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Discussion Starter #1
I decided the time to purchase this class D technology from Pioneer was this year. The design was built from the ground up with Air Studios and has been further refined over several years. This is welcome as I've never been a fan of ICE class D technology. Most importantly the cost benefits of reduced parts count has finally resulted in reasonable prices, at least for the model SC-61.


Pioneer SC-61


The sound signature of class D3 amplifiers should be similar to Pioneers previous efforts. Two of the best reviews are:
http://www.hometheater.com/content/pioneer-elite-sc-57-av-receiver
http://www.whathifi.com/review/sclx75


My reference is the Samsung C700 which omits the traditional line-level D/A converter. Instead it keeps the signal in the digital domain by using an innovative built-in PCM to PWM circuit. The HW-C700B is controversial, misunderstood discontinued receiver which offers superior technology and sound quality. That is for those who system setup allowed for it. Samsung’s class D technology has become a three-ring-circus this year, as they added tubes to make the sound “warmer”. Their thrashing around detour is not their first, but it is always profitable. If not the technology is abandoned…


Another welcome advance in technology is the HRT HeadStreamer II which takes 96KHz/24 bits through a USB port and generates a pristine two-channel analog signal. Notably the Samsung class D all-digital receiver cannot optimally accept an analog signal, but the Pioneer class D3 can.
http://www.whathifi.com/review/high-resolution-technologies-headstreamer

So I will analyze and evaluate the Pioneers digital upsampled processing and analog conversion compared to the Headstreamer and Adam Audio Artist3 desktop speaker combination. Then overall against the Samsung C700 all-digital receiver.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-57429868-47/a-new-high-in-desktop-speaker-sound-quality


The objective is to document these true advances in technology (better, cheaper, convenient and more reliable) as compared to the expensive never-ending wild-goose chases the industry commonly leads the consumers on. The fact is, 31 years after the introduction of CD technology, its fun and richly rewarding chasing this great sounding, close to perfect digital technology.


I will post my findings over the next few weeks and months.
 

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Look forward to it.


Why not go for the SC-68?


Other than just comparing amps, that is the top model with the most advanced features & the best Pioneer has to offer this year.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Here are a couple of images inside the chassis:

Notice the many layers of circuit boards with additional circuit boards connecting the layers rather than the usual flat ribbon wires.

Also notice the noisy class D power amp stage is largely enclosed or shielded below all these boards.

The A/C transformer gets quite warm at 140 degrees.



The small, quiet fan exhaust was measure at 96-100 degrees.

 

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Discussion Starter #5
How do you ensure perfect music playback to test the SC-61's audio capability?


Windows PC's have been notoriously inferior because of the internal design of the kernel mixer.

For reference quality sound this must be bypassed with the freeware Foobar 2000 player.

It generates bit-for-bit accurate output without resampling. Here are the necessary components.

Selecting the WASAPI output is critical.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I've been waiting for years for the industry to convert advanced class D designs. The previous two threads I authored, but most consumers were not ready to accept the technology*.
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1272366/new-generation-of-class-d-amplifiers-for-2010/0_60
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1320152/the-transition-to-true-all-digital-audio/0_60


NAD and Pioneer and Samsung were the initial players. Samsung dropped its superior Pulsus all-digital class D technology and raised prices by adding tubes to lowly HTIB!


Recently NAD reduced class D prices by 50% (though still expensive). Because the original M1 was priced high enough ($6K) to allow for high-end magazine advertising, the NAD all-digital class D has always received excellent reviews from the high-end press*.

The trend continues now with a excellent NAD - C 390DD - Direct Digital DAC Amplifier which low-and-behold offers HDMI inputs!

The hardest issue with this product is trying to determine the number of channels. Here will see its still only two:



With Samsung self-destructed and NAD still practicing trickle-down economics, this leaves only Pioneer Elite to offer affordable leadership in the field.

Class D amplifiers should have a reduced parts count and with higher efficiency offer lower prices and weight.


By forgoing the PCM-to-PWM digital converter Pioneer still incorporates a traditional D/A converter. Because the output class D power stage switches at a high magnitude and rate, corruption of the analog (driver) stages become paramount issues. Pioneer has always gone the extra mile with shielding and isolation, so their expertize pay dividends here. In fact Pioneer had to completely rethink the ICE technology and built their own version from scratch. They also wisely sought the expertise from Air Studios and eliminated many parts. This design effort took several years. Now that those development costs have been covered we see reduced pricing, especially with the model 61.


