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Pioneer SC-LX801 Review: Quality at the highest level

If you have to choose between multi-channel and higher quality, choose quality – or rather, refuse to compromise, because with the Pioneer SC-LX801 you can get both. With nine output stages and two subwoofer outputs, this receiver takes full advantage of the potential of DTS: X and Dolby Atmos object-based cinema sound formats, with full UHD and 4K upscaling at the highest quality.

When it comes to sound quality, laboratory measurements and auditory tests are unambiguous: high continuous power without fatigue, natural, dynamic sound and the best energy efficiency have been hallmarks of Pioneer’s Direct Energy HD amplification technology for many years.

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And this was recognized even by the sound engineers from the London company Air Studios, who, after careful testing, awarded the receiver the coveted Monitor certificate. As a rule, at home, music is more often listened to directly from the Internet than from a mixing console. But that shouldn’t affect the quality in any way, since in addition to Spotify, the Pioneer SC-LX801 also supports Deezer and Tidal’s lossless streaming music services.

Achieving master studio quality from local NAS is a breeze as the DLNA server streaming function of new Pioneer devices also plays high-definition files up to 24-bit / 192 kHz and DSD audio format at nearly 4x the sample rate (DSD256, 11 , 2 MHz). However, this does not exhaust the capabilities of the new device. In the receiver Pioneer SC-LX801,

New formats of soundtracks for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X films have given strength to the abated arms race of AV receivers. The question of the number of amplification channels has become relevant again. And if the usual seven channels are enough to just touch the possibilities hidden in the new object-oriented formats, then in order to taste them, more is needed. Today, the sweet spot for an AV receiver is nine onboard power amplifiers.

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We have already talked in detail about the new theatrical format of Dolby Atmos movie soundtracks. The advantages of object-oriented formats are most fully realized in large commercial cinemas with many discrete channels. An adaptation of the standards has been made for home theaters. The maximum configuration for a multichannel home theater system Dolby Atmos and DTS: X today is 7.2.4. That is, the standard 7.2 surround circuitry is complemented by four ceiling speakers. As you can easily calculate, to implement such a concept without the help of external power amplifiers, the AV-receiver must be equipped with 11 channels of amplification.

In the Pioneer nomenclature, these requirements are met by the top model of the LX series – Pioneer SC-LX901, which we talked about a year ago. Today, in our laboratory, the next flagship model is the Pioneer SC-LX801. It differs from its older brother only one thing – a smaller number of amplification channels. There are nine of them. At the same time, the amplifiers themselves are proprietary Direct Energy HD modules, here are the same as in the top model. Operating in class D and characterized by high efficiency, these amplifiers eliminate the need for heavy and bulky power transformers and heat sinks for cooling the output stages. As a result, an AV receiver with nine or even eleven amplification channels is relatively compact and lightweight.

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The AV receiver’s nine amplification channels allow for a 7.2.2 surround configuration with two overhead speakers, or the potentially more interesting 5.2.4 configuration when a standard 5.2 surround system is complemented by as many ceiling speakers as possible. In this case, it will be possible to fully realize the potential of the new formats using the four ceiling channels. By the way, over time, if desired, you can add an external two-channel power amplifier to the system to serve the rear rear channels – the Pioneer SC-LX801 has an 11.2 output from the pre-amplifier.

The only thing to regret is that there is no way to assign an external amplifier to serve arbitrary channels of the surround system. In the case when an existing external “assistant” superior in class to the amplifiers of the AV receiver, it is more logical to entrust him to work with the front pair of speakers, and not with the rear channels.

By means of DSP, the Pioneer SC-LX801 AV-receiver is able to optimize the sound not only for the usual placement of the height speakers on the ceiling, but also when the height channels of the surround sound system are reflected from the ceiling, when the speakers themselves are installed on top of the main ones and directed upwards. Such a home theater installation is much simpler, therefore the value of this functionality cannot be overestimated. but also when the upper channels of the surround sound system are reflected from the ceiling, when the speakers themselves are installed on top of the main ones and directed upwards.

