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Pioneer SC-LX81 review

If you want a powerful but refined multichannel receiver to go with Pioneer's new BDP-LX71A Blu-ray player, the SC-LX81 is a superb choice Tested at £1500

Our Verdict

It’s big, beautiful and brilliantly balanced, but the Pioneer no longer sits at the very top of the pile


  • Nice styling
  • superb tonal and surround integration creates a brilliantly balanced performance
  • great detail and dynamics


  • Lacks the depth and detail of class leader

When Pioneer announced in February 09 that it was pulling out of TV manufacturing, many wondered what the company would do with itself.

Those people had clearly forgotten the breadth of Pioneer's business, which, along with car audio, includes excellent home cinema products like the SC-LX81.

This is a luxurious-looking unit, with its glossy, none-more-black fascia, clean lines and seductive blue light.

It's a big amp,, but that somehow adds to its impressiveness, which is only slightly hampered by a rather loose-feeling input selector.

More than just a good looker
Of course, the 'LX81 is far from a style-over-substance proposition, as its tech specs prove.

This receiver produces a whopping 190W in each of its seven channels, all of which also boast an ICEpower digital amp module.

Furthermore, the system has been fine-tuned with the help of London's Air Studios, and is THX Ultra2 Plus specified.

Where inputs and outputs are concerned, almost every base is covered.

The four HDMI inputs and two outputs should be enough for most people, and there's upscaling to 1080p and upconverting to HDMI.

It also has Pioneer's ‘Home Media Gallery', which means it will play music and photos stored on an iPod, USB device or your home network.

It'll also access internet radio using the Ethernet terminal on the back. Accessing these options is a fairly simple task, thanks to a smart Graphical User Interface.

This GUI also guides you through the auto-calibration, which is very thorough and pretty accurate, necessitating only a little manual fine-tuning.

In action, the Pioneer is brilliantly balanced and eminently listenable.

Superbly integrated sound
Both the tonal range and surround field are superbly integrated, so your ear is never distracted by bright treble, over-exuberant bass or a misplaced effect, even in the demanding robot battles on the Transformers Blu-ray.

That's not to say that the 'LX81 is inaccurate. Voices remain clear during frantic action scenes and individual bullets whizz right over your head; it's just that these don't detract from the surround presentation as a whole.

Switch to some stereo music and these sonic traits remain.

The soundstage is wide and extremely well-integrated, with vocals and instruments being clear and defined without ever drawing the ear away from the other elements – which is absolutely key at this level.

As gifted as the Pioneer is, though, it has a slight problem in the shape of its new Sony STR-DA5400ES rival, which has even more attack, depth and detail.


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General Information

Product SeriesLX
Product NamePioneer SC-LX81
Product ModelSC-LX81
Manufacturer Website Address
Brand NamePioneer
Product TypeA/V Receiver
ManufacturerOnkyo & Pioneer Corporation
Manufacturer Part NumberSC-LX81


Number of Digital Optical Outputs2
Number of HDMI Outputs2
Number of Analog Audio Inputs20
Number of Digital Coaxial Inputs3
Number of HDMI Inputs4
Number of Digital Optical Inputs5
iPod SupportedYes

Technical Information

Minimum Frequency Response20 Hz
Maximum Frequency Response20 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion THD0.1%
Impedance8 Ohm
Internet StreamingYes

Network and Communication


Power Description

Operating Power Consumption330 W


DLNA CertifiedYes
Environmentally FriendlyYes
Package Contents
  • SC-LX81 A/V Receiver
  • Remote Control
Country of OriginMalaysia
Environmental CertificationWEEE

Physical Characteristics

Weight Approximate18.50 kg
Width420 mm
Depth459.5 mm
Height200 mm
Dimensions200 mm (H): 420 mm (W): 459.5 mm (D)


Sound SystemTHX Ultra2 Plus
Audio Channels7.1


Frequency BandAM


Limited Warranty1 Year