In the past I have always been an avid Onkyo/Integra fan. Then I started liking Denon/Marantz. And in the past year I have been floored with McIntosh and their exceptionally clear sounding MX151. My tastes have always been in favor of Onkyo/Integra for sports and Denon/Marantz for movies. So in comes a Pioneer SC-79 Elite Receiver which is the first Pioneer to enter my theater in quite some time. Pioneer has always had a legendary status in the audio world. Not knowing what to expect when I first hooked it up I began doing the Auto Calibration or MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration). I always favored Audyssey and Room Perfect over anything else out there. After setting up the included mic on my tripod I positioned it and began. Pioneer claims the results will be like a professional recording engineer fine-tuned your home theater system. I couldn't agree more. Looking at the back you can see how HDMI rules the universe these days. You get a total of 9 in and 3 out! You also get 3 component inputs (you remember the Green Blue and Red RCAs?) and one out. Not to mention Optical and Coax. I like DirecTV using Coax for sports. Seems louder! Then there's USB, Trigger Outs and HDBaseT HDZone output which is converting the video signal (4K,3D,1080p) to LAN cable transmission which can send it up to 100 meters away! One of the newer important features today is the LAN connection. Being able to control you component by and iPad of iPhone makes life easier. Pioneer uses iControlAV. It is executed really well. Pics below. For you pre-pro fans (like me) you get all the channel outs you need. For the purpose of this Review I used the SC-79 as a Receiver though I also connected it up to my Parasound A51s (Reviewed here) and compared it directly to my McIntosh MX151 (Reviewed here). In the pre-pro battle I actually favored the SC-79 with Sports though the MX151 does not do Height sound. For Movies nothing has beat the MX151 with its detailed clarity but the SC-79 with DTS Neo:X + THX Cinema was in the fight! And that's saying something considering the $9500 MSRP difference!
Below are some set up pics. Some people may complain about the basic GUI but as long as it has a good flow and is easy then who cares? The volume OSD is simple and looks neat (far right pic). The pics below are from the Pioneer App. It incorporates everything from doing the volume to input to advanced features like EQ adjusting and internet radio control. You can also use Push Player and play music stored on your phone or iPad. Now that is cool!
The SC-79 immediately updated itself. Easy!
The GUI is simple to navigate.
The Volume OSD is unobtrusive.
Is that Sir Charles standing off to the left?
Love the goofy girl behind them!
Even commercials looked good!
My new favorite sign!
It actually works-lol...
Let's skip sound and jump right into the SC-79's video processing. It uses Marvell's Qdeo technology which has a pretty good track record. I tested it with DirecTV sports and a couple movies. The results reminded me of my favorite Onkyo Receivers that in my opinion have always had the best video scaling in any receiver. The adjustments included are interesting. Especially the P.Motion. It adjusts the motion and still picture quality when video output is set to progressive. For sports this had a cool effect on motion. Instant replays looked cleaner. The 4K upscale is not terrible. Though if you have a 4K display they may be about equal in performance. I do like the 1080p output. There are also video parameters depending on which display you have. A Memory setting as well with an abundance of settings for LCD, Projector, etc. Those are personal taste decisions. Best bet is to experiment. I suspect this is display dependent.
So enough about video how does it sound? I want to first state that I never was a big fan of THX on the Onkyo models. I rarely used it. That is completely the opposite with the SC-79. It makes a huge movie difference when engaged with DTS Neo: X. It takes the soundtrack to the next level. I actually did an A/B now twice with two different audiences. Each time it was unanimous in favor of THX. Same goes for sports and using the Dolby Digital Heights mode. I add THX and we are in business. I have always loved Height speakers and the way you hear the crowd or sometimes the QB barking out signals in them. During movies you hear rain perfectly which gives the sensation of it falling above you. And also bullets and overhead planes whooshing over your head. For Heights I am using Martin Logan Vanquish Reviewed here. They are terrific In-Ceiling speakers. I have been using the ML Descent i (now for sale so I can Review their new BalancedForce 212s) subwoofer with remarkable results. A home theater is only as strong as its front room and I have had the best sound with their Theos (Fronts) and their Stage X (Center). I Reviewed them here. So how are movies on the SC-79?
