pioneer.eu: Pioneer introduces its new top of the line AV receivers, three 9.2-channel models including the SC-LX86, SC-LX76 and SC-LX56, and the 7.2-channel SC-2022 that can become the consumer’s entertainment hub for connectivity, content sources, control and ultra-high audio and video performance. (more…)
Techradar: Pioneer’s VSX-2021 is a receiver for the Apple generation. It’s all but intrinsically linked to the company’s wares with iPhone/iPad control Apps, dedicated music sharing for multiple iPods, remote control of the latest OS devices and full AirPlay integration. Even the user manual and set-up navigator are fully interactive iPad Apps. (more…)
Techradar: With a price that dips below £200 from some online retailers, the Yamaha RX-V367 is the cheapest AVR in our roundup and solid evidence that you don’t have to pay through the nose for 3D-readiness.
Support comes in the form of four HDMI v1.4 inputs and one output, which is generous enough to fit your 3D player, Sky box and games console, leaving one for future expansion. The look is classic Yamaha.
A moody black finish and sharp angled lines are the order of the day (it also comes in titanium and silver) while the front panel is a hive of activity, with buttons, displays and sockets aplenty.
Most noteworthy are the ‘Straight’ button, which bypasses the unit’s listening modes, and four Scene macro buttons. On the back, there’s evidence of cost-cutting in the shape of springclip terminals for the centre and surround channels and no iPod dock connection or surround back pre-outs.
But the lineup of other sockets is useful, with four digital audio inputs being a highlight. There’s no on-board HD audio decoding, though, which means Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks have to be decoded by your player beforehand. This isn’t a major problem if you trust your deck’s own abilities, but does make you wonder how the others managed it at a similar price.
Yamaha makes up for this with an obscene amount of sound modes and virtual surround processing, plus the YPAO auto calibration that makes it a cinch to optimise.
The lack of onscreen menus is a shame, but the logically structured front-panel display makes it easier to set up than you might expect. And, aside from a few undersized buttons, the remote is also terrific.
In general, there can be few complaints about the RX-V367′s sound quality for the money, although it inevitably lacks the sonic polish that turns a good receiver into a great one. The sound is dynamic and detailed; the receiver digs out the subtleties during Avatar’s many rainforest scenes, filling the soundstage with distant cries and swirling ambience.
Fluid rear-channel steering and crisp separation makes for an absorbing listen. Voices are prominent and cleanly detached from the rest of the action, while punchy bass response lends decent depth to the explosions and gunfire during the Battle for Pandora scene.
However, this scene also exposes brightness in loud high-frequencies that betrays its budget price tag. But if you can tolerate this and work around the lack of HD audio decoding, then the RX-V367 makes a decent purchase.
TechRadar: The 7.1-capable RX-V567 from Yamaha – a company that has played a pivotal role in popularising home cinema – is not the most affordable model in its line-up, but at £400 still looks like a bit of a bargain.
The problem is, almost every other AV brand is aggressively targeting this end of the market, so does it do enough to stand out?
It certainly gets off to a good start, with connections on the V567 including four HDMI 1.4 inputs and seven analogue AVs – including one on the front panel. Each is ‘fixed’ and has its own remote selection button, although you can marry the audio associated with one of these inputs to an HDMI (which also support 3D, the audio return channel, and CEC device-control).
This is useful if, for example, your set-top box cannot deliver 5.1 via HDMI but has a digital audio output. It can also be tied in with Yamaha’s ‘scene’ function, which is an array of four customisable buttons. Pressing one of these selects a specific source and soundfield.
The latter is a Yamaha speciality. Its 32-bit DSP chip is combined with 24-bit/192kHz Burr-Brown DACs. You can choose from 17 soundfields, all of which are modelled on ‘real-world’ venues.
The V567 covers all of the essential surround sound formats and codecs, although Dolby Pro- Logic IIz and its ‘height’ channels are conspicuous by their absence (something which Sony has specced on its similarly-priced STR-DH810).
Hi-fi enthusiasts will appreciate the V567′s compatibility with stereo/multi-channel PCM and DTS 96/24 soundtracks. If you’re using a universal player with an HDMI output, then DVD-A and even SACD/DSD content can be enjoyed.
