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Pioneer Elite SC-89 9.2 Atmos A/V Receiver Review

by Reviewboard MagazineMarch 4, 2015
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So Atmos… 9.2… you are asking what the heck is this all about?  Pioneer has had the “Elite” brand for quite some time.  I haven’t been a big fan of the Elite series because it has traditionally been over priced and underwhelming to be completely honest.

I have a friend that swears by Pioneer Elite and it seems to me that he keeps talking it up to justify what he spent on it.  More often than not I hear him on the phone when I’m talking to him swearing under his breath while he fights it to do what he wants.

The thing is, the Pioneer Elite product line in general is usually pretty good when it first comes out and then that 2nd year instead of dropping slightly on the feature list (compared to the rest of what is available) it drops dramatically because they failed to stay up with the latest codecs, trends, etc… (with their firmware updates) or they backed the wrong horse and are supporting something no one uses.

SC-89_backThe Pioneer Elite SC-89 9.2 Atmos A/V receiver is no exception.  Atmos was developed to bring a new audio sensation to your home theater room.  It is capable of driving 62 independent full-range channels and 2 LFE channels. Living up to my expectations FULLY the Pioneer Elite decides to make an “Atmos” A/V receiver like the Pioneer Elite Sc-89 with 9.2 channels. How absolutely underwhelming. (Sigh)  This reminds me of a particular scene in the movie Office Space (click the video clip at the top of the article to see it). As the guy says in the movie clip, you can get a cheeseburger anywhere, people come to the place for the atmosphere.  The same could be said about A/V receivers.  They are everywhere, and I’m not sure spending way too much for the “bare minimum” is worth it. With an MSRP of $3,000 and an avg online selling price of $1500 less than 3 months after its launch… well that says a lot.  I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m being harsh but sometimes honesty is best thing you can do for a company.  I don’t feel like spending $3,000 for a device that has added 2 out of 50+ more channels and drops to half the price 3 months later is worth the investment.  Furthermore I expect more from my technology vendors when I make a purchase and I want to know they are trying to provide me with the best solution. Obviously the reason I’m looking for Atmos to begin with is because I have the resources, space, and time to make a true Atmos solution happen in my home theater.  So why are you going to give me 2 more channels (just enough to brag to my friends about Atmos in my home theater and just enough for the ones in the “know” to feel bad for me).  It’s almost like walking around with a Starbucks mug filled with Folgers.

So the back of the SC-89 9.2 Channel “Atmos” receiver has 11 sets of speaker binding posts named “Top Middle” and “Front Wide”.  There doesn’t appear to be a naming standard for the extra posts, and most manufacturers seem to be making up their own names.  Clearly naming up to 64 different channels is going to be a difficult process, but when you come up with only 2 extra channels I guess “Top Middle” and “Front Wide” is good as any.

SC-89_large_atmosThe Pioneer Elite Sc-89 Receiver has a Class Damplifier that does bring something nice to the table.  That class allows the Pioneer Elite SC-89 to provide some very clean high output with almost no background noise or loss in performance.

In conclusion I think the Pioneer Elite product line in general is just “Meh”.  Pioneer’s decision to go with only 9.2 rather than something a little more respectable is questionable at best.  They could have at least gone with 11.2…  So I would say take a pass.  Getting into “Atmos” decoding is wonderful, but decoding 9 out of a possible 64 channels is not.  It’s like buying a 1975 Datsun B210 and putting a Lamborghini logo on it and winged doors.

 


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