Japanese manufacturers are admirable, mostly because of qualities they’re famous for; above all, being methodical. So just like a predator preying on its victim, they intelligently target their consumers:
- Todoroki speaker/component packages are suited for 20- to 40-year old low- to mid-income males who live in suburbs, enjoy big volume club sound and home-partying with friends, are attracted by powerful bulky design, want to show off component rather than all-in-one package or mini systems, and own aftermarket car audio so know well about Pioneer brand.
- Micro systems on the contrary, are targeted to both male and female, 18 to 30 years old who left their parents and started sharing tiny rentals with their partners.
- Planned for a June 2014 introduction, XW-LF1 and XW-LF3, a new line of rubber- and leather-coating finish—yes, you heard me, leather—rechargeable portable (dubbed location-free audio) Bluetooth speakers featuring NFC and Bluetooth auto connect targeted to raffiné—that’s an 18-35 of age city-living fashionable middle-class who likes sophisticated elegant goods.
These are not meant for me, as I’m neither a freshman nor a raffiné, though I have to confess my inner child needed audio on his bedside and made the grownup in me purchase Pioneer’s top-of-the-line network CD receiver micro system last year—Pioneer X-HM81-K with Flybridge iPhone lightning dock, built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA, AirPlay, vTuner internet radio, Bluetooth, and multi-color LCD
My main concern here is do they have a $3000 audiophile-grade HDMI 2.0 (4K 60p) equipped multi-channel amplifier to replace my beloved SC-LX87?
This is a price range where Japanese feature-rich contenders like Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, Pioneer, and Yamaha fight.
Putting the insanely over-engineered Pioneer Susano SC-LX90 aside, during recent years, I’ve owned and/or had firsthand experience with almost the entire line of flagship AVR SC-LX series:
- 2007 Pioneer SC-LX90 (North American Elite SC-09TX) 10.2ch 140W×10 MSRP $7000 ●●●●● review • It’s a shade more forward-sounding than some, but never enough to be a problem—named Susano after Shinto god of the sea and storms
- 2008 Pioneer SC-LX81 (North American Elite SC-07) 7.1ch 140W×7 MSRP $2200 ●●●●○ review • Lacks the depth and detail of class leader
- 2009 Pioneer SC-LX82 (North American Elite SC-27) 7.1ch 140W×7 MSRP $2200 ●●●●● review • Nothing
- 2010 Pioneer SC-LX83 (North American Elite SC-37) 7.1ch 140W×7 MSRP $2200 ●●●●● review • Unnecessarily fiddly remote
- 2011 Pioneer SC-LX85 (North American Elite SC-57) 9.2ch 140W×9 MSRP $2100 ●●●●● review • Requires a little care in system matching
- 2012 Pioneer SC-LX86 (North American Elite SC-68) 9.2ch 140W×9 MSRP $2500 ●●●●● review • Brighter balance requires careful partnering with speakers
- 2013 Pioneer SC-LX87 (North American Elite SC-79) 9.2ch 150W×9 MSRP $3000 ●●●●● review • Nothing of note
In a 2008 review from the experts at What Hi-Fi?, Pioneer SC-LX81 earned 4 stars, citing “lacks depth and detail of [a] class leader.” Pioneer (in close collaboration with AIR Studios) fixed the problem and ever since, all its successors have boringly been 5-star contenders. Even more surprisingly, the 2009 SC-LX82 and current SC-LX87 are concluded with “nothing” held against them in What Hi-Fi? reviews.
Audiophiles, get ready for yet another ultimate immersive experience with Pioneer’s highly-anticipated SC-LX88, as the next generation flagship SC-LX88 (Elite SC-89) will boast the following step-up or new features comparing to the current generation SC-LX87 (Elite SC-79) flagship:
- Dolby Atmos
- HDMI 2.0 4K 60p upscaling / pass-through
- Built-in CSR aptX Bluetooth
- Spotify internet radio
- DSD playback over network
- Multi-channel WAV/FLAC playback
- Independent dual subwoofer
- MCACC with subwoofer EQ
- Built-in AVNavigator
And if you’re in the market looking for something less than the flagship, I’ve got you covered, too. Continue reading…
The next generation (fiscal year 2015) mainstream VSX models are only available in black (-K) finish:
- VSX-329-K / VSX-424-K / VSX-524-K 5.1ch entry-level AVR featuring HDMI 2.0 4K 60p pass-through that replace the FY2014 VSX-323 / VSX-423 / VSX-523
- VSX-529-K / VSX-824-K (Elite VSX-44) 5.2ch (7.2ch) basic AVR featuring network, AirPlay, HDMI GUI, dual SW preout, Windows 8.1 certified, built-in CSR aptX Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi ready (optional AS-WL300) that replace the FY2014 VSX-528 / VSX-823 (Elite VSX-43) / VSX-828
- VSX-924-K (Elite VSX-80) 7.2ch multi-zone AVR featuring HDMI 2.0 4K 60p upscaling featuring zone 2 out, hi-bit24 audio processing, auto phase control, PQLS bit-stream, BDP Link, and DSD file playback that replaces the FY2014 VSX-923 / VSX-1123 (Elite VSX-70)
Note: As we had seen so far, North American models would probably designate different model numbers and somehow feature more refined specs in each segment. I also suspect model designations ending in digit 9 (VSX-329 / VSX-529) would not be available across Europe either, as they’re intended for lower budget markets (such as South East Asia and the Middle East) where they sell Todoroki systems.
