There's a gazillion features, functions, and modes in this thing (I counted them all), and since I only have space to cover a handful, I'll just hit on my favorites.
Let's start with the amplifiers, which sounded terrific on both movies and music. The SC-07's performance was discernibly better - freer, more dynamic, and more texturally focused - than many other receivers and even some separate power amps. If credit here is due to Pioneer's use of ICEpower amp topology as the basis for the SC-07's Direct Energy HD Amplifiers, then count me a fan. (ICEpower was developed by Danish engineers working in conjunction with B&O.)
Whatever the name, the Pioneer's Class D power section proved its mettle on demanding multichannel recordings like a new Telarc SACD of the Cincinnati Pops performing music by American composer Howard Hanson. The final movement of the Symphony No. 2 is almost overwhelmingly colorful, and its dense, powerful brass-and-winds harmonies can really test the clarity and articulation of an audio component. The Pioneer passed with honors.
Reproducing the full, noisy palette of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End soundtrack was child's play for the SC-07. It easily reached big-cinema reference levels without a hint of harshness or excess "bite" on crashing waves and cannon shots. Dynamic "squishing" wasn't a problem on the many impacts and explosions, while the very clean sonics of Hans Zimmer's music remained unspoiled - even through the drawn-out mayhem of the climactic vortex sequence.
Next feature: THX Loudness Plus. Invoked on the setup menu, this option enhances the THX listening modes with a "smart" compensation (depending on volume setting) to make surround effects, tonal balance, and dialogue listened to at lower volumes sound more like they do at reference level. It ain't perfect, but if you do a lot of your home theater listening at settings well below reference (and almost everyone does), it's a pearl.
Lastly, while it might be a little nerdy, one of my most exciting discoveries was that the SC-07's Home Media Gallery feature is compatible with FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) as well as the more common MP3, WMA, and AAC/MP4. Because FLAC is sonically transparent, is digital-rights-management free, and cuts file sizes in half, I'm using it to archive my music collection.
There's also Precision Quartz Lock System (PQLS), which reclocks HDMI digital audio, including CD data, from a compatible Pioneer Blu-ray Disc player to reduce jitter. I tried PQLS using the company's BDP-05FD (reviewed on page 94), and while I'm usually skeptical about such things, I have to confess I heard a difference - with the caveat that since there's no way to enable or disable PQLS without a disruptive trip to the setup menu, I couldn't do a direct
A/B comparison. Nonetheless, I judged that carefully recorded stereo music sounded subtly better with PQLS on, with cleaner edges to transients such as hi-hat cymbal strikes; smoother, more organic-sounding reverb tails on natural hall-sound echoes; and blacker background silences.
Pioneer minted a new preprogrammed/learning remote for this new receiver line. It's handsome and usable, but the buttons, type, and spacing are all too small, and its backlighting only illuminates the central keys, leaving you to squint your way through input-select, transport, and listening-mode commands - the ones you're most likely to need in the dark.
I give the SC-07 two big thumbs up - okay, one and a half. Its video processing isn't all-encompassing (but of very solid quality), and it has ease-of-use issues (but what A/V receiver doesn't?). Far more important, it delivers gobs of clean, dynamic power and great sound on music and movies, and offers a whole slew of additional goodies, many of them potentially useful. The SC-07's price is substantial, but its rewards are substantial as well.
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