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Review: Pioneer Elite SC-89 9.2 Channel Receiver with Dolby Atmos

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Pioneer Elite SC-89 Receiver

It is always fun to break out the magnifying lens when it comes to home AVRs. We have an endless supply of speakers, headphones and content to test them with and now its time to do just that! Let’s take a look at Pioneer’s Elite SC-89 9.2 channel receiver! Pioneer, one of the biggest competitors to Yamaha besides Denon, unsurprisingly doesn’t hold anything back with this receiver (including the price tag).

The SC-89 is another Dolby Atmos compatible AVR bringing the new sound format to living rooms all over. Allowing for the extra 2-4 speakers as well as support for the Atmos speakers that use reflection to accomplish the same above-head (height) effects.

Right out of the box, it looks a lot like the other Elite series AVRs as well as slightly similar to Yamaha’s Avantage series. Really, in the end, most receivers look similar in one way or another as manufacturers don’t always go above and beyond to make it any different (unless it’s someone like B&O of course). The design is very slick and undoubtedly would compliment any viewing and/or listening environment.

On the back side, you will find all of the inputs you would hope to find in a flagship receiver. We will start with the HDMI information. You find eight HDMI 2.o inputs giving plenty of flexibility for a large setup. There are three HDMI outputs (monitor out). One thing to highlight, is that this AVR offers no support for HDCP (High-Definition Copy Protection ) 2.2. Instead, it offers 1.4, which means it won’t be able to pass-thru all protected 4K content–which is odd since that is has been the big push for everyone else. This did weigh down the score we have them, just a tad.

Since the HDMI ports are 2.0, this means the unit is capable of receiving a passing through 4K content at full 60p. This is important as some 4K AVRs can only process 30p, which is not true 4K. If you have a 4K TV, you also have to make sure your TV is HDMI 2.0 compatible as well, or none of this means anything in the end. Of course, if your TV is 1080p, then it already doesn’t mean anything since HDMI 2.0 doesn’t bring any advantage 1080p video (but it does give you up to 32 channels of sound that can be passed around).

91lWQrvaMDL._SL1500_

You also have three RCA (composite) inputs plus a Phono RCA, and two RGB (component). There are two coaxial and two optical for your digital audio inputs. There is also a USB input on the front for media/drives, as well as a headphone out.

Additional video outputs (other than HDMI) include one RCA, one RGB and an HDBaseT (Ethernet)–which is nice.

An interesting feature is that it offers a USB input for PCs to use the receiver as an external USB DAC, offering 32-bit 192kHz sound processing. This can help take the load off of your PC (resource-wise). It uses the familiar ESS SABRE32 Ultra DAC, found more and more frequently in high-end units. We found this to be a fun feature. Enough to say that it had a small effect on the score, just by itself.

You have multiple speaker configurations to choose from. Everything from stereo to 11.2 channels. Up to 11.2 channels via speaker terminals, or up to 9.2 via preouts.

DolbyAtmos-RoundUsing Atmos, you can go the whole “nine-yards” with a 5.2.4 configuration. In this configuration, you are obtaining the extra “.4” by repurposing the Surround Back and Front Wide output terminals. This gives you 4 speakers on the roof, two front and two rear. The dedicated Atmos terminals for “.2” (7.2.2) are labeled “Top Middle”. Sadly, you are unable to go 7.2.4, so it is important that if you want all four ceiling speakers, you will be forced to using 5.2 for the rest of your setup.

Dolby_updated_placement_101It can also make use of Atmos compatible speakers that use reflection to mimic the additional speakers in the ceiling. This is done by main front and rear speaker pairs that contain an additional speaker on top, aimed at the ceiling that effectively bounces the audio down to the listener. In our own opinion, this isn’t the most efficiently sounding strategy, but it also means you don’t have to put holes in your roof.