While Pioneer took a longer route the results have been most gratifying to hear and see. The SC-61 provides clean and clear audio and video. Its as if somebody took the time and expense to go through and measure RF/EMI contamination at various points in the analog circuitry and eliminate or reduce it.

I think of many to write but forget! At the risk of getting ahead of myself another reviewer found that the NAD Class D amplifier could be improved by replacing the power cord. An $8 Mouser 3 prong shielded A/C power cord show a marked improvement over the stock two pronged.

It was the largest improvement I've ever noticed for this type of change.
http://nadelectronics.com/articles/C-390DD-Paves-Way-for-Digital-Revolution


More to come.


* Lets see class D, Heil Air Motion Tweeters and Neodymium magnets

* Except Stereophile analog die-hard reviewer Micheal Fremer who has now evolved.
 

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I'm looking into picking one of these up to replace an ancient Onkyo. Interested to hear further thoughts on this unit. Particularly on the in house calibration vs Audyssey.
 

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How is the FLAC streaming on this unit? I was considering the Marantz SR6006 which is appx the same price, but has trouble from what I read with the FLAC.


Is this the same D3 amp as the previous generation, or has it been refined/improved?
 

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Discussion Starter #9

Quote:
Originally Posted by av30  /t/1417558/pioneers-reasonably-priced-sc-61-class-d-receiver/0_60#post_22235339


How is the FLAC streaming on this unit? I was considering the Marantz SR6006 which is appx the same price, but has trouble from what I read with the FLAC.

Is this the same D3 amp as the previous generation, or has it been refined/improved?
Its only good for two channels up to 192/24 bits. I've ripped all my SACD to .iso files (using a PS3 with 3.55 firmware) and DVD-Audio to FLAC format. These multi-channel sources eliminate using the Pioneer for streaming.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
In my system the SC-61's phase control reduces the bass dynamic range.

The Hi-Bit oversampling makes the sound overall a bit sharper or brighter. So I leave them off.


I’ve also found several times that leaving of the grill cloths improves fidelity. Stereophile has shown charts for many years of the subtractions covers cause. However the speaker designer may have partially compensated for the grill being on. With the JBL LS80 towers I experimented and found that adding a single sheer window screen sized cover of cotton cheese cloth over the horn and super tweeter dampens the treble really well. Note: class D amplifiers change their treble response based upon load impedance more than other amplifier types.


The owners manual is pretty good but it took me some time to figure out how to turn on the sub-woofer for PCM sources. Speaker Size --> Subwoofer to PLUS. I would have preferred a button on the remote.


Then the manual discusses how great two subwoofers are but then recommends taking the bass away from the woofers built-in to my main towers. This is an area where I disagree with the Thx philosophy of redirecting and summing of the bass to the mono subwoofer. The studio mix is made with full range speakers and high fidelity home theater systems should reproduce the original dynamics and sound-staging as designed. Summing several channels electronically eliminates the delicate phase differences

Rather keep the main towers full range (why did I spend so much money on them anyways) and fine tune the phase control on the subwoofer for maximum bass at the listening position.


Different system settings use different displays. For example the audio and status use the receivers display while the main system setup uses the HDMI output. I would not want to use any receivers display for streaming music. Better leave that to a 1920 x 1080 HTPC display, with bit perfect playback like foobar 2000.


The SC-61 drives speakers of 4ohms which is of great practical benefit. In my 5.1 system there were two extra channels available for bi-amping, which is audibly better than bi-wiring using my JBL LS80 towers. These amplifiers provide a very wide dynamic range without ANY dynamic congestion. It is always remarkably at ease, even when pushing all seven channels hard. Pioneer quotes a very low distortion figure for a class D amplifier. I believe it!
 

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Discussion Starter #12

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ss10zidane  /t/1417558/pioneers-reasonably-priced-sc-61-class-d-receiver/0_60#post_22238350


How's the video processing on the 61?
At this time my goal is to setup the receiver and my system to achieve the maximum thoroughbred performance without introducing unknown variables. This avoids createing a black hole.

In the perfect playback system no enhancements or corrections are required. For example the sharpness should be set to zero.