Another worthwhile feature is that analogue video sources (up to 1080i for component) are converted to HDMI, so only one cable is needed. Conversion quality is excellent for a low-priced unit – 480/576p, 720p and 1080i/p conversion can be selected, but upscaling of HDMI isn’t permitted – it’s switching only.
The V567 may lack USB or networked audio, but a dedicated rear-panel socket readies the V567 for an optional iPod dock or Bluetooth receiver that can wirelessly stream music stored on devices like multimedia-savvy mobiles.
Already built-in is switchable enhancement for compressed audio sources. Yamaha claims this signal processing will restore depth and dynamics.
The V567 is easy to set up; the well-organised menus cater for speaker configuration, input-trimming (to eliminate volume ‘jumps’ after switching), lip-sync adjustment and Pro-Logic IIx decoding tweaks amongst others.
The V567 also features YPAO auto-calibration. We recommend carrying out speaker and level setup before using it, otherwise some odd errors can result. There’s also a user-controlled graphic equaliser allowing you to boost or cut each channel over seven different bands.
The V567 turns in a very creditable performance, certainly from movies. On a DVD of Avatar, the wildlife sounds of the night-time Pandora jungle are conveyed with awesome detail. The closing battle also fares well.
Steering is superb, as revealed by the missiles zinging between speakers. Switching to the hi-res soundtracks of Blu-ray, specifically Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, demonstrates that the V567 can cope equally well with even subtler details.
With music, matters aren’t so clear-cut. In some of the DSP modes, bass passed to the subwoofer sounds unpleasantly monotonal. There’s also an overall muddying of the soundstage that can be tamed, but not entirely eliminated, by engaging the ‘direct’ mode.
Our Tech Labs also rate the V567 poorly in terms of raw power, with a measurement of 20W-per-channel into 8Ω with five channels driven. That’s still enough for a small-scale setup – exactly the target market for a low-range AVR of this ilk – but should be taken into account when you’re drawing up your audition list.
Techradar: I confess that I have never really been excited by Marantz’s AV receivers. They were never ahead of the features game and always aired too much on the side of sonic caution for my liking. Safe, reliable, solid and about as exciting as endurance snail racing.
When the SR7005 arrived I brewed a really fresh cup of Horlicks, put my slippers on and settled down for an evening of light entertainment.
I should have known something was different the moment the SR7005′s curvy-sided fascia came out of the box, like Angelina Jolie emerging from the lake in Beowulf.
Based on the successful styling of Marantz’s high end hi-fi equipment, this multichannel receiver is utterly gorgeous. The curves are in all the right places, different fascia textures, brushed knobs and that unique circular display make our previous favourite super-models from Pioneer look as if they have had a good thrashing with the ugly stick.
And just when you are thinking that the display window is going to prove a little petite for comprehensive menu display, you drop down the front flap to reveal a bigger main display. That is so cool.
And then there is the features list. No longer the stripped down, audiophile device of previous Marantz receivers, the SR7005 is right up there at the cutting edge of AV tech. Based on the latest generation 32-bit SHARC processor from Analog Devices, it handles all the regular HD audio formats as well as Audyssey MultEQ XT room EQ, Audyssey DSX height/width processing and Dolby Pro-Logic IIz height channels.
It remains a seven-channel amp, which means running height or width channels will require binning rear-back speakers, but at a claimed 125W per channel who is complaining?
Very much a network-ready receiver, the SR7005 offers a dedicated iPod/Phone input, IP addressable and web-access interface and Marantz’s bespoke M-Xport interface to hook up to its optional R X1010 Bluetooth module.
The networking side is hardwired Ethernet with vTuner net radio and direct access to your Napster and Last.FM accounts.
Apps to go… soon
In development and, alas, not available for this review is a seductive iPhone/Touch app that will control the SR7005 from your Apple device – ideal for when the dog has eaten the relatively mundane remote handset supplied.
The 6-in 2-out HDMI connections all have 3D compatible V1.4a spec, and there is an Anchor Bay upscaler to work some hi-def magic into your SD DVD collection and video material.