The AVR supports multiple streaming features including Pandora, Spotify and connectivity to devices such as Apple AirPlay, HTC Connect and Windows 8 (or 10 when it comes out). Unfortunately Sirius is not part of the feature list this time around, but music does sound pretty good coming from Pandora at least. In fact, it sounds really good. We feel as though we missed out not being able to test a SiriusXM internet feed, but such is life. Maybe they will consider adding this in the future via a firmware update (maybe it isn’t even a concern or a thought to them).

There is built in 4K video upscaling for all HD content being delivered to it. Testing this out, we were quite pleased with its performance. Of course, your TV has to be 4K as well for this to matter, and in some cases, your TV may offer upscaling as well. If your TV is 4K with upscaling, you would do best to test which side upscales with the best performance. In our case, it was the LG TV. However, the Pioneer delivers pretty hard, making it more than possible that it will do better than any value series 4K screen.

There is support for all of the most popular automation technologies including Control4, AMX and Crestron. That is of course, if you have the budget to set up such a system. If you do fall into that smaller category of users, you will be happy. It offers a fully compatible whole-house solution using any of these networks.Of course, you don’t have to have something like that setup in order for it to work. You can simply control it from the main room and adjust all the external zones via remote, or even better, run an IR solution through the walls and use additional remotes in the other rooms (of course that requires additional remote solutions, such as Logitech’s Harmony remotes). You can also use Pioneer’s app–available on both Android and iOS devices–to control the receiver with. That allows you to control all the switching (input) and effect options via your phone instead of having to use various remotes around your house or some fancy automation system.

The unit is WiFi ready, but by “ready”, it means that it does requires a pricey adapter (part: AS-WL300), that typically runs around $100 or more. Thankfully, it also supports ethernet, so you can plug it directly into your network and not worry about it.

The same thing goes for Bluetooth. The AVR can support Bluetooth connectivity, but it also requires that you purchase a seperate adapter in order for it to make use of this (part: AS-BT200). This adapter also costs over the $100 price mark. Both of these requirements took away the bonus score it earned from the internal USB DAC capability. Price is a big thing here, as you have already spent so much on the AVR itself.

It’s “Class D3 Amplification” provides a consistent wattage flow (nine channels of a solid 140 watts), regardless of how many channels are added to your setup. This means there is little to no loss due to having large setups. Some AVRs are known to sacrifice wattage to make room for additional speakers. The Class D3 Amplification aims to always make sure all speakers are getting their maximum input (that it can deliver per channel at least). They also take advantage of direct signal paths to produce clean, consistent, uninterrupted power.

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Initial setup of the system is very user friendly with the MCACC Pro (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) microphone calibration. Like Yamaha or any of todays flagship receivers, it comes with a precise microphone that you temporarily connect to your unit that will listen to every connected speaker during a soundcheck. It will then calibrate all of your speakers for various things such as distance, level, pattern and EQ–taking a very large load of the back of the user. Of course, from there, we always advise fine tuning it with your own ears if you truly want the best performance. One of the test is done, you can remote the microphone and pack it away somewheres out of sight until (if) you ever need it again.

MCACC_demo

So far, we have thrown everything from 9.2 channel Blueray movie absorption to SACD stereo listening. FM radio, Pandora, MP3s and FLAC audio. All of these tests resulted in colorful sound presentations that are not only powerful and loud, but accurate and a fulfilling experience to our senses. This AVR may not be for the weak at heart when it comes to price, but it also isn’t for someone looking for a simple solution. This is for someone looking for one of the best solutions possible.

The SC-89 weighs in around 40lbs, making it quite the lift. Make sure you have somewhere solid to place it (meaning, don’t try using your collapsable dinner table as a temporary shelf until you buy something to put it on). You can feel all the technology inside, just by lifting it. This is also common among all flagship receivers. Solid audio solutions tend to result in some hefty poundage. This thing, is built like a tank.

For additional specifications and information, a link to the user manual can be found here (15.7MB). This is helpful when it comes to determining the best setup for your environment. It is also a smorgasbord of information.

