Pioneer SC-LX704 Review: Surprisingly diverse functionality
The Pioneer SC-LX704 model occupies the second position from the top in the new receiver catalog, in terms of possibilities it is inferior only to the most elite device with the index 904. I will say right away that it differs from the flagship only in the number of amplification channels (nine versus eleven) and only slightly – in their power (205 W against 215 W). In other words, we have before us the same flagship, only adapted for a room of not too defiant dimensions.
To begin with, I want to share what has long been sore. I don’t know why, but the designers of absolutely all electronic brands have clearly decided that the original interesting design is contraindicated for receivers, like alcohol during pregnancy.
For many years they have been trying their best to perfect a black rectangular box with two large drums and a hinged door between them, but they do not want to move away from this archaic template even half a step. I bet that the one who decides on it first will increase the sales of their devices by hundreds of percent.
And within the usual design concept, the Pioneer SC-LX704B is almost flawless. Basically, the visual reputation of this big guy is formed, oddly enough, by small details: thin bevels on massive knobs, unobtrusive illumination of the power button, which echoes with small blue inserts on the fluorescent screen, a small “chin” on the door … As a result, the device looks stern but not boring – and quite stylish.
A thousand little things
Throwing back the lid on the facade, I found a scattering of small buttons containing everything you need to do without the remote control in case of anything. There is also a complete gentleman’s set of front switching: headphone jacks and a calibration microphone, USB and HDMI ports.
But the real abundance was hidden, of course, in the back panel. There are three HDMI outputs alone: based on a flat panel, a projector and a second zone monitor. There are six inputs – and it is very difficult for me to imagine a situation that even in the most spreading real setup they would not be enough.
It is interesting that Pioneer does not indicate the version of this interface in any official document. However, judging by the support for 4K / 60p with full 4: 4: 4 color coding (for 8-bit colors) and the lack of 8K support, we are dealing with some intermediate option, superior to HDMI 2.0b, but not getting to HDMI 2.1. By the way, the HDCP content protection system of the latest version 2.3 is implemented here.
Among other useful chips, we note five digital ports for sound (two coaxial + three optical), a pair of jacks for controlling external devices and connecting additional infrared sensors and, of course, a fair number of acoustic terminals.
The SC-LX704B has nine amplification channels, but eleven speakers can be connected to it – and that’s not counting two subwoofers. This feature is useful for scoring one or two additional zones and / or organizing biumping on the front channels. But our hero has as many as eleven preamplifier channels, so its functionality can be further expanded using an external amplifier.
So we got to the functionality, which formally has nothing to do with the word “receiver” – and nevertheless, it defines the steepness and advancement of a modern multi-channel setup.
Let’s start with multiroom. Pulling wires to the speakers in the next room – today, of course, terry retrograde. That is why the “seven hundred and fourth” is able to work in the FlareConnect ecosystem. This wireless streaming platform was created a couple of years ago by Pioneer and Onkyo. Sound streams in it are transmitted over a dual-band Wi-Fi network (5 / 2.4 GHz), and online services or file storages can act as sources of content.
By the way, the SC-LX704B can work directly with Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and TuneIn internet radio aggregator. In addition to FlareConnect, DTS Play-Fi and Sonos multi-room technologies are supported, but to control all this variety, just install the Pioneer Remote App on your smartphone. However, if you are focusing on DTS Play-Fi, it makes sense to additionally use the Pioneer Music Control program.
Of course, you can simply send music to the receiver via Bluetooth, but in this case the basic SBC or AAC codecs will be used, since aptX is not supported. But the SC-LX704B understands the AirPlay 2 and Chromecast protocols, is certified for Roon compatibility and can be controlled by Alexa or Google Assistant voice assistants.
Attack from above, blows from below
It is clear that nine channels of amplification are needed for the “seven hundred and fourth”, first of all, to build a setup with support for upper Dolby Atmos channels. The most optimal configurations in this case are 5.2.4 and 7.2.2. Although, by purchasing a two-channel power amplifier like the Pioneer A-40AE, you can build 7.2.4.
By the way, regarding the two, which indicates the number of subwoofer channels. The sound stream at their outputs gets the same, but a pair of bass machines will help to organize the low-frequency field as correctly as possible in a large space of a complex configuration. Moreover, the ratio of the input signal levels to them can be changed, and the advanced auto-calibration system MCACC Pro is able to accurately adjust the phase shifts on any channel in all parts of the frequency range. In short, the SC-LX704B has very serious opportunities to compensate for standing waves and other quirks of architectural acoustics.
Among other interesting features, we note the IMAX Enhanced certificate, which confirms that the sound of this receiver corresponds to the views of the famous cinema network on home cinema. There is also a Dolby Atmos / Dolby Surround Upmixing system, which expands the spatial characteristics of phonograms with a small number of real channels.
The SC-LX704B sound path is built on the sixth generation of Direct Energy HD pulse amplifiers. The power of each of the nine channels reaches 205 W – this is in the case of a single channel operating on a 6-ohm load with a distortion level of about 1%. If there are two channels, then with an impedance of 8 ohms and THD <0.08%, the declared power is 135 W.
Two 8-channel ES9026PRO DACs from ESS Technology are responsible for the digital-to-analog conversion. These chips are part of the elite Saber family and boast an intrinsic dynamic range of 124 dB with a total distortion level (THD + N) of -110 dB.
In the mode of playing stereo tracks, the receiver can work with digital streams or files up to 24 bit / 192 kHz (PCM) or DSD up to 11.2 MHz.
As for video, the internal matrix is capable of switching signals up to 4K / 60p / 4: 4: 4/24 bit or 4K / 24p / 4: 4: 4/36 bit. At the same time, HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range formats pass through the receiver in their original form, but Dolby Vision dynamic tags, apparently, are lost along the way, although the output image appears.
Control and order
The “seven hundred and fourth” weighs 15.5 kg – a very impressive figure for a device with pulse amplification. The main culprit of the solid weight is also visible through the upper grill – a huge network transformer. Surprisingly, the power consumption of our big guy is declared at the level of only 310 watts.
Whatever it was, but in the sound signature of the Pioneer SC-LX704B, first of all, I would like to note exactly the stability and solidity. Not the least role here belongs to a very efficient auto-calibration system, which copes well with the asymmetric position of the reflecting and absorbing surfaces, and with the not optimal placement of the ceiling radiators. As a result, multichannel tracks do not lose focus, and virtual objects are perfectly positioned in space.
In a word, the volume of the scene, and the accuracy in details, and the controllability of the sound, which is complex in terms of spectral composition, were very pleasing. As for the dynamics, it will mostly be determined by your subwoofers. The MCACC Pro system will help to match them with the main mix in phase and level, but, of course, it will not add power-to-weight or bass depth to them – so it’s better not to save on bass machines.
Now about the music. The developers are clearly not in vain settled on the ESS Saber DACs. Their exhaustively detailed, crystalline character is perfect for building a whole sphere of cinema sound, verified to the smallest detail, around the audience. In stereo reproduction, this specificity is preserved, and many will certainly like this character. Unless there will be a little less softness and warm lively breath in it than connoisseurs of genres like vocal chamber jazz are used to hearing.
Interestingly, the recordings in DSD start to sound as close as possible to the highres in PCM. But I would not write down such a craving for refined specifics as a disadvantage.
After all, this is not a tube amplifier for top-end headphones, but a multi-room combine, obliged to clearly, clearly and energetically convey musical material to bedside wireless speakers, to built-in Atmos emitters, and to a whole swarm of surround speakers. And our hero copes with this multifaceted task perfectly.