The SC-27 features a well-designed graphical user interface, many aspects of which are self-explanatory but some of which are not. I found—and this point cannot be overstressed—that you really must read the manual (and read it carefully) to make full use of all the setup options and controls that Pioneer has provided. One caveat and small criticism I would offer is that Pioneer sometimes tends to bury incredibly important (though at first, seemingly inconsequential) details in the footnotes of its manual text.
For example, when first working with the SC-27’s setup menus I found that a number of expected setup options were—for reasons I could not guess at the time—unavailable to me. Only later on did I discover a manual footnote, which explained that when the receiver’s available KURO LINK feature was turned on, a number of menu options were automatically turned off (go figure). The only way to gain access to the full array of setup menu options, the manual explained, was to enter a different menu and turn off the KURO LINK feature beforehand. The longer I worked with the SC-27, the more I found other features and functions that could only be accessed through specific (and sometimes counterintuitive) procedures described down in the “fine print” of the manual text.
The good news is that the SC-27 will let you do almost anything you might want to do (and frequently offers options that might not have occurred to you). But the not-so-good news is that you’ve got to study the manual in order to unlock all the technical tricks and treasures and delights this receiver holds in store for you.
The SC-27 comes with a partially backlit, LCD panel-equipped learning remote control. When users toggle a light on/off button, the most frequently used controls light up with a soft red glow, while the small LCD panel is illuminated with a soft white backlight. A sliding cover panel on the heel of the remote covers over less frequently used button until they are needed. On the whole, I found the remote extremely easy to learn and to use on a day-to-day basis, although the remote—like the rest of the SC-27—becomes much easier to master if you read the manual first.
The Pioneer’s built-in scaler did a good but not great job of upscaling lower resolution analog sources to HD levels. However, on the full battery of tests from the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD, I found that the Pioneer’s processor did not perform quite as well as some of the video processors used in competing receivers in this price class, nor could it match the exemplary performance of the Anchor Bay VRS processor used in our reference Oppo BD-83 Blu-ray/universal player.
When I fed the Pioneer 480i component video test signals from the HQV Benchmark DVD, I found the Receiver stumbled in three areas: on the disc’s notoriously difficult battery of jaggies tests, where some rough edges were apparent; on the Film Detail tests where the Pioneer had initial problems with moiré patterns (on the famous racecar-passing-in-front-of-empty-grandstands scene); and on some of the Cadence tests, where fine line details and overall motion sometimes exhibited momentary roughness.
When fed high-resolution video material via component video (up to 1080i) or HDMI (up to 1080p), however, the SC-27 proved a faultless and noise free video signal switcher—one that could convert component video signals for HDMi output without any hitches or glitches.
In a lot of ways it makes sense to talk about the sonic character of the SC-27 in two distinctly different lights. First, there is the core sound of the SC-27’s amplifier sections without any EQ or other digital signal processing applied, and then there is the sound of the receiver after the Advanced MCACC system is brought into play. The pure, unadorned sound of this receiver is, as I said above, muscular and full-bodied, yet also rich in inner details and delicacy and capable of excellent transient speed. Over time, I’ve had many opportunities to listen to various ICEpower amplifier implementations, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them I’ve also held out a concern that some had a slightly dark, subdued sound that could under some circumstances suppress high frequency details and the sense of “air” surrounding instruments. But impressively, it’s in precisely these areas where the SC-27 excels; it sounds noticeably more open, transparent, and revealing than many of the ICEpower designs I’ve heard in the past. Good job, Pioneer.