Hardware Review Pioneer Elite SC79 review

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by schan1269, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    I'm keeping this review short and tidy. I had it for 3 weeks so there are numerous things I didn't do, nor care to try as I wasn't going to re-wire many things for such a short time. I concentrated on what mattered, to me, most. How it sounded. Also going to throw in two major kudos to Pioneer/Elite and a "minor flaw" in execution of "looks taking precedence over function".

    The major big + for the Pioneer Line is I was able to do everything I wanted while never looking at the manual. Granted, I never used the Networking(beyond listening to a bit of internet radio). Conversely, I never used it with an Apple product over the network. There are numerous other reviews about how their apps stack up to Yamaha and Onkyo. I have an Onkyo 1008 and use none of its native networking...so it should not be a shock I didn't choose to check into this ones implementation. I also never tried its scaling(sources used listed later)

    To the review...

    The good.

    There must be something real about Air Studios. During the Hi-Res disc of Handel's Messiah(all links to content will be added at the end) this was easily the quietest AVR I've "never heard". Honest to God. The dead space on this disc was dead space. Matter of fact, all SACD/DVD-A I played, if there was a noise floor. It was the disc.

    The setup of this AVR was supremely easy. The GUI seems circa 2011(not going to win any awards. But super simple). Each input is tailorable to exactly how you'll use it, no muss, no fuss. It even appears you can assign the toslink and digital coax to more than 1 input(importance of that to come later and I only tried it with 1).

    The remote. Major kudo to Pioneer/Elite to include separate DVD and BD input/mode buttons. For those of us that use both in the same system, having the buttons separate is a big deal. Yes, every other manufacturer allows you to re-name inputs and really have a DVD player on Sat/Cable or whatever other button you want. But when guests come over and the buttons are separate...makes it easier for guests to use your theatre. I have no idea how far down Pioneer/Elite keeps BD and DVD separate, but the 75 is on my short list of AVR to buy(the 79 has more features than I'd ever use). This remote was easy.

    Big kudo on the inclusion of HDBaseT. This is the connector we should have gotten. Not HDMI. Yes it is only for Zone use. But hey, it has to start somewhere.

    The "bad".

    The front plate design, which yes, makes it look sleek, is a complete pita when you want to use the front HDMI. I use it for an Ipad via the AV adapter. The cost of this AVR(understandable on the lesser expensive...) means...why does the flap not slide under the front? Or...why is the HDMI behind it at all? Pioneer/Elite's ongoing "function takes a backseat" award winner of design miss-function.

    Why does MCACC not allow multiple crossovers? Neither does YPAO(have no clue about DCAC). This, for me, is the major stumbling block. But, I'm a "fringe" user. I listen to SACD/DVD-A and run full size speakers in all locations(except center/width). Granted I never ran MCACC because auto-EQ programs and DCM TF series don't mix(the DCM TF, for those unfamiliar, are front and rear radiating which makes MCACC, YPAO, Audyssey and even REW have issues. Since these speakers purposely create a phase delay, measurements are never accurate). My 4 main speakers play to 40. I never got to hear what Air Studios could do...within the capabilities of the speakers I have chosen for this room(for when I wanted to include the width. Most of the time I used Direct for SACD/DVD-A, then the chosen crossover no longer mattered).

    The remote. Yes It appears in the good and the bad. I know I'm "used to Onkyo/Integra". Why does the remote, beyond its obviously good functioning, have to feel circa 2005? There are those of us who expect their AVR remotes to control the situation. We don't want to "have to buy" a Harmony/URC. Great function marred by dated design.

    Minutiae...
    Great binding posts. If these ever break off...your fault.

    Pleasing coloring of the display. The blue lights(depending on sound mode chosen...) add a nice touch.

    Side vented. Not that I ever suggest you do this, but if you have a component that offers a bunch of space(meaning it has big feet), you could put something on it...as long as both aren't inside a cabinet. I put this on my TV stand next to a CD player. The TV sits on the CD player and there was enough room under the TV by 2 inches for the AVR to sit there happily. No, I didn't put anything on it. But, no matter how loudly I was running it, the top never got hot. With side venting, the top will never get hot, as long as the fan has open space to blow the air.

    Now to the listening. The entire reason you buy an AVR in the first place.

