Some audio and home entertainment system manufacturers make home theater receivers for the average consumer market. Nowadays, prices range from $250 to around $700 with the priciest ones being more powerful and feature-rich for enthusiasts. But there is a smaller group of manufacturers that try to target every price point imaginable acknowledging those audiophiles that are willing to spend more than $1,500 on a heavy-duty AV receiver. Brands like Denon and Onkyo come to mind but Pioneer also offers a wide variety of AV receivers too. Do a quick Google search and you could find 6 AV receivers featured in Pioneer’s home page but Pioneer places many of the higher-priced AV receivers in a separate category. Pioneer calls this lineup the Elite receivers and most of them cater to installers. The Pioneer SC-65 stands as the “mid-range” model for the Elite lineup but it can be also viewed as the cheapest model of the bunch if you are looking for specific high-end features.
The SC-65 is large and features Pioneer’s usual brushed aluminum design approaches. But being an Elite model, the Pioneer SC-65 features a gold Pioneer logo on the top left and an Elite logo on the center. Unlike any of the VSX models, the buttons and ports are all hidden behind a panel. This gives you access to several buttons that operate the main features of the SC-65. Also featured include a front HDMI port and USB port.
The back end of the receiver is where the customization possibilities really shine. There is so much you can hook up to this thing including 7 additional HDMI inputs and a pair of HDMI outputs. If you have a lot of legacy home theater components, there is plenty of room for connecting devices that use component and composite cables. The only thing worth noting is that these old connection ports are no longer present on the front of the receiver.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Pioneer is attempting to differentiate itself from rest of the competition by integrating Class D3 amplifiers which basically allow receivers like the Pioneer SC-65 to push out far more power while keeping the sound quality very clear and optimal. With a Direct Signal Path Design, audio signal paths are very short and eliminate the need for current limiters. This also reduces the energy consumption while still providing 130-watt power output per channel.
With 9.2-channel support, it is possible to set up some highly complicated home theater setups including ones that span across multiple rooms. There are Zone 2 and 3 controls along with Zone 2 subwoofer output and Zone 2 on-screen display. For even more customization, you have dual 12-volt triggers, an RS-232 bus connection and IR in and outs at your disposal.
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The SC-65 also provides some good enhancements to the video quality. It uses the Advanced Qdeo Video Processing technology to provide full conversions from legacy composite and component video sources to HDMI for a full 1080p/24 fps experience. Videos perform naturally and are free from noise. It can bring out the best from your Blu-ray player and older DVD players even if these media players lack these video technologies. Each of the HDMI ports are also ready to accept 4K2K signals so you can buy a 4K display in the future without worrying about changing the AV receiver. It is also worth noting that the HDMI port on the front supports MHL so the latest smartphones can output video there while charging through the same cable.
AV receivers released several years back used to be a pain to configure unless you know exactly what you are doing. With the AVNavigator, you get the help from an interactive application and user manual. Plus, there is a full GUI that can guide you through the steps in getting started. One of these steps involve speaker calibration and this process is done automatically through the Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration feature. You don’t have to worry about how it works because the system analyzes the parameters after you properly positioned the microphone and you will be notified on what settings were adjusted after successful calibration.
The Pioneer SC-65 also functions as a feature-rich networking hub for your home theater system. If your HDTV or none of your other home theater components feature any form of network functionality, the SC-65 can enable that functionality so long as the component is on. While you won’t be able to surf the Internet through the receiver, you can still access top music streaming services like SiriusXM Radio, Pandora and vTuner. Pioneer has also been a long time partner with Apple and that results to integrated AirPlay support in all recent network-enabled AV receivers. This technology makes it very easy to stream music files from any iOS device or system with iTunes installed. Other devices that lack this proprietary technology still have workarounds such as the HTC smartphones that can use HTC Connect or the other Windows 7/8 devices that can set up a DLNA-certified media server.
Another workaround doubles as a useful utility. By downloading the free iControlAV2012 app, you can not only send music to the AV receiver from a compatible iOS or Android device but you can also use the smartphone or tablet to control nearly every aspect and setting of the receiver. While there is an included remote control, the interface of the iControlAV2012 app is more graphical and it provides a friendlier interface for advanced functionality such as multi-zone management.
With all these features and advanced specs, the Pioneer SC-65 turns out to be one of the most affordable Pioneer AV receivers with THX Select 2 Plus certification. $1,650 is a high price to pay so make sure you explore the less expensive Pioneer models first so you can compare the features. But if you like Pioneer’s technologies and you need the 9.2-channel support, the SC-65 could fit your needs nicely and the performance certainly does not disappoint. However, if you don’t need this AV receiver right away, it might be better to wait for a price drop or for Pioneer to announce its successor which could be unveiled later this year.
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