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Pioneer SC-07 Calibration & Advanced Set-Up

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Auto Setup Via MCACC (Multi-channel Acoustic Calibration)

MCACC is the acronym Pioneer uses to denote their automation room setup and correction system. Similar to its competitors like YPAO and Audyssey, it uses a microphone to check and configure the following:

  • Speaker Setting
  • Distance
  • Equalization
  • Channel Level
  • Standing waves

sc07acouticcal.jpgMCACC differs than the others in that it only calibrates for one position and uses a 9 band octave graphic equalizer approach instead of an arguably more advanced parametric one found on Yamaha's YPAO or the even more savvy FIR filter method of Audyssey. There are 6 MCACC user settings should you wish to calibrate for more than one seat, but I'd prefer Pioneer look into a spatial averaging approach so accommodate multi seats without having to select a different memory setting when moving around the room.

MCACC starts out by checking ambient room noise and also identifies the speakers connected to the system via a series of calibration sounds that sound like the old car driving games from Atari. It then uses test tones to set channel level and 'popping' sounds to calculate speaker distances. It then proceeds to acoustical calibration via equalizing and correcting for group delay and phase via a series of chirp sounds familiar with other room correction systems we've reviewed. You can also download the results via a PC interface to further refine the calibration for greater accuracy and control.

For more details on how MCACC works, check out:

http://www.pioneer.no/files/eur/MCACC/index.html

MCACC Calibration Results

As I found with other room correction systems, the end results were a mixed bag. MCACC correctly identified distances of all my speakers, including the subwoofer which only Audyssey has consistently done in my setups in the past. It was also pretty spot-on with level at least for the 5 main channels. The subwoofer was overly boosted which oddly wasn't the case when MCACC was engaged. It incorrectly set my rear bookshelf speakers to Large so I went in and adjusted them to Small.   

                                  bass-sub   bass-nosub

MCACC On/Off Mains + Sub (left) Mains Only (right) 1/12th Octave Frequency Response

Configuration Note: The Sub was set to "plus" so it would output bass to the subwoofer with the mains set to "Large" for 2-channel sources.

Upon first listen of my post-MCACC calibration, I noted the overpowering bass as soon as I switched off the MCACC. At first glance I thought it was actually doing an excellent job of balancing out the system's bass response and reducing room modes. That was until I pulled a couple of measurements to understand what was really going on. The left graph above shows the frequency response differences of the main channels with the sub in the main seated position with MCACC on (green trace) and off (purple trace). The shape of the curves are virtually identical except the MCACC curve was 10dB lower below 60Hz. MCACC did seem to smooth out and raise a null between 60-90Hz a bit as well. I decided to switch off the subwoofer and re-test for just the main channels (above right graph) to get a closer look. This time the curves were virtually identical with MCACC slightly reducing 60-90Hz and 100-150Hz. It seems MCACC was marginally fixing the bass response, but more importantly, it was honing in on the correct level to better blend the mains with the subwoofer. I am sure with manual intervention, and tweaking, I could have probably improved upon this further.

standingwave.jpg

MCACC Standing Wave Correction

The Standing Wave Correction plot provided in the MCACC setup does show some of the problem areas at my listening seat that it was attempting to flatten out, namely the 63Hz and 125Hz regions. With manual tweaking, this could be a very useful tool for smoothing out bass response.

sc07acouticcal.jpgThe graphical readout of MCACC calibration results was a welcomed feature and useful for understanding to what extent correction has been made. As you can see in the results of the calibration to my front speakers, very little EQ'ing was performed by MCACC, a tribute to well-designed reference speakers in an acoustically controlled listening space.

I did some spot listening tests and found MCACC offered mixed results in my setup - no different than any other room correction system I have worked with. With it engaged, it seemed to anchor the vocals at the expense of collapsing the width and depth of the soundstage. This was most notable in two-channel sources. I did prefer the more natural and tighter bass MCACC offered but I could achieve most of this by simply lowering the sub an additional 8-10dB. Most of my listening tests were conducted with MCACC Off as I ultimately preferred it that way after extensive two-channel comparisons.

xcurve.jpgIn closing, MCACC is a useful tool that should, at the very minimum, be used for proper speaker distance and level setting. Personally I would like to see Pioneer offer a better quality microphone on near-flagship models such as the SC-07. An omnidirectional mic with a long nose and not a flat flimsy hockey puck included with this receiver would likely yield more accurate calibration results. More advanced users would be wise to tap into some of the more advanced settings for tonal adjustments as needed. I particularly really enjoyed the X-Curve feature that allows you to adjust roll off from 2kHz to 20kHz at a slope between -0.5dB to – 3dB. This is a useful tool for DVD mixes that are too bright that you may wish to tame to reduce listening fatigue.

Bass Management

speaker distance.jpgAs with most modern A/V receivers and processors, the Pioneer SC-07 comes with an array of speaker configuration options. The SC-07 was a bit limited in crossover options with the following increments: 50, 80, 100, 150, 200Hz. Personally I'd like to see 60Hz thrown in there as well but 80Hz will work just fine for the majority of setups. I was pleased to see Pioneer offer a "+10dB bass boost" via the External multi-channel inputs. To my knowledge Denon was the only one offering this type of feature and more companies should pay attention and follow suit.