Under the hood, Marantz has gone to town to ensure the SR7005 shakes off the older, rather sedate sound and can drive an action movie as fast, if not faster, than any competing device.
The power amplifiers are a current feedback circuit with a whopping transformer power supply for high current on demand. There are a bunch of hand-selected components that would make the most anorak-wearing of hi-fi aficionados nod appreciatively.
Much attention has been lavished on separate power supplies for each key audio section and extensive internal shielding to avoid electrical interference. There’s also a Pure Direct mode that closes down all superfluous circuits and features, such as the display.
The SR7005 is a whole lot of receiver for the money and, in technology and features alone, has leapfrogged forward to join the leading pack. Back this up with Marantz’s audiophile expertise and this receiver has the potential to be a real winner.
Techradar: Back in 2008, Pioneer launched the SC-LX81 and we liked it. We liked it so much, in fact, it won awards and everything. It used ICEpower Class D amplification developed by B&O and it was the best-sounding implementation of the technology we had heard. It scooped all the Oscars for style and was festooned with must-have widgets, too.
A year later came the equally good and stylish SC-LX82, but by this time the peer group had caught up in sound quality and surpassed it on sheer features. ‘Righty-ho’, said Pioneer’s engineer’s (albeit in Japanese), ‘prepare to be blown away by 2010′s SC-LX83.’
Out with the black
At just shy of £2K, the SC-LX83 is not cheap, but you know you have bought something special. It is a huge, superbly appointed box, and is still the most alluring AV beast on the market, even if its once piano black fascia is now a more conservative brushed satin.
The core power amplifiers remain unchanged, being the same Direct Energy HD ICEpower devices as its forebear. This is no bad thing, as Pioneer’s implementation of them not only sounds great, but also claims to use a frugal amount of electricity – about a third of traditional Class A/B amps, in fact.
The brand’s PQLS anti-jitter system has been further advanced and now works on bitstream signals, as well as LPCM multichannel and plain old, standard stereo PCM. With a compatible PQLS Pioneer Blu-ray disc-spinner, digital jitter over the HDMI interface is all but eliminated, resulting in a cleaner and more accurate audio transfer from player to amp.
Add to this a new suite of 32-bit DACs prior to amplification and the LX83 has all the potential to be a sonic diva with high-resolution material. Even if you are listening to compressed formats such as MP3, WMA, A2DP transfer Bluetooth audio or even old school, DVD-based Dolby Digital or DTS (ah, how passé…), Pioneer’s latest Sound Retriever Air system is on hand to rekindle some depth and vibrancy to the sound.
And it comes as no surprise that this baby offers the full gamut of HD-audio decoding, 3D-compatible V1.4a HDMI connections and upscaling of any video to 1080p. Interestingly, it remains a stoically seven-channel amplifier, even though it features Dolby ProLogic IIz decoding for front height channels.
Instead, the rear-back output can now be assigned to front height duty, and there is a 9.1 channel line-level output suite should you fancy going for the full complement of rear-back and height channels.
Like its forbears, this is a top-spec THX Ultra2 Plus certified machine, complete with all the associated post-processing suites, and is fine tuned by Air Studios. But this receiver really excels on its controls and connections.
Yeah, everyone does Ethernet and USB networking, but the LX83 adds a fully A2DP-compliant Bluetooth dongle for wireless music streaming and control. Pioneer’s genuinely revolutionary iPhone/iPod/iPad iControlAV App will also operate the bulk of this receiver’s day-to-day functions. Moreover, it does so with a grace and animated style that makes traditional remote controls look like objects for the Antiques Roadshow.
The iControl AV software is inspired and allows your i-whatever to speak to the LX83 either directly over the Bluetooth dongle, or via your Wi-Fi router and hardwired Ethernet to the amplifier. Either way, it works seamlessly, offering genuine two-way communication, has informative videos and is simply the coolest thing in AV since Ice Age 3.
Techradar: Pioneer is probably the coolest brand in home cinema. Its sleek, cosmetically finessed designs and cutting-edge performance make the rest of the herd look positively industrial. So how do you go about making a sub-£500 receiver cooler than a penguin’s toes?
