Pioneer Steps Up Elite AVRs


Long Beach, Calif. - Pioneer is expanding its Elite series of A/V receivers (AVRs) up in price point and adding such new features to select models as 4k by 2k HDMI passthrough, front-panel HDMI inputs with Mobile High Definition Link compatibility, and dedicated zone-2 subwoofer output.

One of the five new AVRs adds a 192kHz/32-bit asynchronous USB DAC, said to be the industry's first in an AVR, for ultra-high quality music file playback from a USB-connected PC or Mac. In the line, the company is also expanding proprietary Class D3 amplifier technology to all five models from last year's two, expanding DTS Neo:X post-processing to three models from two, and topping out the line at a suggested $2,500, up from $2,000.

The new Elite receivers, available in June, are the $1,100-suggested 7.2-channel SC-61, $1,300 7.2-channel SC-63, $1,600 9.2-channel SC-65, $2,000 9.2-channel SC-67, and $2,500 9.2-channel SC-68. They will join the $650 VSX-60 and $450 VSC-42, which were announced earlier this year. In the coming weeks, the company will announce another Elite model to fill the price bap between $650 and $1,100.

Of the new models, the $1,600 SC-65 and $2,000 SC-67 are THX Select 2 Plus-certified, the $2,500 SC-68 is THX Ultra 2 Plus-certified, and the $2,000 SC-67 and $2,500 SC-68 add additional certification from London's Air Studios recording studios.

Key changes in the line include the addition of 4k by 2k HDMI passthrough in the $1,600, $2,000 and $2,500 models and an expansion of DTS Neo:X post-processing surround technology to three models starting at $1,600. Neo:X up-mixes stereo and multichannel audio programs to as many as 11.1 channels by adding a pair of front-height speakers and a pair of front-wide speakers.

The new line also adds a second HDMI zone to the top two four-zone AVRs, which also feature an HD-compatible component-video output for one of the four zones. The other AVRs are three-zone models with one component-video zone.

Also new is zone 2 subwoofer output, available in all five new models, which also feature dual subwoofer outputs in the main zone.

Other new features appearing in Elite for the first time include Direct Stream Digital (SACD)-compatible front-panel USB port in the top two models and, also in the top model, the industry's first 192kHz/32-bit asynchronous USB DAC for music-file playback from a USB-connected PC or Mac.

Now expanded to five models from two, Pioneer's Class D3 amplifier technology is promoted as delivering high efficiency while driving all channels simultaneously without a significant loss in continuous per-channel power output. The technology is said to ensure high dynamic range, lower impedance support, and high-quality sound, even if multiple zones are playing at once.

Like before, the Elite AVRs are networked models that incorporate Apple's AirPlay, DLNA 1.5, Windows 7 compatibility, Internet radio, PC setup control, Advanced MCACC automatic room calibration, multiple HDMI 1.4a inputs with HDMI audio return channel, and Dolby ProLogic IIz, which adds two front-height speakers to a typical 5.1-speaker setup.

Also like previous models, the new models feature virtual speaker technology to deliver phantom height, width, depth and surround channels without speakers dedicated to those applications. 

Other carryover features include vTuner Internet radio, SiriusXM Internet radio, Pandora, optional Wi-Fi adapter, optional stereo Bluetooth adapter, and ability to play 192kHz/24-bit FLAC and WAV music filed via a home network or USB port. DACs with 192kHz/32-bit upconversion start with the $1,600 model and are also new to the Elite series.

Other new features include PC setup and remote monitoring by custom installers in the SC-63 and up. In addition, for the first time, volume, tone and balance control is available on zone pre-outs, not just zone speaker-level outputs.

Also for the first time, HDMI standby passthrough works with any source, not just sources equipped with CEC.

The new models carry over compatibility with Pioneer's proprietary apps for iOS handheld devices, including the iControlAV2012 control apps and Air Jam, which lets multiple users create a combined playlist of Bluetooth-streamed songs from mobile devices.

Other features common to all include compressed-video enhancer feature, which improves the picture quality of video streamed from the Internet through such sources as connected Blu-ray players, and an advanced video adjust feature, which optimizes video settings individually for each connected video source as well as optimize the video output for plasma, LCD or front-projector display technologies.

 The AVRs also feature Qdeo 1080p/24fps up-scaling from analog and digital video sources.

As for inputs and outputs, the $1,100 SC-61 features six HDMI ins and one out, and the $1,300 and $1,600 models feature seven HDMI ins and two outs. The $2,000 and $2,500 models add a third HDMI output.

In the coming weeks, Pioneer also plans to announce two more mainstream-series AVRs at price points above $599.


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