Pioneer Elite’s SC-27 is a powerful (7 x 140 Wpc, with ICEpower Class D amplifier modules), full-featured, Ethernet-enabled, THX Ultra2 Plus-certified A/V receiver that stands as the number two model in Pioneer’s lineup—second only to the very impressive but also very costly flagship SC-09TX. Given the huge price differential between the SC-27 ($2000) vs. the SC-09TX ($7000—gulp!), we think the SC-27 will be the model that most performance-minded enthusiasts choose to look at first, especially in light of the fact that the SC-27 is a more recent design that in some respects provides an even broader mix of features than its big brother.
Because the SC-27, like most high-end AVRs of Japanese provenance, is chockfull of advanced features, it would be easy to assume the receiver focuses primarily on elaborate technical gongs and whistles, but frankly that is missing the central point. At heart, what the SC-27 is really all about is achieving the best possible sound quality at a sensible price—something it does very well. Perhaps a small anecdote will make this point clear.
At a recent presentation at CEDIA Expo 2009, I heard a talk given by THX representatives who pointed out that their THX Ultra2 Plus certification rating is difficult to earn. In fact, the THX people emphasized that while many manufacturers have tried and failed, Pioneer is to date the only firm to have its Class D amplifier systems (as used in the SC-27 and a small handful of other Pioneer receivers) achieve full THX Ultra2 Plus certification. But what is even more telling, the THX spokesman said, is the fact that Pioneer did not immediately go to market once its class D receivers earned Ultra2 Plus approval. The reason? Pioneer felt that, good though its newly certified designs were, they did not quite meet the stringent sound quality standards Pioneer hoped to achieve with its new, top-tier Elite models. So, Pioneer delayed release of its Class D-powered receivers over a year until it had tweaked and tuned their sound to even higher levels.
Helping Pioneer in the tweaking and tuning process were the good folks at AIR studios, who have awarded the SC-27 with official AIR Studios Monitor Sound Tuning Certification—tuning that has essentially become an integral element within Pioneer’s next-generation Advanced MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration and Control) automated room/speaker EQ/setup system. The result is a receiver whose sound is muscular and full-bodied, yet full of nuance, refinement, transparency and detail.
Consider this AVR if: You want an A/V receiver whose up-to-the-minute technical features are not easily outgrown, yet whose primary emphasis is where it should be: on sound quality. Consider this model if you want most of the sound quality of a $5k-$7k receiver, but at a $2k price. Finally, consider the SC-27 if you’re a die-hard A/V enthusiast who enjoys tweaking and fine-tuning the performance of his/her system; the SC-27 provides far more extensive tuning and set-up options than most other AVRs we’ve tried.
Look further if: Technical complexity frightens or confuses you. The SC-27 is not particularly hard to use or understand, but neither is it a dirt-simple, set-it-and-forget-it receiver. Like many products targeted toward knowledgeable enthusiasts, it offers some very advanced set-up and operational modes that can and do take extra time and effort to master. This receiver is a killer performer, but to get the most out of it you must study its manual carefully.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced AVRs)