Receivers

Pioneer SC27 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

My first challenge in setting up the Pioneer SC-27 was the height of the receiver. The fact that it's almost 8" tall makes it a bit taller than most receivers out there, and it wasn't going to easily fit on my shelf in my AV rack. After a little bit of re-arrangement, I managed to fit it in with enough airflow to prevent any overheating issues with the amplifier section. Hooking up a receiver is much easier now with HDMI cables, as aside from 4 HDMI cables, the only other connections I need to make were a single component cable (a Nintendo Wii), two stereo cables (the Wii, and a Music Hall turntable), and finally an Ethernet cable for the Home Media Gallery feature. After everything was connected, the first thing I always do is run the room correction feature on any receiver to see how well it detects my speakers, and if the room correction it provides can make a noticeable improvement in the sound.

Pioneer's MCACC works very differently than Audyssey, in that it's designed around a single main listening position, whereas Audyssey is designed to try to correct the audio for a large number of listening positions. Pioneer believes that current receivers don't have the computing power to do the calculations for audio at multiple positions and so they choose to focus on a single seating location. As soon as I hooked up the microphone to the front panel, the SC-27 did a quick run-through of all the speakers to try to verify that they were connected, in phase, and what size they were.

Once it got to my subwoofer, it stopped and refused to continue, telling me that the level on my subwoofer was too high to accurately work. I used the LFE input on my subwoofer that bypasses all the controls and lets the receiver control the crossover and volume, but I had never run into this before. Audyssey would typically set my subwoofer to the minimum level possible (typically -10 db), but always ran. To enable MCACC to continue I needed to connect to the standard input on my sub, set the crossover to maximum (so the SC-27 could still control that), and then change the volume level until MCACC would allow me to continue. Given that my wife and I always have felt that the Audyssey settings for the system has too much bass, I was quite happy to see that Pioneer made me correct this issue before the calibration would move on.

Pioneer SC27 Receiver

Pioneer SC27 Receiver

Once that was set, MCACC continued through with it's series of test tones for each speaker, and then spent a while doing calculations after those were completed. The SC-27 is able to connect to a PC via a serial cable so that you can view the results from the calibration and see the initial values, and the corrected values. I was able to save these corrections on the receiver in one of six spots (so I could calibrate for multiple seating positions, and then use the setting for whatever seat I wanted to use at that time), as well as save the results to my PC so I can view them later.

The ability to view the results on a PC was much easier than viewing them on a display (which you can do, but there isn't as much detail), but as most computers now don't have serial ports I'm hoping that in the future you will be able to connect to the receiver over Ethernet to view this information, as that would simplify things and make this feature available to more users. The settings that MCACC chose for distance and crossover for all of my speakers looked to be correct within an inch or two, and the ability to quick switch between having MCACC enabled or disabled would make a comparison of how effective it was later easy, though I'd recommend at least using it for speaker distance and level measurements.

Pioneer SC27 Receiver

Pioneer SC27 Receiver

Pioneer SC27 Receiver

Pioneer SC27 Receiver

After MCACC had completed, I wanted to setup all of the inputs for my devices so the names would have some meaning, and I could disable those that I am not using to make it quicker to move between them. Pioneer lets you rename all of the inputs with the remote, but unfortunately you choose the letters using Up and Down on the remote, instead of displaying a virtual keyboard on the screen as Onkyo does. It takes a while to rename the inputs this way, but once it is done you probably won't need to do it again in the future unless you change a piece of gear.

I also went through and disabled those inputs that I was not going to use (one of the HDMI inputs, almost all of the analog inputs, as well as the radio tuners) so when I used the front panel dial to switch between inputs, I wouldn't have to deal with those showing up. Overall the input configuration was quick and easy, though adding an on-screen keyboard, or the ability to configure this over Ethernet, would be a nice addition.

As I was eager to utilize the iPod interface (which is also iPhone compatible, making it one of the few that is iPhone compatible at the moment), I hooked up the cable to the front panel and went to listen to the recent Beatles remasters from my iPhone, and then stopped. Having accidentally dropped my iPhone once and had to pay to have the screen replaced, I make sure to have a heavy duty case on it at all times, as do most of my friends.

While the standard iPhone cable works fine with it, as does my car charger, when they designed the iPod cable at Pioneer they didn't follow the same design and have a large, fat base next to the iPod connector so that it won't fit on any iPod or iPhone with a case. This meant that anytime I wanted to use the Pioneer to play music off of my iPhone, or my wife's iPhone, I would have to completely remove the case to attach the cable, and then put the case back on when I was done. Since Pioneer could easily fix this usability flaw by simply changing the connector, I hope they will do that in the future and offer a replacement cable to the existing owners as well.