Integra 50.3 vs. Pioneer Elite SC-55 / 57 - audio processing - AVS | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 07-06-2012, 02:03 PM - Thread Starter
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I have been considering buying an Integra 50.3 (or 50.4) for my first home theater system. Then I received an e-mail from an expert, who makes me wonder about the choice of Integra, as follows:

"I would get a Pioneer SC-57 over the Integra. Their phase processing is better and they stay in the correct audio processing mode. Onkyo/Integra does not respect the processing mode selected in the setup."

So, I called Integra technical support about this, and I learned the following. If you set THX off in the setup and then you play a blu-ray that is intended for THX (is there some code in the source that senses this?), the THX processing is automatically turned on in the Integra. I guess the same applies to Dolby and other audio processing.

Presumably one has calibrated the audio without THX and wants THX to stay disabled. Is this a valid position? My question is, is this automatic turning on of audio processing a bad thing, or should one be happy that Integra is respecting the source material in favor of the calibration setup?

Sorry if this is a stupid question. I have been an analog stereo purist to date, and I know nothing about audio processing. In general, I like clean sound and would avoid processing if I thought it had any negative impact. Comments?

FYI, I do not want the recent Pioneer, SC-65 (2012) generation because it has no phono input. So, the SC-55, if purchased, would be a discontinued or used item. Integra still has a phono input.

In a related question, regarding the Pioneer Elite SC-55, I read in the AVS Poneer Elite thread that its on-screen setup menus are poor, so setup is a pain. Certainly its users manual is poor, IMO. A few other problems were noted such as loose connector sockets. Does anyone here have experience with both brands, and can you comment on which brand you prefer, and why? After you suffer the setup, does the Pioneer Elite SC-55 / 57 sound better?
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Old 07-06-2012, 02:52 PM
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I think your "expert" needs to brush up on some facts as does the person you talked to at Onkyo. In all the years I've owned Blu-ray's (since the beginning of the HD_DVD/BD format war) I have never seen one that selects or uses THX processing!!

There is no such thing. In fact, with hi-rez audio formats, Dolby TruHD and DTS-Master Audio -
1) the audio track is selected by you in the disc menu, usually as the default, unless they are the sole audio track on the disc

2) post processing, such as THX & Dolby Prologic IIx, are always added by the user in the receiver, they do not exist on the disc.

Calibration & EQ using Pioneer's MCACC, Audyssey in Denon/Onkyo/Integra, and YPAO in Yamaha, is always internally done in the receiver with THX off. I've owned Pioneers for years and at no time was THX included in the calibration. Why? Because THX has a slight roll-off in the high freq's, so any calibration with it on would be off by several db in the hi range and defeat the purpose of using THX.

Setup is definitely NOT a "pain" with Pioneer, it's as easy as selecting the items in the menu and making it happen. While OSD GUI is not one of Pioneer's strongest points, in the end, who cares how "pretty" it is as long as it works, which it does. Besides, you're only going to use it once & forget about it, unless you change your setup, re-arrange room furniture, etc.

Where Pioneer gets dinged is OSD of things like volume, surround mode. Setup is no harder than any other modern receiver. Each companies' menu's have some advantages & some disadvantages.

Adding ProLogic IIx to a 5.1 disc to get 7.1 is a nice but not mandatory enhancement, but it is up to you to decide whether to use it or not, depending on the source, music vs movie, 2 channel purist or occasionally like music in surround.

As to Onkyo vs Pioneer, I won't comment. I do not have experience with Onkyo/Integra.

But the main difference between the brands is Audyssey EQ vs MCACC EQ. Some like the ability to tweak things in MCACC which you can't do in Audyssey unless your receiver is Audyssey Pro capable and you buy the Pro kit. The big advantage Audyssey has over MCACC is it will EQ the subs. Enthusiasts are increasingly vocalizing their interest in PIoneer to include that.

You did the right thing by asking....your expert friend may have good intentions on what he told you and maybe there is a misinterpretation going on of what he was describing. But, as far as staying in the "correct" audio format or automatically turning on THX in the Integra, I have downloaded the Integra 80.3 manual for my own personal knowledge, and checked it again - at least the 80.3 doesn't add anything automatically.

However, what it does do is this (quoting the manual) -

"You can assign a default listening mode to each input source that will be selected automatically when you select each input source. For example, you can set the default
listening mode to be used with Dolby Digital input signals. You can select other listening modes during playback, but the mode specified here will be resumed once the AV controller has been set to standby."

So, you could have THX or PLIIx, or DTS Neo X added to a source as a default, or leave it set as Direct mode, or downmix to stereo. The choice is yours...there's nothing automatically doing it for you. Similarly, the Pioneer also has the ability to have a track set to Stereo on 1 input, Dolby PLIIx on another, THX on a 3rd, etc. All controlled manually by you on your remote. Both will remember the setting and if you want to change it, reach for the remote, press the surround mode button and it's changed. No big deal...why your "expert" thinks it so is a mystery...I think he may be confused on how the receivers work.

Do yourself a favor: download the manuals for each model you are interested in, and learn what each has, how it works and don't take someone else's "opinions" as gospel. Including mine wink.gif. I come from a strong Pioneer knowledge but I do make it a point to learn as much as I can about other makes.

Further, to me, if you want a TRUE one-to-one comparison with the SC-57, you probably should be looking at Integra DTR-80.3 not the 50. That is a much closer comparison in amp power & performance, quality, features, etc than the 50. The SC-57 is THX Ultra-2 certified amps, while the 50.3 is only Select2 . A different league in amp performance to meet the Ultra2 spec.

And if you wanted another comparison to the Pioneer, you may also want to consider the Denon 4311.

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Old 07-06-2012, 04:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, Steve. I appreciate the time you spent to set the experts and me straight on the audio processing. I need to study your post and the manuals in more detail, as you said. So that gives me some homework for the next couple of days.

In the meanwhile, for the record, my current choice is between the Pioneer SC-55 and the Integra 50.3. I haven't seriously considered the Integra 80.3 yet. I think I will never need more than 5.1 Audio channels and multiple zones. I don't think I need more power, as I would drive the mains through an existing tube amp, a modified Counterpoint SA-12, which, although not the most powerful, suits me.

My big question in considering higher model numbers is, is there a clear difference in sound quality, apart from power, between the models? No doubt better power supplies and DACs could be a factor. For that reason, I am considering the Oppo 95 instead of the 93. I can be persuaded to look higher in the Receiver rankings if people really notice a difference in the audio. The SC-55 and SC-57 appear to have identical amplifiers. Do they?
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