We haven’t seen much in the way of statement stereo kit from Pioneer over recent months, but this could all be set to change thanks to the new addition to its ranks, the Pioneer A-70 stereo amplifier.
Pioneer A-70 review: Design
Out of the box, the Pioneer A-70 makes a mighty impression. It’s a big unit and weighing over 17kg means it’s not just your speakers guaranteed a workout.
The chassis is extremely sturdy, verging on bombproof. The front and side panels are solid aluminium: 35mm and 18mm thick respectively. Under the hood lies 130W of Class D amplification.
The fascia looks quite busy, with rotary knobs for balance, tone controls, volume and changing input. The weighting of the latter dial is spot on, with a hint of resistance followed satisfying clunk as you flick between inputs.
However, the other knobs turn a little too easily. There’s also a slight inconsistency between the brightness of the blue LED above the input selector and the other blue LEDs over on the left hand side of the amplifier.
Pioneer A-70 review: Features
Features include a 6.5mm headphone socket, a loudness button to engage during late night listening, a direct button which allows you to bypass the amp’s tone controls for a supposedly purer sound and buttons which switch between the two sets of speaker terminals on the rear of the amp. If you wish, you can use the Pioneer purely as a power amp – useful if you’d like to integrate the A-70 into a home cinema system.
And talking of the Pioneer’s rear, it’s blessed with a variety of useful connections including an asynchronous USB Type B socket which will happily accept bitrates up to 24-bit/192kHz, as will the coaxial digital input.
The A-70 even goes so far as to offer a moving magnet and moving coil-compatible phono stage. It’s unusual to have such flexibility, but we’re certainly not complaining.
Pioneer A-70 review: Sound quality
So how does it sound? The Pioneer presents music in an exceptionally open and clean fashion. Hit the direct button on the front of the amp and the soundstage sounds even purer and in the process tightens up the sound.
Spin The Police’s live Boston performance of So Lonely and there’s plenty the for the Pioneer to get stuck into. The amp unearths lots of detail throughout the frequency range. Highs sound crisp and to the point. Notes from Sting’s bass guitar sound tight and sharply defined, if a little lean. The amp can punches extremely hard, and there isn’t an ounce of fat for your speakers to chew on.
When it comes to keeping pace with the track though, the A-70 struggles to maintain a sense of order and rhythm. The timing of the various elements of the track is ever so slightly out and you don’t find yourself drawn into the live performance. It’s a similar case when using the Pioneer’s asynchronous USB connection.
Also, strangely, the sound is somehow more musclebound and less precise through the headphone socket. This is certainly at odds with the leaness and clarity that you experience when using the amp drive a pair of speakers.
Pioneer A-70 review: Verdict
The A-70 is impressively put together, and the specification list is very generous. It delivers an exceptionally clear and powerful sound, but it sounds a touch too clinical and falls short rhythmically. It's good, certainly, but not great.