    I listen to bunches of music on a daily basis. Approximately 40% of my collection is SACD/DVD-A. I have (last count) 2300 discs. My primary go to Hi-Res are Spyro Gyra Good To GoGo, Beck Guero, Elton John Madman Across the Water and Handel's Messiah(version of this linked later). As far as AVRs, this SC79 packed one of the biggest punches of any AVR I've ever had in my home. Integra DTR 7.8 and Denon AVR 4308 included(which I have both). This exceeds the 4308 and keeps up with the DTR 7.8. To give you an idea on "how good" class D has gotten(in this AVR, the 77 and 75 are probably no less than 95%). I put in the 4308 and set it "like" the SC79(as close as I could given the differences in setup). The SC79 using the Handel's Messiah disc in 6 channel direct achieved 110db in my room while barely chewing 4amp. The 4308 got to 108db chewing more than 6. In my office(which I didn't remove the 7.8 from) the DTR achieves 110db with much more efficient speakers and a smaller room, while chewing 5.5. (the 7.8 still had more...but my baseline was what the SC79 offered up).

    That is formidable power production. Five DCM creating an SPL of 110, centered in the room, took approximately 155wpc(but Handel's Messiah is an easy, mostly vocal, load during the stretch I was attempting full bore).

    Power is one thing. Sound...
    Like said before, the noise floor here is dead silence. If you experience noise. It isn't the SC79. The 4308, at all times, had a noticeable hiss if you were within 3 feet. Noise floor is important for those choosing extremely efficient speakers like Zu or Klipsch. If you don't have to turn it up much, you never get off the noise floor.

    Madman Across the Water
    Is an excellent listening disc. Plenty of power for the TF's to soar. Channel differentiation was top notch. If you have sound issues, the speakers just aren't placed correctly.

    Beck Guero
    Is a taxing sound stage for any piece of equipment. To get better production than this, you need separates. The rear channel was alive when needed. The AVR never left anything behind.

    Spyro Gyra
    Was equally fun. DCM TF are good enough they'll reveal weaknesses up the chain. Not a fault here.

    As noted the noise floor is a revelation. If you listen to content where noise floor matters, have zero worries. Class D is prime time with Air Studios.

    Movies.

    Underworld: Awakening.
    Like is alluded to on other sites about this soundtrack. Even if the plot holes and story leave you cold...the soundtrack separates the kids from the big boys. This here takes its place among the Kings of AVR. The Onkyo NR5010/Integra DTR 80.3 and Denon 4520 have met their sonic equal in Class D. This soundtrack shot up the room. Literally. I had a mishap of room decor. The 4308 never got anywhere near this. This was almost as good as my Onkyo SR707 feeding 2 Kenwood M2A with a Jamo MPA201(center amp). AVR up against the M2A? Yes, I went there. (The mishap happened cause I wasn't expecting what happened with the volume at -2. I have a sword from the British military that I take off the wall when I know "hectic is coming".)

    Immortal Beloved.
    As guttural as U: A is, Immortal Beloved is the opposite. Sweeping, sincere to the music. This soundtrack tasks you to be able to hear Oldman along with the music. Never a problem. Everybody's favorite scene in the movie. Sheer magic. Turn it up and let it roar. If anything cracks up, it isn't the AVR.

    Width. Since I'm used to DSX, Pioneer's implementation was...different. Using my speakers, and my perception...
    DSX treats width as a separate channel. Seemed here, width was no more than a handoff. Still effective, but much more directionally cued. Essentially, DSX, the width is always in use creating a wide stage. Pioneer's use was more announcing something leaving and entering the sound stage.


    Input setup.
    Earlier I mentioned the digital inputs. You can tie a digital input with an HDMI. You have to do that in the setup menu for specific inputs. They include this ability because the AVR(apparently...or I missed a setting) can't keep video up if you move to an audio source. The digital input you can assign to the HDMI is "borrowed" from wherever else you have it. Meaning you can put a toslink on CD and borrow it for the HDMI used by your PS/XBox, very cool feature. Also HDMI passthrough in standby is "input choice on/off". Have no idea why, but it is the way it is done.

    Conclusion...

    The SC79 beat my expectations by a mile. This one says it can handle 4ohm. That has been the bane of Class D's existence. The inability to not upchuck their guts on a 4ohm load(read the Magnepan FAQ regarding Class D). I tried this AVR on a pair of Thiel that I have around that are 4ohm. Granted only 2, not 5 or 7, speakers...not an issue was to be heard and they were doing some Felix Hell. Felix on a 4ohm load would have caused a "hey I'm dying here"...which never came. Short list this AVR if you need everything it offers.