The answer is simple: pack it with features and make it the first affordable machine to hit the market that can be fully controlled from an iPhone or iPod Touch with a dedicated app.
While the company’s engineers will be keen to point out some of its other finer qualities, such as the seven channels amplification, stereo PQLS jitter elimination and Dolby ProLogic IIz for example, it is the VXS-920′s homage to Apple’s handheld goodies that really catch the attention.
Not only can the device be controlled by an iTunes app, but it also connects any later generation iPod via USB (without an optional dock) and gets closest yet to turning it into a dedicated home server.
But that’s not all: it also takes a digital audio output from the device to decode within its own DACs for superior performance, and allows searching by cover art on screen, while using the supplied USB + RCA composite video lead. This is all controllable from the Pioneer’s own interface, enabling you to hide the iPod away out of sight.
On the downside, the iPhone/ iTouch control feature isn’t quite as slick as it could be straight from the box. You need to connect the VSX-920 to a wireless router via a hard-wired ethernet cable, and the iPhone/iTouch communicates with the receiver via Wi-Fi to the router and through the network.
A direct Bluetooth link up would be far better, and you can purchase the AS-BT100 adaptor for just such a scenario, although at nearly £100 it does add 20 per cent to the cost.
On the flip side of that argument, if you wanted to use the Pioneer’s extensive vTuner web radio features, including the 24 programmable station presets, chances are you would be connected to your ethernet connection anyway.
Slightly annoying for me, is the fact that, although I have run ethernet to the home cinema room, my 120-year-old walls are built with iron-loaded bricks that comprehensively stop the strongest Wi-Fi signal getting through from the office. In that case, iPhone/iTouch control just won’t happen without the Bluetooth module or, without temporarily moving the router into the same room at the Pioneer.
Needless to say, the machine decodes all the major HD audio formats, has 1080p video scaling of any input, whether analogue or digital and offers v1.4 HDMI connections. The latter render this receiver 3D-compatible on account of its higher bandwidth and, more significantly, enable audio back haul that lets you amplify, for example, off-air broadcast TV without any extra cables.
The latest MCACC room EQ software is fitted as standard and you can now save the data to USB stick for display on a PC rather than having to connect directly. Setting up an AV receiver is just no fun these days; you just connect the mic, press a single button and it’s all done and dusted. That’s probably a good thing.
The supplied remote has a rather lacklustre design, but there is a good selection of fascia controls for when the vagaries that befall handsets happen. However, the iPhone/iTouch app more than makes up for the remote’s lack of cosmetic charms in the hand.
Once downloaded to my iPhone via iTunes, it connected absolutely automatically through my wireless router. No networking headaches or configuring your DNS protocol, just an immediate connection. Result!
The iControlAV App is pure class, too. It offers four screens covering basic control functions, phase and PQLS control, dialogue and bass enhancement and channel balance. The latter sums up the grace and creativity of the software, being a circular tilting table with a rolling ball representing the position of maximum sound. Roll it front left and the emphasis is front left, and so on. Great fun to play with, although I admit probably a bit redundant once you are fully set up.
There are also some beautifully animated tutorials on such topics as group phase delays, which will certainly appeal to the enthusiast.
Boom, shake the room
With the MCACC and Phase Control engaged, the audio is about as lacklustre as the standard remote control, if I am honest. The sound is rather too smooth and shut-in with mid bass doing a good impression of swamping the mix, despite the MCACC’s complex reverb and standing wave calculations.
As the ship passes overhead following the opening credits in Serenity (Blu-ray/True HD) the bass is huge and heavy-handed causing me to leap for the iPhone App volume control to back down the horses. Unfortunately, doing so made the ensuing dialogue too quiet so I had to punch it back up.
Starting again in Pure Direct mode, with all the fancy EQ systems disengaged, really cleaned up the sound, particularly the mid bass. Exactly the opposite result to what you would expect. Re-running the opening sequence of Serenity, the echoing, metal-walled facility where river is kept, is neatly portrayed with a good sense of both space and containment.
After the escape, The Operative’s voice is wonderfully cool and foreboding, with the sword effects cutting through the quiet scene with precision. But the VSX-920 still struggles when the going gets tough, being rather too laid back to excite at low levels, and not having the power or drive to deliver the goods at high volumes.