The next generation (fiscal year 2015) professional SC models are available in both black (-K) and silver (-S) finish:
- SC-1224-K (Elite SC-81) / SC-1224-S 7.2ch performance AVR featuring class-D digital amplification as direct replacements for FY2014 SC-1223 (Elite SC-71)
- SC-2024-K (Elite SC-82) / SC-2024-S 7.2ch advanced AVR featuring aluminum front panel and 9.2ch preout as direct replacements for FY2014 SC-2023 (Elite SC-72)
- SC-LX58-K (Elite SC-85) / SC-LX58-S 9.2ch reference AVR featuring 9-channel amplification, Dolby Atmos, ESS SABRE 32 DAC, hi-bit32 audio processing and digital filter, 192kHz/32bit Audio Scaler, and full-band phase control as direct replacements for FY2014 SC-LX57 (Elite SC-75)
- SC-LX78-K (Elite SC-87) / SC-LX78-S 9.2ch professional AVR featuring AIR Studios sound tuning and full band phase control with front align as direct replacements for FY2014 SC-LX77 (Elite SC-77)
- SC-LX88-K (Elite SC-89) / SC-LX88-S 9.2ch flagship AVR featuring USB DAC and 220W/ch (6Ω/1kHz) digital Class-D amp as direct replacements for FY2014 SC-LX87 (Elite SC-79)
- HDMI 2.0 4K 60p pass-through is available across the whole new range (VSX-329, VSX-424, VSX-524, VSX-529, VSX-824, VSX-924, SC-1224, SC-2024, SC-LX58, SC-LX78, SC-LX88).
- HDMI 2.0 4K 60p upscaling is only available across the upper market range (VSX-924, SC-1224, SC-2024, SC-LX58, SC-LX78, SC-LX88—marketed as Elite VSX-80, SC-81, SC-82, SC-85, SC-87, SC-89 in North America).
- The legal contract between Dolby Laboratories and Pioneer Corporation for the inclusion of Dolby Atmos in FY2015 Pioneer reference AVRs is under non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
- Although current (2013-2014 aka FY2014) AVRs hadn’t been initially released with Spotify out of the box, since 10/23/2013, Spotify support has been offered to internet radio capable models as a firmware update.
- With the introduction of iControlAV5 (iOS / Android), it looks like Pioneer tends to dump the year designation suffix in favor of the shorter trend of app’s generation number.
- The Bluetooth port on the back of the AVR is dropped, instead, the next generation Bluetooth module is going to be an internal (built-in) module made by CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio) plc. Hopefully, this new built-in CSR Bluetooth module seals the fate of the lag-infested AS-BT200. More on that:
See, over the years, I have used three separate AS-BT series Pioneer Bluetooth adapters on four A/V receivers—both flagship SC and micro system product segments; one dinosaur, two heavyweights, and a bedmate: A European (bought in Turkey) AS-BT100 or AS-BT200 on a friend’s SC-LX83, a North American (bought in California) AS-BT200 on my SC-LX86 / SC-LX87, and most recently, an Asian AS-BT200 on my X-HM81.
I’m here to shout “I hate AS-BT200,” not because it can’t be paired. No, on the contrary, unlike nagging commenters at Amazon, I’m sure Sheldon would find the geek-oriented pairing process quite easy, intuitive, and straightforward!
My problem is with the lag—technically known as Bluetooth audio latency in the industry—and Oh Canada, unlike your former defense minister, I don’t think aliens are to blame!
Based on their different knowledge of digital media, people characterize the issue as lip-sync not being maintained, audio/video asynchrony, retarded audio/advanced video, time difference between the audio heard from the wireless speakers and the video seen on the iPad itself.
Having Apple iPad 3 / Air / iPhone 4S / 5S paired with and connected to an AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter attached to both SC-LX86 / SC-LX87, I have always experienced 150-250 ms audio latency. Good for Apple and Pioneer flagships, because my worst case scenario is when my Windows PC—equipped with an old-yet-reliable CSR USB Bluetooth dongle (hardware ID: USB\VID_0A12&PID_0001&REV_0828)—paired with and connected to the AS-BT200 attached to the back of the X-HM81 network CD receiver micro system sometimes results in a sure half-a-second (500 ms) annoying lag.
Bottom line is people use the overpriced under-engineered flimsy stupid AS-BT200 not because it’s a great product, rather worryingly because they’re out of options, well, when AirPlay is not an option.
This recently adopted aptX low latency audio codec not only promises less end-to-end Bluetooth A2DP audio latency, but also offers better audio quality due to a wider dynamic range and less THD.