£2000 represents a lavish amount of money to spend on a home cinema receiver, especially given the obvious brilliance of the best £500 and £1000 contenders.
All the same, judged purely in terms of its spec, the new Pioneer is a significant step up over its forebear, the SC-LX83.
As befits any receiver in this price class, the SC-LX85’s video processing is state of the art and its input count extensive: one highlight is its seven HDMI inputs and twin outputs, which really ought to be enough for even the most extensive system.
A THX Ultra2 Plus-certified design, the Pioneer also includes 32-bit processing, 32-bit/192kHz DACs and all-new class-D digital amplification, rated at 140W into each speaker.
There are more output channels, too: the LX83 was a 7.1 model in a class where 9.1 was becoming the norm, but the LX85 addresses that, including two more outputs for front-height or front-width speakers, should you want them.
More after the break
Drives up to 11 speakers… yes, 11In fact, thanks to its array of preout sockets and the latest DTS Neo X processing mode, the Pioneer can feed 11 speakers with the use of another power amp: the 5.1 set-up most folk use, plus additional pairs of surround-back, front-height and front-width speakers.
Alternatively (and in truth, probably more realistically) the nine power amp channels can be used either to biwire some of your speakers in a 5.1 configuration or to support multiroom listening – or a combination of the two.
Home cinema aside, and as with lesser models in the 2011 Pioneer range, the LX85 also a capable media streamer. It supports AirPlay and DLNA, can handle a wide range of file formats right up to 24-bit/192kHz FLAC and, via an included adaptor, can even join your network wirelessly.
Splash out £50 on the optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth adaptor and you can also use Pioneer’s bespoke Air Jam app, which lets iPhone users create and stream a collective (and continuously updated) playlist into the SC-LX85 via Bluetooth.
And, of course, you also get access to Pioneer’s brilliant iControlAV2 remote app, which endows the SC-LX85 with a slickness that no rival can emulate.Incredible energy and poiseAll that, and the Pioneer sounds quite remarkable, too. Its lightning-quick digital amplification and potent processing ensures sounds are shifted around your head with extraordinary speed: indeed, familiar scenes, such as the dazzling space battles near the finale of Return of the Jedi, take on new intensity when fuelled by the Pioneer’s furious energy.
Clarity is remarkable, too: fed with high-resolution music, the SC-LX85’s faithfulness to the original signal, and the care with which it relays even the most subtle of vocal nuance or instrumental inflection, is astonishing – and characteristic not of a tech-laden surround sound mothership, but a purist, stripped-down audiophile amplifier.
The SC-LX85 is some receiver. Its design encapsulates the current state of the art in home cinema and network music tech, and it balances the often-conflicting needs of music and movie reproduction with unparalleled dexterity. Plaudits to Pioneer: this is its best-ever amp.