Pioneer SC-LX85 review

Best home cinema amplifier £1500+. An extraordinary feat, and a true all-rounder Tested at £2000

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Our Verdict

Best home cinema amplifier £1500+, Awards 2011. Pioneer’s best is also its best yet: an extraordinary feat, and a true Award-winning all-rounder

For

  • Stunning sound quality
  • exceptional specification
  • class-leading usability
  • a supremely well-made unit

Against

  • Requires a little care in system matching

£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.

Drives up to 11 speakers… yes, 11
In 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 poise

All 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.


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Specifications

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Interfaces-Ports

Number of Digital Optical Outputs1
HDMIYes
Number of HDMI Outputs2
Number of Analog Audio Inputs12
Number of Digital Coaxial Inputs2
Number of HDMI Inputs7
Number of Digital Optical Inputs3
iPod SupportedYes
USBYes

Technical Information

Streaming ServiceiRadio, vTuner, AirPlay
3D Type3D Ready
Maximum Frequency Response1 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion THD1%
MultizoneYes
Impedance6 Ohm
Internet StreamingYes

Network and Communication

EthernetYes

Video

Upscale Scan Format1080p

General Information

Product NamePioneer SC-LX85
Product ModelSC-LX85
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.eu.onkyo.com
Brand NamePioneer
Product TypeA/V Receiver
ManufacturerOnkyo & Pioneer Corporation
Manufacturer Part NumberSC-LX85

Power Description

Operating Power Consumption370 W

Miscellaneous

DLNA CertifiedYes
Environmentally FriendlyYes
Package Contents
  • SC-LX85 A/V Receiver
  • iPod Cable
  • Remote Control
  • Wireless LAN Converter
Country of OriginMalaysia
Environmental CertificationWEEE

Audio

Sound SystemDolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6, DTS Neo:X, DTS 96/24, DTS Express, THX Ultra2 Plus, Neural Surround, Virtual Surround
Audio Channels9.2

Physical Characteristics

Width435 mm
Depth442 mm
Height185 mm
Dimensions185 mm (H): 435 mm (W): 442 mm (D)

Tuner

Frequency BandFM, AM

Warranty

Limited Warranty1 Year