Further receiver video processing is largely redundant. The display, HTPC or Blu-ray player already have enough controls that can interfere with each other and degrade performance. Why add a fourth? I enable just a few AMD video card controls: deinterlace and pulldown detection and just a bit of sharpness. Then use the displays. Two is enough!


The real question is how transparent is the HDMI audio and video went decoded by the Pioneer? The main issues are HDMI jitter and EMI/RF generation (the noisy class D amplifier section was already discussed).


As a background I've sample many HDMI products over the years and have notice that the basic chips keep on improving and the Pioneer SC-61 is no exception with an increase of transparency noticed. Unfortunately I upgraded the AMD/ATI Catalyst 7.6 software at the time the SC-61 replaced the Samsung C700 receiver. The two upgrades reduced the AMD sharpness from +11 to +5: a worthwhile improvement. This system audio and video is VERY transparent. with a PQ similar to the dynamics of a good movie theater. (I just went to the new Rave xD cinema yesterday). The first-rate Samsung 6700 Blu-ray player serves as baseline reference.


But sometimes its easy to blame the wrong component. For example, audio performance is degraded by this new copy protection scheme: http://www.dvdfab.com/cinavia.htm


A great deal of my time is spent wading through the new technology and finding the few true advancements that are practical, cost effective and convenient to invest in long-term. The Pioneer SC-61 meets that definition. Here are the power specs which look like those of an expensive separate amplifier.


For many years commercial reviewers rationalized that the greatly reduced power when driving all channels simultaneous was unimportant. The experts claimed this did not occur in real-life. (The real motive was to cheapen the product to increase profits). Now the advancements in reduced class D thermal dissipation prove them wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Now that my system is baselined with excellent performance, I'm starting to get into exploring the Advanced MCACC features. The situation appears pretty messy with the links in the old MCACC thread broken and the 2.13 PC software only available now from Europe. Further Pioneer still uses old RS-232 com port rather than USB.


Further investigation reveals Pioneer USA wants to keep the consumer from using these advanced features and instead reserve them for Custom Installers.

Perhaps the MCACC PC software has been updated to the 2012 USA line as the zip file is quite large at 19MB. I don't know until i can examine it!

http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Support/Home-Entertainment-Custom-Install/Detailed+Product+Information/A+V+Receivers



Can anyone assist?


Update:

The manual for this software does unzip correctly. This PC program provides the status of the receiver.

It also lets the Custom Installer modify or restore the receivers settings remotely over the local network or Internet.

Certainly a nice to have feature for knowledgeable owner.


Today's Humor:

Knowledgeable Dealer Example or Leave Your Installation to the Professionals or Don't Buy Demo Models



At the local Magnolia dealer all of the receivers were mounted to the left side in their standard cabinet shelf.

Of course the knowledgeable SC-61 owner knows (from reading page 2 of the owners manual under Fire Hazards) right away that the receivers cooling fan needs clearance in that area to properly ventilate.

Otherwise (as I indicated to the manager) the receiver will get very hot!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The included installation disc installs the AVNavigator software program on any networked PC.

This rigid program is designed to be idiot proof and offers no flexibility.


I found this reference html front page to be the most useful. It has a link to most everything (but not the MCACC PC graphical software).

Just select the area of interest.

../AV Navigator/MANUAL/en-US/index.html
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Usually its best to go out to the Internet and download the latest software.

*** Not for this years Pioneer ***


The key is to use the sidebar for the included AVNavigator in addition what I already posted. Ignore the tab it opens in you Internet browser if you don't want to suffer.

The good news is Pioneer has switched over from legacy com ports to Ethernet to connect to your PC.

Of course there are firmware updates over the Internet.

I think you can transfer files to the FAT32 usb stick if attached to the receiver. Fun for testing the same track from different sources.



I had to install MSXML first:
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=15697


I was then able to open the MCACC app and transfer the parameters from the receiver to my PC for display:



Now we what they measure and set. Everything is parametric (level, Q, freq) for bass Standing Wave Control: up to three resonant peaks for the sub, center (if set to large) and large L&R speakers


Then a nine band parametric for all channels except the subwoofer.

Theses are the basic settings. The other two tabs are for the advanced expert topics.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
After watching the following Hi-bit24 processing video it can be deduced that it should work for sources under 24 bits like CD or mp3 audio.

Yet I configured foobar2000 to expand the 16 bit CD sources to 24 bits. That is, pad the new 8 bits with zeros (unless using a foobar oversamplng filter).