The classical music track, which accompanies Serenity as it flies through space, is clean and etched into the soundstage, only for the roar of the engines and the ensuing chaos of the nearby crash-landing to turn into a congested mishmash of effects. I really could not find a volume at which the VSX-920 was truly happy, and neither did it conjur any magic to really impress me with action flicks.
With less demanding material, namely a night in with Shrek, plus both its sequels back-to-back, with a bottle of Sandhurst vineyard’s finest, the Pioneer is much more at ease. It conveys Myers’ comedic Scots accent with all its quirks, and the feel-good score throughout the original Shrek has a good foot-tapping quality.
Voices are accurate, if a little trapped inside the centre channel speaker, and there is no shortage of rather heavy-handed LFE. The soundstage is still not exactly massive, and open sky forest scenes have nothing like the sparkle and natural ambience the best sub-£500 receivers can offer.
Style over substance
The VSX-920 is not going to win any head-to-head performance shootout at £500, but you can’t fault its appeal as the hub of your home entertainment. The iPod integration is great fun, and once the album artwork has loaded (this took several minutes for my stuffed 80Gb model), it stays put as long as the machine is connected.
The searching for a song by cover art is a neat touch, and I could easily see users leaving their old iPods connected to the receiver as a fixed server when they upgrade to a new Apple iteration.
Again, sound from both the iPod and net radio fell foul of the Pioneer’s rather thick balance, making me check that my iPod’s own EQ wasn’t set to ‘bass enhancer’, as there was so much mid-bass bloom.
You have got to look at the VSX-920 as more of a lifestyle product for those who prefer gadgets and convenience above extracting the last few n’ths of sound quality. The network and iPhone/Touch/Pod features are wonderful toys, but when you are sitting down to enjoy a movie, they don’t count for much.
Pioneer.eu: Pioneer has unveiled its eagerly anticipated range-topping AV receivers: the SC-LX83 and SC-LX73 (available from August) and the VSX-LX53 and VSX-2020 (available today). All four are beautifully built products that recreate audio as close to the studio source as possible.
The flagship SC-LX83 and SC-LX73 integrate Pioneer’s Direct Energy HD amplification concept, to accurately reproduce the full dynamics of high resolution uncompressed sound formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Smart technical innovations ensure compressed audio is revitalised for a great listening experience, while leading HD video formats are supported, including 3D, and powerful upscaling transforms standard video to stunning quality.
The receivers are compatible with all key interfaces and content formats and also provide Bluetooth music streaming and LAN connectivity (for internet radio). They can be operated by a remote control option using Pioneer’s iControlAV app for iPhone and iPod touch, providing ultimate plug and play integration with the company’s home cinema systems.
The SC-LX83 and SC-LX73 feature Pioneer’s celebrated Direct Energy HD Amplifier design – built on ICEpower analogue Class D technology, whereas the VSX-LX53 and VSX-2020 are built around Advanced Direct Energy amplifiers.
All systems exude quality: the devotion to precision engineering is clear from the tactile hairline black aluminium front panel (except the VSX-2020) and subtle blue LED lighting for the display, to the rigid construction and use of high-end components.
Pioneer’s original implementation of ICEpower analogue Class D technology is now at its fourth generation and delivers overwhelming power (an amazing true multi-channel continuous power output of 770 watts over 7 channels in the SC-LX83) free from any distortion.
The Direct Energy HD design has earned the coveted THX Ultra 2 Plus (SC-LX83) / THX select 2 Plus (SC-LX73) certification, making it the first Class D implementation to be THX certified. Additional certification comes from the world renowned AIR Studios. Its engineers were actively involved in the tuning of the receivers to assure that they can recreate the studio experience in the home.
Pioneer’s Precision Quartz Lock System (PQLS) used in combination with a compatible Pioneer Blu-ray Disc player eliminates audio distortion caused by timing errors, resulting in playback with dynamic sound quality. On the SC-LX83 this unique technology now also covers bitstream transfers in addition to PCM data.
