Pioneer SC-57 9.1 A/V Receiver


The Pioneer SC-57 Receiver In Use

For the first few days with the Pioneer, I had just recently moved and the screen for my theater hadn't arrived, so I used it just for music playback for a little bit. The new Pink Floyd SACD remaster of "Wish You Were Here" has just arrived and it was as good as anything to test out the updated Class D amps. When people that haven't heard Class D in a long time talk about it, they will say the sound is thin, brittle, harsh, and even abrasive at the top end. This might have been the case a few years ago, but it was not the case with the Pioneer. The solo guitar that opens the title track on WYWH came through clear and detailed, but without any harsh edge to it. Once the rest of the band came in, the SACD surrounded me listening chair, but I had no trouble locating where everything was supposed to be in the mix. Bass was clear and tight, and the top end sounded crisp but not harsh. When given wonderful material to play, the Pioneer did a good job with it.

For most of my music listening now, I go completely media free using either my networked music server, or Spotify. The Pioneer has its Home Media Gallery function that allows for playback of audio from your DLNA devices, which includes my Synology NAS. With support for most common audio formats, including 24/96 FLAC files, my entire library was available for me to play back through the Pioneer. The 24/96 version of Alison Kraus & Union Stations most recent album "Paper Airplane" sounded fantastic. I used Ethernet for all of my streaming so I can't be sure how much buffer there is in the Pioneer, but I had no issues with skipping or other glitches. Cover art came across correctly as well, which had been an issue on the SC-27. The sound was again big with a huge soundstage, clear presentation with instruments, and a very smooth sound.
For Spotify, the Pioneer does not have a native app for it, but I can use AirPlay with my iPhone to listen it quite easily. Once I launch Spotify and begin to play back something, I can just send it to the SC-57 with a couple button presses and then control the volume and playback straight from my phone. This was sending the audio over WiFi twice (from the Internet to the phone, then from the phone to the Pioneer) but I didn't have any issues here, and it was great. Unfortunately Spotify only does lower bitrate audio when streaming to an iPhone, but MOG and others could do 320 kb/sec audio for AirPlay if you wanted something better than background quality. AirPlay didn't sell me when it was first announced, but after using it over the past few months, it's a really nice thing to have.

With stereo listening, I was previously a huge fan of MCACC and what it did for the soundstage without losing details or muddying the soundstage. This time the effect was not nearly as drastic, but that does come with a couple caveats. Since I last had an SC-series receiver, I've moved into a room that is far better designed for audio, and allows me to have a speaker layout that is much more optimal than before. In this case, there is much less for the Pioneer to correct than there had been before. With any room correction system, the less they have to do, the better it is. I still think that MCACC is a very good room correction system if you want to do serious stereo listening, though it's advantage over Audyssey has vanished with the release of MultEQ XT32.

Once the screen and projector were installed, it was time to test the SC-57 with some multichannel films. No soundtrack this year might be any better for a home theater than that of Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon. The film might be cheesy and full of ridiculous dialogue, but it serves better than anything for showing off what a home theater can do. The sound effects of Shockwave's Driller surround you and would bring across the terror of the scene if it weren't a bit ridiculous at the same time. Through all of this I would push the Pioneer to reference levels and my ears would give in from the extreme levels far before the Pioneer would.

Going back to titles I have watched countless times, such as Cars and Cars 2 (parents with young sons out there understand this), the Pioneer brought the details across, and even revealed things I had missed in all of my prior viewings. The race sequence in Porto Corsa in the 2nd film would put you right inside of the racecars with the sounds of the scenery flying by me. Both father and son enjoyed sitting down and watching the movie, with the Pioneer keeping us pulled in.

All during my use, the SC-57 made me sometimes wonder why I go through the extra cables and expenses of separates in my system. The sound was fantastic, and I found myself wishing that Pioneer would sell the amp section on its own so I could experiment with it and my regular processor. The amp section really is second-to-none on the receivers that I have tested over the years, and the Class D nature also means that it is efficient and you can move the receiver without help. I did feel that it reduced the output of the subwoofers a little too much, though I was able to adjust that with the controls on the subs themselves after running MCACC.