    Other equipment:
    Elite DV49 (anything not BD)
    Orei M2(Multi-Region BD)
    Directv HD DVR
    Onkyo DX-C390
    Ipad via AV Adapter
    DCM TF600, TF350, Surroundscape and KX(6, I think, tag fell off long ago). M&K subwoofer
    Hitachi P50X901

    Content: Listing the ones where there is more than 1 version only...if mentioned above.
    http://www.amazon.com/Handel-Messiah-Dublin-Version-1742/dp/B000K2Q7PK/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1387816518&sr=1-1&keywords=messiah+sacd
    http://www.amazon.com/Felix-Hell-Plays-Rieger-Kloss-Organ/dp/B000XT2TR0/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1387827197&sr=1-2&keywords=felix+hell
     
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  2. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    I'd love to get my hands on a Pioneer or Yamaha with the ESS Sabre DAC's. They sure made a difference in the OPPO SE's. But I have to wait for the prices to come down.

    Pioneer remotes are dated. The one that came with my vsx-23 (the step-down model to the SC-25) is similar in appearance. But it doesn't bother me too much since it is a very good remote IMO. Others have had a different opinion about them however. Usually too many small buttons spaced to closely together. But I almost always use seperate bluray, dvd and cd players so the seperate input buttons do come in handy. Onkyo/Integra did this as well until the offered a re-designed remote. Marantz does also has separate input buttons but goes a step further. Press an Input button once and it only changes the remote's command (from cd to BR for instance). Press it twice and then it changes the actual Input on the receiver. That way you can setup the BR player while listenning to a cd without accidently changing the Input on the avr too soon. On the Pioneer I have to point the remote away from the avr or cover the front with my hand when changing the remotes command.

    Pioneer and Yamaha have both been quoted as saying the crossover should be set to the same frequency for all speaker groups which is why they only allow one setting. In theory, I can understand what they're saying but in practical reality many people really could use multiple settings. I always mention this little quirk when recommending Pioneers or Yamaha's. Yamaha has added multiple crossover points to it's higher end receivers so maybe they're re-thinking this. And Pioneer does offer bookshelf and tower speakers in it's highly popular Andrew Jones line so they should offer multiple crossover settings as well.

    Most people/members don't think there is really any discernible difference in sound quality between receivers but I always felt there was, at least a bit, in certain comparisons. A few years ago I had a Pioneer SC-27, Marantz 8002, Integra 8.9 and H/K 7550HD all at the same time. My fuse box ran for cover. For the most part the Marantz and the Integra both sounded similar. Warm and musical (whatever that means). The H/K had a very pronounced mid-range (intolerable, really) and the Pioneer was crystal clear. I only heard the signal and nothing else. I'm not saying one was better then the other (except the H/K. Fantastic amp section...FANTASTIC!...but I couldn't sell it fast enough), just different. If Marantz and Integra were soft and warm like wood then the Pioneer was crystal clear...like glass. I've always felt Pioneers were a bit better for movies/tv then music. But I've gotten good enough at tweaking the eq just a bit that they're fine for music to me as well. And they sound great in Pure Analog. As do Marantz.

    I don't like the cosmetics of the newer line (SC-37/57 and up) as well as the older models. Don't care for the Marantz 7005 either but others seem to like it. For me, receivers hit their peak about 3-4 years ago. After that, they added features I'll never use and are losing things I might (like M/C inputs). In one room I have the Elite vsx-23, BDP-23, DV58avi and PD1009 cd changer. All controlled by the avr's remote. Same with the Marantz gear in another room (7005, BD7006, CD4001 and an Integra 301 disc dvd changer). Both setups are very easy to operate with just the avr's remote. So were the Integra avr's/pre-pro's I've had. Especially with the old "brick" style remote. Denon's have always been hard for me to figure out. The H/K 7550 and 745 were easy to operate but hellish to setup. Too many HDMI gremlins. The 7200, 435 and 520 (pre-HDMI) were much better.
     
  3. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    I enjoyed it. Looking at the spec sheet...The ESS Sabre is 75 and up. But only the 77/79 are Air certified. If I short list an Elite, I might have to bring home a 77 and 75 to see if it is worth it.Through my prior employer, I could just buy both and Ebay one as used.
     
  4. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    Thanks for the write-up. I will want to upgrade eventually and have my eyes on the Pioneer line.
     