Our Conclusion

This SC-89 AVR sounds great. The outputted power is clean and consistent, and there is little to no distortion in everything we tested. A solid competitor to the Yamaha Avantage series, the new Elite series has really made something for itself. The ESS SABRE32 Ultra DAC, employed on every channel, sounds wonderful. Even the Yamaha Avantage’s have switched to the ESS (previously Burr Brown). The PC DAC capability is a strong feature. It would be nice to have a little more flexibility with using an Atmos configuration. The price to add WiFi and Bluetooth seems like a little much, and there is no support for HDCP 2.2. This brings the score down a little, but over-all this is a solid receiver. “Soundly” earning itself an 8.5 out of 10 score. A strong competitor to the Yamaha flagship series, we are now interested to see how Yamaha responds later this year when they release their new models later this summer.

8.5 / 10 stars           

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Additional Images:

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Specifications:

 

POWER
Amplifier Design Class D3 (Direct Energy HD)
Channels 9.2
Power Output: Watts per Channel (20 Hz – 20 kHz, THD 0.08 % @ 8 ohms FTC) VSX Model Power Rating Only
Power Output: Watts per Channel (6 ohms 1 kHz 1 % 1ch Driven) VSX Model Power Rating Only
Power Output: Watts per Channel (8 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.08 %, 2 ch Driven FTC) 140 Watts x 9
Power Output: Watts per Channel (4 ohms, 1 kHz, 1 %, 2 ch Driven) 255 Watts x 9
Power Output: Watts Multi ch Simultaneous Drive (8 ohms, 1 kHz, 1 %) 850 Watts
4 OHM Speaker Yes
Estimated Power Consumption/Standby with HDMI Control off 370 W/0.1 W (standby)
HANDHELD AND INTERNET
AirPlay Yes
HTC Connect Yes
Made for iPhone and iPod Yes
iOS/Android Remote Control APP iControlAV5
vTuner Internet Radio Yes
Pandora Internet Radio Yes
DLNA 1.5 (DMR) Yes
Music Playback via USB Network MP3, WMA, AAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD
Hi-Res Audio Apple Lossless, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD
DECODERS & FORMATS
Digital Core DSP Engine Texas Instruments Aureus
Air Studios Certification AIR Studios Monitor Certification
iPod Digital Audio Yes
192K/32-Bit DACs ESS SABRE32 Ultra DAC
High-Definition Copy Protection (HDCP) 1.4
Dolby True HD Yes
Dolby Atmos Upgradeable Yes
Dolby Digital plus Yes
DTS-HD Master Audio Yes
DTS Neo: DTS Neo:X
SABRE32 DAC (ES9016+ES9016) for 9.2ch
HDMI SACD Transfer Multi- Channel
SOUNDFIELD CALIBRATION
Phase Control Auto / Plus
MCACC MCACC Pro
Manual MCACC Yes
MCACC Memory 6
Standing Wave Control Yes
EQ Bands 9-Band (Advanced)
Symmetric EQ Yes
X-Curve Yes
Distance Adjustment 1/2 Inch
Precision Distance Yes
Polarity Check Yes
Auto Subwoofer Crossover Yes
LISTENING MODES
Auto Surround Yes
Auto Level Control Multi-Channel
Optimum Surround Yes
Stream Direct Direct / Pure Direct
Advanced Surround 11+ 1
Wide Surround Yes
Front Stage Surround Advance Yes (Focus/Wide)
Headphone Surround Yes
Virtual Speakers Yes (Surround Back/Height/Wide)
Virtual Depth Yes
AUDIO FEATURES
USB DAC 192kHz/32-bit
DSD Music File 2 Ch
Audio Processing Hi-bit32
PQLS Jitter Reduction HDMI Bitstream/ Multi
Dialog Enhancement Yes
Advanced Sound Retriever Multi-Channel / Auto with ARC
Sound Retriever AIR Yes
Digital Noise Reduction Yes
Tone Control Multi
Sound Delay (Lip Sync) Yes (800 ms)
Speaker A/B Yes
Bi-Amp Front, Center, Surr, SP-B
VIDEO PROCESSING
4K 60p Ultra HD Passthrough Yes
