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Pioneer Elite 2012 SC Series Reciever Offerings Preview

Pioneer Elite SC-68

Pioneer Elite SC-68


  • Product Name: Elite SC Series Receivers
  • Manufacturer: Pioneer
  • Review Date: May 08, 2012 06:45
  • MSRP: $1,100 (SC-61), $1,300 (SC-63), $1,600 (SC-65), $2,000 (SC-67), $2,500 (SC-68)
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!

SC-61 SC-63 SC-65 SC-67 SC-68
MSRP $1,100 $1,300 $1,600 $2,000 $2,500
Channels 7.2 7.2 9.2 9.2 9.2
Power 125 x 7 125 x 7 130 x 9 140 x 9 140 x 9
HDMI Input / Output 7 In / 1 Out 7 In / 1 Out 7 In / 1 Out 8 In / 3 Out 8 In / 3 Out
USB Input - Yes Yes Yes Yes
THX Certification - - Select 2 Plus Select 2 Plus Ultra 2 Plus
4k2k Video Passthrough - - Yes Yes Yes
Air Studios Certification - - - Yes Yes
DSD Music File - - - Yes (Front Panel USB) Yes (Front Panel USB)
USB DAC - - - - Yes (Rear Panel B-Type)

When we reported a few weeks ago about the new line of budget Pioneer receivers, we all knew one thing: the new Elite models were on the way. With a company like Pioneer that has been pushing the boundaries of what we think can be done with our mobile devices and other ease of use features, we had to say that we were excited. This is a company that has been focused on making it easier to get our content into our home theater. At the same time, the Elite receivers have also focused on power and accurate playback. We were interested to see how Pioneer would marry these two sometimes-at-odds concepts.

To start with, the entire line of 2012 Elite receivers is outfitted with Pioneer's D3 Amplifier technology. Sporting 125 watts per channel on the SC-61 and SC-63 and 140 watts per channel on the SC-65, SC-67, and SC-68, the D3 Amplifiers boasts a new heatsink and an extremely low total harmonic distortion ration of .003 percent at 100 watts. Pioneer has outfitted these receivers with a Direct Signal Path Design for the shortest audio signal path required. This means no EMI filters, feedback loops, impedance switching or current limiters. Also, the amp uses surface-mounted MOSFETs and discrete 7- and 9-channel inputs (depending on the receiver).

It wouldn't be a Pioneer receiver these days without some streaming capability and the new Elite models pretty much have some of everything. All in the line have Apple’s AirPlay, DLNA 1.5, Windows 7, Internet radio, PC Setup control, Advanced MCACC auto-calibration, plus Pioneer’s proprietary apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch apps, including iControlAV2012 and Air Jam. While not every consumer will use all of these, having access to the widest possible range of options means that there will be something for everyone. In addition, all the new Elite receivers have the ability to play back 192kHz/24-Bit FLAC and WAV files.

On the video front, the Elite SC receivers have video conversion and scaling on board as well as, image enhancement, and video adjustment for detail, sharpness, brightness, contrast, chroma level and black level for individual video sources. To enhance the video performance from any connected source, the receivers convert all analog signals to digital HDMI and scale both analog and digital signals to 1080p resolution for a significantly improved visual experience. Additional technologies include Marvell Qdeo processing for true 1080p/24fps, Advanced Video Adjust to optimize video signals by the type of display connected, and Stream Smoother to enhance the picture quality of any source downloaded from the Internet via other devices. Of course, all the 3D formats are supported as well.

All the SC Elite receivers from Pioneer are built with multiple zones in mind. All models offer three zones, with Zone 2 providing composite video output and the ability to handle network and USB content, and Zone 3 adding analog audio input sources. With the top two SC-67 and SC-68 models, users and installers benefit from an additional HDMI output to a fourth zone, component video output to Zone 2, and composite video output to Zone 3. In addition, for the first time, Pioneer SC receiver owners now have an option for a dedicated zone 2 subwoofer output in addition to the two dedicated subwoofer outputs in the main zone. For those with external amplification, the new Elite SC receivers have a Pre-Amp Mode which shuts down the power supply to all (or part - very cool for those that still want to use the receiver to power other zones but use an amp in their main system). 