Company Apps are getting better and better. I was pleasantly surprised how well Pioneer integrates their components with them. Very cool!
The first movie I tested was the opening of Oblivion. When Tom Cruise begins talking you completely become immersed into the movie. I picked up on a few things which sounded very good. When he takes a bite out of the toast his "Effective Teammate" is holding you can hear him crunching away. Using the Neo: X mode with THX engaged proved to be the best results for movie theater like conditions. His ship was flying all over the room. Each speaker was concise as the entire room was enveloped. Next stop was Frozen 3D. This musical turned the room into a concert venue. Or maybe at least like a "Play" atmosphere. We were really impressed with the voices of the characters and the nice mix of surround effects. And as you can see below I decided to go "old school" and check out Lucas THX classics with
Star Wars. Even the older films sounded terrific with their DTS-HD Master 6.1 soundtrack. And with my new larger screen (Review here) I had as much eye candy as I did ear candy. I suggest if you haven't watched them in awhile give them a try with today's newer components. Darth Vader is still as eerie as he was back in the day with his deep breaths. In case you are wondering the FORCE was with the SC-79!
Star Wars R2 D2 on the Sony VPL-VW1100ES.
Speaking of Star Wars the remote (pic above to the right) lights up red like Darth Maul. It is very skinny and easy to navigate. There are direct buttons for channel level, signal select, Video and Audio parameters, Home Menu, Zone directs and input selects. Also you can pick which sound mode you want. Advanced Surround picks are Pioneer's Action, Drama, Advanced Game, Sports,Rock/Pop, Classical and FS Surround. Standard are the various Dolby Digital and DTS and THX Audio is obviously THX modes. You also get Status, MCACC, HDMI Out etc... Overall I think it is a nice remote and works well. Many will use a Universal type remote like a Harmony 1100 (which is what I have). The Volume buttons on the right are easy to feel with the mute button. I was able to program my DirecTV remote with the Pioneer's commands. It only took one try with the first code.
Briefly. The music I listened to had a concert feel. Two channel music (for you fans out there) is very good but of course some credit there also goes to the ML Theos. I like just about every type of music and with my variety I was not disappointed once. The SC-79 can do it all...
Final thoughts... The Pioneer does have dialog Enhancement for its sound modes. The amount of flexibility and its options is definitely strong enough to make it contend with the best of the best. One of my favorites is making sure Hi-bit 32 is engaged. How many other Receivers and pre-pros allow you to make sure the "good stuff" is being utilized? And if you happen to have "only" 7 speakers you can still use DTS Neo: X. Just make sure you check out the various features and settings. Make your ears happy!
Pioneer's philosophy is dedicated to making your home theater listening experience as close as possible to the vision of the moviemakers and mastering engineer when they created the original soundtrack. With the Pioneer SC-79 that mission has been accomplished! The truth is I was planning this Review to be a "one-off" like a one night stand from my single days. I was completely taken by surprise with the sound performance. I am definitely keeping it!
Special thanks to my "one-off" who I ended up marrying. Jaclyn has been a great sport during many of my Reviews! Love her patience while I test things. Just remember, happy wife equals happy home theater.
Equipment used for all or part of this Review:
Simplay Labs DVDO DUO VP, Pioneer SC-79 Receiver/pre-pro, McIntosh MX151, DirecTV Genie, Xbox 360, PS3, Monster Power HTS 5100, Oppo 103D Blu ray, Monster/Optoma, Sony, Xpand 3D glasses, Parasound HALO A51 AMP x 2, Antec Component Coolers, Vutec SilverStar Curved 3D 133" Screen, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN STAGE X Center, THEOS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (Surrounds & Heights), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofer- Martin Logan DESCENT i, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP x 2, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs, Remote: Harmony 1100. Monster 1000 HDX Ultimate HDMI cables top to bottom. And two Monster 35 foot HDX Hyperspeed HDMI cables.
Leggo loves the Pioneer SC-79's box!
Tap here to go to Pioneer and read more about the SC-79.
UP NEXT: MARTIN LOGAN'S NEW BALANCEDFORCE 212 SUBWOOFERS with PBK (Perfect Bass Kit).
Review Coming Soon.
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