4K 60p Ultra HD Video Scaler Yes
3-D Ready Yes
Audio Return Channel Yes
HDMI 36-bit Deep Color Yes
HDMI x.v. Color Yes
Video Converter to HDMI Yes
Video Scaler Marvell Qdeo
Stream Smoother Yes
Pure Cinema Yes
Video Parameter Adjustments YNR, CNR, BNR, MNR, Detail, Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Chroma, Black Level
CONNECTIVITY
HDMI Input / Output HDMI 8 in/4 out (2 for MAIN, 2 for MAIN/HDZONE)
MHL 2.0 Input 1 (Rear)
Wireless Adapter Port AS-WL300
Bluetooth Adapter Port AS-BT200
HDBaseT Compatible HDBaseT™ Compatible (HDMI Extension via CAT5 Cable)
Component Video Input / Output 2 In (Assignable)
iPhone / iPod Front USB
USB Memory Input 1 (Front)
Ethernet Input Yes
Composite A/V Input / Output 2 In / 1 Out
Analog Audio Inputs / Output 1 In
Phono Input Yes
Digital Inputs / Output 4 In / 1 Out
Pre-Amp Outputs Preout 9.2 ch (11.2 ch terminals)
Headphone Output Yes
Front A/V Inputs USB & HDMI
AM/FM Presets 63
INSTALLATION
On-Screen Display Graphical User Interface (GUI) with Album Artwork (HDMI only)
Multi-Room and Source Output HDZONE Audio & Video (HDMI and Powered) / Powered ZONE 2 Audio / Powered ZONE 3 Audio
Zone 2 Sources All Audio Sources
Zone 3 Sources All Audio Sources
ECO Mode Eco Mode 1/Eco Mode 2
HDMI Speaker B Link Yes
12 Volt Trigger (Assignable) 2
RS-232C Yes
IR Serial Remote In/Out 2 In / 1 Out
Network Firmware Update Yes
AVNavigator AVNavigator Built-in
PC Set-Up
IP Control for CI Yes
Versatile Speaker Configuration Surround Back/ Front Height/ Front Wide/ Front Bi-Amp/ Zone 2/ B-Speaker/ Powered HD Zone
FL Dimmer Yes
Function Rename Yes
Remote Learning Remote Control (Luminous)
Sleep Timer Yes
Detachable Power Cord Yes
CONSTRUCTION
Front Panel Brushed
Transformer Stabilizer Yes
Advanced Direct Construction Yes
Large Speaker Terminals All
3D Space Frame Construction Yes
Low Leakage Flux Power Transformer Yes
WARRANTY
Warranty 2 Years Parts & Labor
DIMENSIONS
Product W x H x D (inches)
Wi-Fi Antenna’s Up
NA
W x H x D (inches) 17-1/8 x 7-5/16 x 17-3/8
Weight 38 lbs. 13 oz.

 

Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.

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About Author

James

Designer, Editor and Reviewer for Poc Network, ProAudio and Mobile Nations. James enjoys spending most of his time as an audio engineer and technician for the live music industry when he isn't running around the office here juggling an intense workload. He can also be found frequently in the nearby mountainous ranges, scrambling rocks and rappelling down large sections.

8 Comments

  1. 370 W power block for a flagship receiver? What’s the point if D3 Those amps are more efficient if at all channel driven it will reach only 41 W per channel Assuming all the power goes to the amplifiers Which is not true. Digital processing takes at least 100 W, so maximum 30 W per channel at all channel driven. This thing is even weaker than Yamaha.

  2. Your tv should have an oaitcpl audio output. Your Blu Ray disc player home theater in a box should also have an oaitcpl audio input. You connect an oaitcpl audio cable from the tv to your home theater. Keep in mind that not all tv program have surround sound, only those tv program with the Dolby Digital Logo will have surround sound. Hope this will help you out.

  3. Excellent receiver! I’ve been a fan of Pioneer’s since Laser Disc came up;really well made products .Congratulatios! +Pioneer Home Audio Greetings from Mexico

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