Pioneer SC-LX59 review

Best home cinema amp £1000+, Awards 2015. Pioneer has a reputation for producing top-notch AV receivers over £1000 and the SC-LX59 continues the trend... Tested at £1400

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

True to form, Pioneer has produced another stunning AV receiver belying its relatively modest price tag


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    Thorough connectivity and compatibility

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    Confident, enthusiastic sound

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    Dynamic and expressive


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    Nothing at this price

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust sold for a record $106.5m at auction in New York, Spain won their first FIFA World Cup and the Pioneer VSX-LX53 was named best AV receiver priced between £1000 and £1500 at the What Hi-Fi? Awards. That was in 2010.

Half a decade on, and Pioneer is seeking to retain its crown for the fifth year. Each subsequent champion from this range of AV receivers has been a new model – no repeat winners, just more and more impressive examples – and Pioneer is hoping that that admirably consistent chain of improvements will continue with the SC-LX59.


What’s new? Well there’s DTS:X alongside Dolby Atmos for a more enveloping sound and 11-channel pre-out to facilitate it, capability to play 4K content protected by HDCP 2.2 copyright and, importantly, integrated wifi and Bluetooth.

Set-up remains a doddle, and after checking we have the right outputs (which still aren’t properly marked) for our Atmos speakers, Pioneer’s long-winded but thorough and accurate set-up system MCACC Pro does the rest.

If you have previously used any recent Pioneer AV receiver, little has changed in terms of aesthetic or functionality, it’s smart and pleasantly user-friendly.

MORE: DTS:X: What is it? How can you get it?


We play the Blu-ray of Epic to begin. As the queen is chased through the forest by an army of boggans (if you haven’t seen the film, you must) we are belted with the excitement of the soundtrack.

There’s plenty of nuanced attack, expressing well the differences between the peril and slapstick humour both present within the scene, and an impressive level of organisation keeping the soundscape busy without becoming cluttered.

There’s great enthusiasm here, rendered with a healthy amount of power, but the SC-LX59 doesn’t compromise when it comes to conveying the subtlety in the characters’ voices.

The scope of the humour, anger, panic and sadness is so impressive that we have to remind ourselves that this is a sub-£1500 receiver. It’s a performance that many products twice as expensive would struggle to deliver.

MORE: Dolby Atmos: What is it? How can you get it?

That insight is reflected when using the SX-LX59 to play the Blu-ray audio disc of Johannes Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, as played by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.

There is plenty of space and decent girth to the sound, but it is the mournfulness that impresses. You shouldn’t compare this with a stereo amplifier at the same price, but there is a musicality here that would be difficult to replicate in any similarly priced rival.

The instruments and voices are organised so that, while in unison, they separate enough to interact and intertwine. The same sympathetic dynamics that helped carry the expression of the voices in Epic are doing the same with Brahms.

Though other elements differ, such as detail and space, that level of expression doesn’t appear to suffer when playing a standard CD or through an iPod, or with different genres of music.


Was there any doubt that Pioneer could improve upon its predecessor, the SC-LX58? A couple of hours spent in the company of the SC-LX59 will banish those thoughts altogether.

Once again, Pioneer has designed a stunning A/V receiver without compromise. Even better, it has done it without upping the price. This is one of the soundest investments you could make in a burgeoning home cinema system.

See all our Pioneer news and reviews

MORE: Best home cinema amplifiers 2015

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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