Editorial Note: Reason for Optional Bass Boost via External Multi-channel Analog Inputs:
The suibwoofer channel in Blu-ray discs is encoded 10 db lower than the other channels. If the codecs are decoded by the receiver, the LFE automatically boosts 10 db to compensate for this. If the codec is decoded in a Blu-ray player and then sent via analog cables to the receiver, it is not boosted by the player. Most players have no method of raising the LFE to a level to match the other channels.

Channel trim adjustments were offered in 0.5dB increments and delay adjustment precision was within 1-inch increments which is a rare but welcomed precision offering. The crossovers worked as expected for a THX Ultra2 certified receiver as indicated by the 12dB/oct High Pass Filter (HPF) slopes on speakers set small and 24dB/oct Low Pass Filter (LPF) slopes on the subwoofer output which I measured with my Audio Precision SYS 2722 Audio Analyzer.

Video Set-Up

sc07 home menu.jpgAs previously mentioned, the SC-07 sports Faroudja DCDi video processing for deinterlacing and scaling of incoming analog video signals to HDMI. It wasn't clear in the manual if the SC-07 supports 1080p analog video so I tested it with my Xbox 360 via component video at 1080p resolution and was unable to get a picture via HDMI until I lowered the resolution to 1080i. Thus I would take that as a "no" for 1080p analog video upconversion. As far as I know the video processing for this receiver is only applicable for analog video sources which is a limitation some of Pioneer's competitors (whom have more advanced video processing) doesn't share. In fact, had I not opened the manual, I would have never known this receiver had video processing for analog video sources since these options weren't available on the main OSD page and would only show up if you hit "Video Parameter" on the remote when playing an analog video source. Once you access this page, you can adjust Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Chroma and Resolution.

Unfortunately the OSD doesn't overlay over the video signal like some of Pioneer's competitors. To make matters worse, when you enter the OSD, it kills the audio signal until you exit. This was acceptable 2 years ago, but Pioneer seems to have fallen a bit behind here. Overall, the OSD was basic and easy to navigate through except for the video processing issue I previously mentioned.

Multi-Zone / Multi-Source Audio & Power Amp Assignability

The Pioneer SC-07 is capable of reassigning two of its amplifiers to Zone 2 as well as one of its component video outputs to another zone 2. There is no video support for zone 3 or digital audio support for either zones. The multi zone functionality of this receiver was very basic when compared to the Yamaha RX-Z7 in that the Yamaha had better and more flexible amplifier assignability (up to 4 of its amplifiers could be reassigned for multi zones 2 or 3), tone controls, and more video features as well as a 4th zone for audio all of which could be activated simultaneously to play in a "party" mode. Pioneer could definitely take a few lessons from Yamaha here.

Remote Control

remoteI didn't get too involved with the remote control Pioneer supplied with this receiver. It is similarly bad to other brands I've tested with receivers in that it has limited backlighting and a cluttered faceplate with too many button options - most of which are useless in the dark. I was a bit perplexed as to why I couldn't access all of the receiver setup options via the "home menu" button and had to also use two additional buttons "audio parameter" and "video parameter" to make additional adjustments and configurations. Lose the remote, and you lose the ability to make these adjustments.

Pioneer does not include a multi-zone remote which is surprising to me as I find that to be a useful feature for basic multi-zone control from another room if the receiver is line of sight.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

bradberry11 posts on February 14, 2016 21:35
Great review. FYI, component video supports up to 720p or 1080i max, so the xBox 360 was simply unable to do that test (of analog 1080p).
Dan Banquer posts on December 29, 2008 18:56
Bandwidth Limiting

I would like to add a bit more fuel to this fire.
Back in the 70's and 80's linear amps were doing some very similar things as the ICE power module unit in question. What was found was this caused slew rate limitations giving what is still known as slewing induced distortion. This was observed on in band impulse response testing. Contrary to some beliefs one does not need a DC to light bandwidth to NOT have slewing induced distrotion but one must have a near flat response to 20 kHz independent of power for the load the amp is designed for.
Too see audio go back in history and make the same mistakes all over again is just a bit disheartening.
d.b.
Sherardp posts on December 29, 2008 15:42
I read this review on the SC07, very informative to say the least. However I've owned the SC-07 for some time and I have to say its an exceptional unit. I did side by side comparisons with the Denons and felt they were a little too laid back for my personal tastes. Granted I use external amplication for powering my speakers, however if I were in the market today, I'd buy it or the 05 again. IMHO they are pretty good AVRS and capable of being a pretty darn good pre/pro.
Gov posts on December 29, 2008 14:24
Looking forward to it
gene posts on December 28, 2008 15:29
Even though a lot of people there disagree with you (and still do) they (like I) appreciate your review and your posts there.
What I did not agree with is how you announced your last post on that thread and said you were done with it. Why not continue to defend your review? You never got any personal attacks or insults.

I don't need to “defend” my review that has objective measurements done by the most advanced and industry standard Audio Analyzer with a test in accordance to how the FTC has measured amplifiers for the last 30 years. There are people that would like to believe full bandwidth power tests are irrelevant and I'd say more power to them (no pun intended), but there are those that also believe in testing products to their limits and ensuring they are getting an amplifier that can deliver maximum full bandwidth power into low impedance loads. I am not on a quest to change peoples minds. I do however test all amplifiers under the same test conditions and hold the same criteria regardless of amplifier classification. You will see soon a review of a Class D amp that can deliver full power bandwidth into 8, 4 and 2 ohm loads as an example as well as a series of articles on this very topic.
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