the receivers’ features for improving quality, they’ve also been endowed with extra features for flexibility. The biggest is Pioneer’s Home Media Gallery, a technology the company has been building into its newest A/V components (including Kuro plasmas) to pull digital content off of PCs and into the living room. After connecting the receiver to a compatible PC, it can push video or photos to a connected TV, and blast digital tunes on connected speakers, using a standard network connection. And if an iPod is more your style, the receivers also have Advanced Digital iPod USB connections for purely digital audio transfer, and Pioneer’s Sound Retriever DSP technology to step up the playback quality of compressed music, like MP3s.
As a video receiver, the SC receivers are fully HDMI 1.3a compliant, and handle 12-bit color for improved color accuracy. The SC-07 even includes dual HDMI outputs for controlling TVs in two zones. Both receivers also include Faroudja scaler chips to bring all sources, including analog ones, up to 1080p resolution for output to high-def displays.
When the SC-05 and SC-07 become available in August, they will retail for $1,800 and $2,200, respectively. That places both in the upper pricing echelon of home A/V receivers, but not quite to the same outrageous level of Pioneer’s SC-09TX, which retails for $7,000. If your goal really is a system that can do it all, one of Pioneer’s new SC-series receivers are healthily equipped to handle the job. More information can be found at Pioneer’s Web site.