Such a home theater installation is much simpler, therefore the value of this functionality cannot be overestimated. but also when the upper channels of the surround sound system are reflected from the ceiling, when the speakers themselves are installed on top of the main ones and directed upwards. Such a home theater installation is much simpler, therefore the value of this functionality cannot be overestimated.

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The video subsystem of the Pioneer SC-LX801 is the same as that of the top model. The device is completely ready to work with modern UltraHD Blu-ray optical disc players. Today it has become relevant for our movie lovers as well – the first localized releases in this format have appeared in stores.

Along with support for Ultra HD resolution, the video subsystem of the Pioneer SC-LX801 AV receiver is compatible with HDR10 (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision technologies, supports extended color gamut according to the Rec. 2020 standard with 10-bit color coding and a new content protection system HDCP 2.2. Moreover, the receiver is not only capable of switching such a signal – the Pioneer SC-LX801 can scale video up to 4K resolution, as well as, if necessary, pre-convert analog signals from composite or component video inputs into digital form. There is also a component video output, although today the use of display devices with analog interfaces can be classified as exotic.

The two HDMI outputs of the Pioneer SC-LX801 receiver can work in parallel, which will be useful when building complex AV systems with two display devices. For example, with a projector for watching movies and a TV for watching TV broadcasts and games.

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The Pioneer SC-LX801 AV receiver is endowed with extensive network functionality. The built-in media player can not only play high-definition audio files from external USB drives and DLNA servers on the network, but also broadcast content from Internet streaming services Deezer, Spotify and TIDAL.

At the same time, all popular audio encoding formats are supported, including FLAC with parameters up to 24 bit / 192 kHz and DSD with parameters 2.8, 5.6 and 11.2 MHz, received via HDMI, USB or over the network. For integration into a home computer network, you can use the Ethernet RJ-45 port, or connect wirelessly – there is a dual-band Wi-Fi adapter on board the Pioneer SC-LX801 that supports protocols up to 802.11n. There is also a Bluetooth adapter for broadcasting music directly from mobile gadgets.

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When the receiver is integrated into the home computer network, it becomes possible to use your smartphone or tablet as an advanced remote control. To do this, you just need to install the Pioneer Remote App on your mobile gadget, which is available for iOS and Android operating systems.

Pioneer SC-LX801 supports not only USB connection of Apple mobile gadgets, but also wireless streaming of music from them using the Apple AirPlay protocol. Google Cast is now supported for smartphones and tablets from other manufacturers. Also, the Pioneer SC-LX801 AV receiver is able to become the center of a distributed wireless audio system. To do this, it supports FlareConnect and DTS Play-Fi technologies, combining compatible audio sources and powered speakers installed throughout the house for collaboration.

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Traditionally, for Pioneer receivers, the SC-LX801 implements automatic sound calibration for the acoustic characteristics of the MCACC Pro room, created with the participation of British AIR Studios. Based on measurements taken with an expansion microphone, this system performs equalization on each channel to equalize the resulting frequency response.

In addition, MCACC Pro effectively combats standing sound waves and is able to compensate for the room’s own resonances. The Pro version also features Full Band Phase Control and Precision Distance technology.

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The sound of the Pioneer AV receiver in the SC-LX801, when accompanied by movies, is expected to be no different from that of the top model, and in terms of its general presentation it repeats the signature style of the Pioneer LX series receivers. The dense density and scale of the sound picture created by the apparatus is complemented by the filigree precision of drawing the smallest details and accuracy when constructing the volume.

The receiver’s powerful digital platform allows for high fidelity reproduction of spatial effects, and the use of four ceiling channels adds effect to the sound, opening up the sound picture in the vertical plane. In the tense scenes of modern blockbusters, we note the high dynamic potential of the receiver – no porridge, lack of energy and loss of intelligibility of the presentation at all.

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