Ok guys I have some thoughts on this unit. I would also appreciate some feedback to help me out.
I originally purchased an Onkyo 626 couple of weeks ago but subsequently saw the SC-1227k on sale at best buy canada for $599 (same price as Onkyo) so I picked it up. As a result I have now both receivers to do a head to head with.
First of all the Pioneer is a beast and looks beautiful. I love the look and size as well as all the features it has. This post is not going to be about feature comparison as we all know what they are between the two receivers.
Looks not withstanding this is going to be about the sound. My reference material was Eagles Hotel California HD lossless FLAC for music and Bat Man Begins (specifically the tumbler chase sequence). Both receivers on default settings after auto calibration. On Pioneer I tried both Symmetry and Chan Adj modes.
My Speakers are the KEF T 305 which I love for both looks and sound. Having first tried the Onkyo I was impressed with the detail and imaging of the sound. At that point I was happy as I had nothing to compare it to and was over all satisfied with the sound. The bass was punchy and tight, the localization of effects was great and plenty of power. What really impressed me was the broad sound stage it created and the detail of the sound.
I tried music and found the Onkyo to be clean and pleasant but with an over all edge. I wouldn't call it "bright" but a little edgey - tight bass and clean vocals, adequate sound stage.
Ok Pioneer turn. Needless to say I was super excited when I picked up the Pioneer as I heard great things about the D class amp and the power, I couldn't wait to plug it in. What a gorgeous beast this receiver is.
I first tried Batman Begins - same tumbler chase sequence I was very familiar with from the Onkyo as I watched it several time and had a good reference point. First impression - deep muscular powerful sound - I punched up the volume and the receiver kept composure at levels beyond that of the Onkyo (I would never watch at that volume however, this was just a test) Ok so the thing has power, lots of it. The room shook from the bass and everything "seemed" to be going well - I am impressed. Ok this is where things start going sideways for me with the Pioneer. As I continue to watch sequence I am beginning to notice that the Bass is not as tight. Sure it's loud, and it shakes my livingroom but it's lacking "punch" I ran the sequence a few times to get familiar with the sound and back to Onkyo for another comparison.
Immediately I now hear a much greater sound stage - it's as if the Onkyo is able to create greater channel separation and movement of the effects. The Bass is also a lot punchier. Where the Pioneer offered power and rumble, the Onkyo is able to produce a much tighter and more impact-full base response. Dialogue is also louder and cleaner. The sound seems smoother and less fatiguing. But the biggest thing I notice is the detail of the sound compared to that of the Pioneer creating a more immersive and seamless sound-stage.
At this point I'm thinking this cannot be right - look at that beast that is the pioneer with it's D class amps, surely I am imagining things. Back I go to pioneer - again BIG SOUND but lacking the detail, punchy clear bass and channel separation/movement.
I obsessively fiddled with all the settings and calibrations to try and get this receiver to sound better to no avail. I am especially curious about the way the DACS might differ in the two receivers as I find the 5.1 experience significantly better on the Onkyo. Going back from on to the other is almost night and day in terms of seamless sound that sounds just "right" vs the muscular but almost crude sound of the pioneer.
For music however the Pioneer is a clear winner here. It's as if the strengths of Onkyo completely disappear when moving to two channel sound and what was a weakness of the Pioneer now shines providing a powerful smooth and nuanced sound.
Final thoughts and questions. Is it possible that Onkyo simply has superior sound processing for multi channel soundtracks? And for Pioneer, as good as the amp is, its failure lies in the processing?
I have no other explanation as I tried all various settings to get the Pioneer to the same level as the Onkyo. I would love some feedback as I want to keep the Pioneer for various reasons, but as it stands I have no choice but to keep it off my shelf. My return deadline is Jan 5th so I will probably still give it a go again but after at least 6 or 7 swap outs/tests the differences in my setup are undeniable in favor of the Onkyo.
What you guys think?
P.S I am not an Onkyo fan boy and this is my first Onkyo. I really want to love and keep this Pioneer - HELP!