Therefore the SC-61 should detect this and not allow Hi-bit24 processing. But I think it did as the sound quality definitely changed. Am i waiting to learn something new today?



In the interest of fairness, I will conduct another test and keep the CD audio at its native 16 bits and evaluate the Hi-bit24 processing once again.


I assumed that Hi-bit24 processing over-sampled too. But that is handled by Pioneers Legato Link conversion, a feature not included in any of the Elite receivers. Then it dawned upon me that the out-of-band aliasing products created would wreck havoc with the class D amplifiers.


Pioneer also has a new Hi-bit32 processing included in the SC-65 and SC-67. This feature is questionable as traditional D/A converters are limited by noise and distortion to ~20 bits of actual resolution. The S/N ratio of the Pioneer amps is an excellent 105db. Also the residual low level spectrum with the ear-to-the-tweeter is clean which indicates excellent grounding and shielding. In this sense a receiver design is superior to separates as the designer has more parameters idealized and also under his local, direct control. Something like after 15 years and billions of dollars in development we'll get a damn ICE amplifier to sound good!
 

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Here are the supported SC-61 frequencies, bit depths and formats over HDMI as reported by Windows 7:


Notice that all bit depths may not supported at all frequencies. Microsoft needs to be more explicit and clear-up this ambiguity with this applet!


I did adjust the foobar on my Windows 7 HTPC to have a preferred depth of 16 bits. However I don't want it to truncate 24 bit formats to 16!



Then there is some conversions like SACD where I must manually manually switch Foobar back to 24 bits. The SACD dll should allow for bit-depth settings.


Apparently its still too much to ask Windows 7 and applications to pass through audio signals at their native frequency and bit depth - even in 2012!



In any event I did listen to the Hi-bit24 processing with several CD sources set to 16 bits. They were interpolated to 24 bits.

The SC-61 sound quality reached a new level of realism (and less taken-for-granted digital artifacts) and made my 33K of CD tracks become all the more precious.

The synthesized soundfields improved too. My current favorites are "Unplugged" and "Focus Wide". Unplugged is quit natural and the Focus make instrument "grow larger" as if they were closer microphoned.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiFiFun  /t/1417558/pioneers-reasonably-priced-sc-61-class-d-receiver#post_22183836


The A/C transformer gets quite warm at 140 degrees. The small, quiet fan exhaust was measure at 96-100 degrees.

Hello. Thanks for the detailed information on this interesting receiver. I've been interested in Class D amps for awhile, having using a Panasonic SA-XR45 receiver for the past nine years. (I've also used several Bel Canto amps, both the Tripath and ICE Power variety, in my 2-channel system.) I recently replaced the XR45 with a Marantz SR-6006. While the Marantz is a great all-around unit, I'm a bit concerned about how hot it runs, which seems to be typical of modern HT receivers. I would expect the SC61 with its Class D amplifiers to run relatively cool, but I see you measured the temperature of the power transformer at 140 deg F, which is quite hot. How hot does the SC61's top cover get during use? The SR6006's top cover hasn't gotten too hot to touch, but it's close. Maybe I'll take a thermocouple home from work this weekend to measure it. Makes me a bit nervous after years of experience with the cool-running XR45. If the SC61 also runs cool, I would consider switching to it.
 

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The new Pioneer SC is AVR lineup is very interesting however we did uncover some disappointments:

1. 4K video processing is only available from the SC65 and up
2. MAAC still lacks the required resolution for low frequency/subwoofer optimzation available by the competition
3. The ability to handle DSD through USB should go down in all models not just from the SC67 and up
4. The Marvel QDEO video processor was good in its day but now getting dated
5. The TI DSPs are solid performers but they should consider upgrading to some of the latest 3-core and 4-core audio DSPs now becoming available
6. The use of the excellent 192K/32 bit DAC should be available in lower models not just the SC68
7. The amplifiers' sonic performance is very good and now handles low impedance/sensitivity loudspeakers better than previous models. However when pushing the amplifiers @ high level with a wide dynamic range stream we still find the high frequencies to be somewhat brittle


In summary, the new SC lineup has some nice stepups over the previous models. But in my opinion, there is still work to be done for improving their digital amplifier sections to sonically compare with some of the better Class A/B designs...


Just my $0.02..
 
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