Now, let's talk a bit about the receivers specifically. The SC-61 and SC-63 are 7.2 channel receivers sporting 125 watts per channel. They have 7 HDMI inputs and one output. Looking at the receivers from the outside, it is pretty much impossible to tell them apart as they have the same number, type, and placement of connections.

SC-61 SC-63
SC-61_front SC-63_Front
SC-61_back SC-63_back

The Pioneer Elite SC-61 retails for $1100 while the SC-63 will cost you $200 more. For that $200, you get Pioneer's Advanced PC setup. This allows installers to pre-configure connection settings on their Windows-based personal computer before the installation process, as well as read and rewrite settings, and reset and adjust the receiver from a remote location. Do-it-yourselfers also receive the same benefits with all SC models featuring Pioneer’s Wiring Navi for Windows-based PCs providing an interactive guide for wiring connection, and the Interactive Manual application providing a linked two-way manual that gives users a way to dynamically learn about the receiver’s features. Both the receivers seem to be identical in all other respects (they even weigh nearly the same at 32.19 lbs for the SC-63 versus 31.75 lbs for the SC-61. Unless you are a custom installer, there seems to be little reason to go with the SC-63 over the SC-61.

SC-65 SC-67
SC-65_Front SC-67_Front
SC-65_back SC-67_back

The SC-65, SC-67, and SC-68 all bump up to 9 channels of amplification and dual HDMI outputs. The SC-65 sports 130 while the other two have 140 watts per channel. This gives you a lot more options as far as configurations and swapping speakers/amps on the fly. The SC-65 and SC-67 have THX Select 2+ certification which means they are rated to operated in medium sized rooms by THX.

Starting withe the SC-65, the Elite receivers will pass-through true 4K material - a format that hasn't really come out yet as far as content is concerned. In Pre-Amp mode, the SC-65 and up will allow Front Off and Front and Center Off modes giving users the ability to use the Surrounds/Surround Back amplification for other applications. Models SC-65 and up also benefit from built-in advanced preamp processors that support the latest surround formats such as DTS Neo:X, sound enhancements, network content and network control. In addition the SC-65 and up adds support for Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) connectivity for adapting smartphones as additional sources for audio and video entertainment. The front–panel HDMI/MHL terminal delivers content with up to 1080p video and 7.1-channel HD audio resolution.

The SC-67 introduces DSD (SACD DFF Files) music file playback via the front USB port. It also adds an additional component video input (up to three) plus an HDMI input (8) and output. This third HDMI output can be used to support a fourth zone. Component video can now be output to Zone 2 with composite video sent to Zone 3. This gives the custom installer or the power user the ability to truly run an entire home from a single receiver. The SC-67 also received Air Studios Certification. With nine amplifiers and 11 speaker pairs, there is a lot of options here. The 33.29 lbs SC-65 will retail for $1600 with the 38.36 lbs SC-67 coming in at $2000.

Lastly, we have the SC-68 - the top of the line SC Elite receiver from Pioneer. The SC-68 has all the same features as the SC-67 except it adds THX Ultra2+ certification (making it suitable for the largest home theaters). The SC-68 offers the industry’s first 192kHz/32-bit asynchronous USB DAC for ultra-high quality music file playback from a USB connected source. Plus, the back of the SC-68 looks just a little cooler than all the other receivers. At $2500, the 39.2 lbs SC-68 is a beast with a ton of features, but still at a reasonable price.



If you think we covered every feature in this preview, you are sorely mistaken. The new Pioneer Elite SC line for 2012 is truly fully featured. The question you need to ask yourself is what you really need in a receiver. They are all great but you'll pay a premium for specific features that you might not need. Even the SC-68, the top of the line offering, is only $2500. In this economy, that seems pretty reasonable. Pioneer has made a name for themselves by making sure their receivers work with your phone. With these Elite receivers, they are making sure they work with your custom installer and all your high-end music files. If you are on the market for a receiver, you owe it to yourself to take a look at these new Elite receivers.

For more information, please visit www.pioneerelectronics.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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