Movies will be more engaging than ever with the inclusion of Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing technology, delivering a spacious, deep and enveloping surround sound experience.
The pursuit of audio precision is also evident in technology that revitalises compressed audio. The Advanced Sound Retriever (ASR) compensates the quality of lossy compressed audio such as MP3, AAC or WMA and conventional multi-channel soundtracks such as Dolby Digital or DTS.This Pioneer original technology works with any compressed digital sound source (portable audio and disc players, digital broadcast sources, etc) to return depth and vibrancy to audio lost in compression.
Similar benefits are achieved by Sound Retriever Air, the first quality improvement technology for Bluetooth which restores sound pressure and density while significantly reducing transmission noise.
The systems also include our Phase Control Technology to overcome phase lag between channels and significantly improve multi-channel sound. Moreover, the SC-LX83 provides Full Band Phase Control to compensate for phase shifting that occurs in multi-channel speaker networks. It ensures audio arrives at the listening position in perfect synchronisation.
Key audio technologies are rounded off by Pioneer’s celebrated Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC). It operates in the same way as a professional sound stage, enabling you to automatically adjust speaker set-ups and fine-tune your system to the unique dynamics of your space for outstanding performance.
Resolution of 1080p true 24-frames per second is complemented by 36-bit HDMI Deep Colour support for cinema experiences of stunning depth and clarity. A powerful video upscaler is included to automatically up-rate standard definition video to 1080p. Compatibility with HDMI version 1.4a ensures that 3D content from broadcasting, games to home cinema can be processed with resolutions of up to 1080p.
Connectivity, versatility and control
The receivers can connect up to six HDMI sources and play all key video and audio formats. iPhone and iPod touch users can simply stream music using the Bluetooth adapter which connects to the back of the AV receiver. For the ultimate iPhone or iPod experience, a specialist cable is supplied providing a complete video and digital audio connection.
A front USB slot is provided to play various music and photo content, while you can also stream audio from your PC using Bluetooth and on the SC-LX83 easily connect to DNLA compliant network sources.
The LAN connection also allows you to enjoy internet radio with compliant track and artist information presented on the display: 24 pre-sets can be memorised on all models, with the SC-LX83 featuring vTuner portal support.
By downloading the free iControlAV app from the App Store, you can control volume, inputs, zones, output balance, and much more through the innovative Multi-Touch user interface and accelerometer on iPhone or iPod touch.
An RF remote comes standard with the SC-LX83 providing a full range of functions and is easily programmable to act as a universal remote for other systems. The RF remote signal transmits through walls and floors, making it ideally suited for controlling equipment inside a cabinet or in another room.
Pioneer.eu: This summer, Pioneer introduces a new line of AV receivers that deliver a dynamic music experience to the living room. Aside from the entry-level VSX-420-K/S, all new models, including the 5.1 channel VSX-520-K/S and VSX-820-K/S can be enhanced with wireless Bluetooth audio streaming for Bluetooth-enabled devices and are capable to provide a 3D experience with the latest HDMI version 1.4.
If you looking for the ultimate AV control centre with seamless iPhone and iPod touch integration, you’ll find it in Pioneer’s new “Works with iPhone” certified receivers: the VSX-820-K/S, VSX-920-K and VSX-1020-K/VSX-1025-K. Additionally, the company releases its iControlAV app, which turns compatible iPhone and iPod touch devices into a fully functioning remote control for our new 7.1 channel receivers.
Expanded iPhone functionality and iControlAV application
From the VSX-820-K/S onwards the new receivers deliver expanded iPhone functionality, with the VSX-920-K and VSX-1020-K/VSX-1025-K featuring Pioneer’s first home entertainment app. All new models – except for the VSX-420-K/S – offer optional Bluetooth audio streaming for wireless devices. Read more…
ipodnn: Pioneer today brought out its second AV receiver update this month with three new 7.1-channel models. The VSX-920-K, VSX-1020-K and VSX-1120-K all have special features for iPhones and iPods depending on the model. All have at least a compatible USB port that can play and charge Apple devices; the 1020-K and 1120-K have support for the iControlAV app (free, App Store) to steer the receivers, including multiple audio or video zones, balance tuning and input selection. Read more…