Pioneer Elite SC-27 A/V Receiver Page 2

However, to use PQLS, you have to enable KURO Link on both the AVR and the Blu-ray player. This rebadged HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) scheme lets you use a single remote to control multiple devices in the music and movie reproduction chain. Unlike universal remotes that use a host of proprietary control codes, HDMI CEC is a standard language that all HDMI CEC components speak over HDMI.

In theory, I should be able to turn on the Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray player, and it should turn on the SC-27 AVR and my Pioneer Elite KURO 60-inch plasma, and I can begin watching a movie. The best I got, from a total standstill, was that the AVR switched from dead-off to standby after I pressed Play on the Pioneer BD player. The KURO plasma never came on at all, even though KURO Link was enabled on it too. I tried it with the TV already on, and (amusingly) the video passed through to the plasma so I could see what musical tracks were playing, although I couldn’t hear them! So this needs work. On the other hand, if everything was already on and I was listening to music on another source and then inserted a Blu-ray Disc into the Pioneer BDP-320, the AVR sensed it and switched to the BD input. It automatically did everything short of asking me what I thought of the new Dido CD while the movie spun up.

KURO means “dark” in Japanese, and there’s definitely a dark side in the way KURO Link is implemented in the SC-27. For instance, if you want to use PQLS (and believe me, you will want to if your player is PQLS equipped), then you need to enable KURO Link on both the AVR and the BD player. However, when you do this, you lose control over the HDMI input assignments in the SC-27’s setup screens. That renders the remote buttons labeled DVD, DVR, and TV useless as direct source buttons; for instance, you can’t assign a high-def TiVo box to the DVR input. With KURO Link enabled, the only way you can get to the DVR is to press another remote button marked HDMI multiple times until, round robin, that HDMI input comes up. Granted, this is a bit of a kludge, but the improvements that PQLS brings to two-channel listening more than make up for what you lose in convenience. Of course, if you don’t have a PQLS player, then turn the damn thing off. It’s annoying!

ICE, ICE, Very Nice!
If you’re worried about power, you should know that the ICEpower Class D amplifier had no problems at all driving the Revel Salon2 loudspeakers—and they aren’t easy speakers to drive. In fact, partnered with the remarkable MCACC room equalization, this 140-watt-per-channel AVR supplied tight, extended bass and palpable midrange to two-channel music even at extremely loud levels. Breakup and compression were never evident with music. Overall, the SC-27’s amplifiers are slightly, and preferably to me, warmer than those of the ATI 1505 it replaced. Pioneer’s ICEpower easily provides sound quality that stirs up my memories of the tube amplifiers I lusted after a decade ago. That’s no small praise.

Naturally, like any top-end AVR, the SC-27 includes built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding. It also offers some very interesting two-channel source processing, besides PQLS: Direct (for two-channel analog sources) and the family of multichannel DTS Neo:6 and Dolby IIx surround modes. Front Stage Surround Focus and Front Stage Surround Wide seem to add a little bass and a lot more width to a two-channel mix. The Wide mode is so named not because the image is wider (although it is), but because it claims to provide a wider sweet spot from which you can enjoy music. I found that at casual, lower listening levels, these modes offer a more enjoyable and rewarding experience than even PQLS.

The SC-27 is solid and beautiful in ways any geek will appreciate. Only the lame amplifier terminals on the back (bare wire or banana, no spades) mar an otherwise near-perfect design. The remote is simple and practical. Only about half the buttons are backlit, but your fingers will quickly memorize the locations of the buttons you use most often.

Popcorn Paradise
There’s no doubt, the SC-27 is as much AVR as almost anyone will ever need. The ICEpower amplification had no problems keeping up with the opening of The Matrix (Blu-ray). It also didn’t have any trouble revealing the difference between standard lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD. The hardness I heard in the former’s rendition of the roof chase scene in chapter two was significantly ameliorated when I engaged Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue intelligibility was also impressively improved when I switched from Dolby Digital 5.1 to Dolby TrueHD. The soundstage smear I heard

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