  5. Type A

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    In this price class is Yamaha Aventage with YPAO, which definitely has multiple crossovers. Apparently Yamaha is doing itself a serious disservice by not offering it on all their line as you are the second person to make this erroneous statement here at HTF.
     
  6. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    You might need to post a picture of where yours has individual crossovers. Yamaha's downloadable manual for the 2030/3030 has no such place in the manual.
     
  7. Type A

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    No idea where it is in the manual. However there are actually two patterns that you can save with differing crossover configurations and settings. Each save pattern has a discrete button on the remote, so say one configuration for music and a different configuration for movies, selectable on the fly. Setting up your own custom crossovers does not disable YPAO and all the built-in EQ patterns, available only after running and accepting the YPAO results, are also available with your custom crossover settings. These save patterns also allow you to enable/disable channels. For example, maybe your music pattern is 'fronts and sub only and a 40Hz crossover' whereas your movie pattern is, 'all channels and a 80Hz crossover except the fronts at 60Hz.' Finally this area is where you access the manual EQ, its customizable for each channel in the event you want to do a roll-your-own EQ pattern. Specific path to custom crossover settings for the Yamaha RX-A3010 are: Menu, Setup, Speaker, Manual, Configuration...

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
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  8. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    The manual where those diagrams are...say nothing.You'd think Yamaha would mention it...somewhere.
     
  9. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    Well my Pioneer Elites SC-05 appears to have developed a major problem, as it has started shutting down with the blinking phase control light. This has prompted me to place an order for the SC-77. I decided it was worth the step up over the 75, but I couldn't justify the 79's premium.
     
  10. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    Sam, did you ever get to try the 75 or 77?
     
  11. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    So much for the major problem with my SC-05. It appears the shutdown was being caused by a problem with the wiring at the right speaker. Doh! One of the kids must have yanked on it or something. My problem now is deciding what to do. I have the 77 ordered and it should arrive Tuesday. Do I keep it and try to sell my 05 or do the more frugal thing and return the 77? Hmmm...
     
  12. Type A

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    You are so asking the wrong crowd. I would at least take the time to see if those new Sabre32s sound any better.
     
  13. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    :) That's so true. When I told the wife the SC-05 was working again, she0 was, good, we can return the other one, while I was thinking, but I don't want to.
     
  14. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    Put a theatre in your bedroom?Just make sure the first movie is either The Notebook or The Time Traveler's Wife...
     
  15. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    You should have kept quiet about the 05 working again and quickly stuck it on ebay! Just kidding of course. It's ALWAYS good policy to keep your wife informed about EVERYTHING.The 05 should be worth about $400-$500 depending on condition and if you have all the acc and box. Maybe a bit more.But keep the 77 for a while and let us know about those Sabre DAC's and if Sam's review is accurate!
     
  16. DavidJ

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    Yeah, Sam, the wife would not be a fan of having a system in the bedroom. She barely tolerates a TV in there. I haven't canceled the SC-77 yet. I'll probably bring it home and set it up at least (Gene, I blame you for this. :) ). Which, to be honest, probably means I'll keep it. I kind of don't want to part with the SC-05 though. It is a really nice receiver and it has some inputs that might come in handy working with older gear.
     
  17. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    "I haven't canceled the SC-77 yet. I'll probably bring it home and set it up at least (Gene, I blame you for this. :) )"I'll take that as a compliment!I am interested in knowing if the new Elites with the Sabre DAC's sound better than the older models. Let us know what you think.
     
  18. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    Take one for HTF...Like I alluded to, the 79 was dead quiet. I remember that series(sold Elite wholesale) as we always set up a top-tier Elite theater(including speakers) in our office. I remember the early D being harsh compared to top end Yamaha. Unbearably harsh? No. Just noticeably. One rare Saturday, I plopped in the top Yamaha(that we had in stock) and it was clearer. I think it was a 2065(??).Anyway. That wasn't apples to apples anyway. The price difference between the Yamaha I used and the Elite(at retail) was $1400.Yes, the Tammy was clearer.But every other aspect, the Elite destroyed it. But...I never got a chance to do a side by side with Yamaha's top dog.
     
  19. Klipscher

    Klipscher Auditioning

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    Hi, thanks for the review...this make me consider canceling the LX-57 and save a bit more to get the higher model...LX-77 here...BTW what your view about the LX-57? Is it worth it waiting a few more months just to save and get the LX-77? I'm just itchy now...and could not wait much longer.....
     
  20. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    The LX57 is our 1523/75(cause we get the Elite brand as well). There is at least one
     

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