The Pioneer SC-LX58 puts the Class D into Dolby Atmos
What is the Pioneer SC-LX58?The Pioneer SC-LX58 is their latest mid-range audio-video receiver which utilises nine-channels of amplification and includes surround sound, replacing last year’s SC-LX57. The LX58 sits at the higher end of Pioneer’s receiver range, just below the LX78 and LX88 and includes a number of new features for this year, of which probably the biggest is support for Dolby's new Atmos immersive surround format. In addition, Pioneer are the only manufacturers currently using Class D digital amplification in their receivers and the LX58 delivers 190W per a channel.
Other new features for this year include HDMI 2.0 with Ultra HD 4K 60p 4:4:4 video pass-through and upscaling capability at full bandwidth 18Gbps. There are also dedicated dual subwoofer outputs, along with LFE EQ and MCACC pro calibration. Pioneer’s excellent iControl app has been improved, as has the remote control and AVNavigator has been built-in. There’s a powered HDZone, 5.1 FLAC/WAV file playback via network or USB, a newly designed WiFi adapter and built-in aptX enabled Bluetooth. That’s an impressive set of features and at £1,399 as at the time of writing (November 2014), it won’t break the bank either.
DesignPioneer are continuing to use the same design as their previous receivers but we guess if it ain’t broke why fix it. Whilst we would like to see a manufacturer take a few risks when it comes to receiver design, the LX58 certainly is attractive and it’s built like a tank.
The all-metal construction is very solid, the finish suitably black and the brushed metal facia definitely looks the part. There’s the standard AVR layout, with a large input dial on the left hand side and a matching volume dial on the right. In the middle is a large and informative display, whilst beneath that is a drop down flap; behind which you’ll find a basic set of controls and some additional connections including an extra HDMI input.
The LX58 uses the classic AVR layout and it's big, black and built like a tank!
ConnectionsAround the back is a surprisingly stripped down set of connections, which is good to see because there really is no need to fill a receiver’s rear panel with legacy connections no one will ever use. Instead you get seven HDMI inputs (one of which supports MHL) and three HDMI outputs, along with coaxial and optical digital inputs and an optical output. There’s also a LAN port, a USB port for the wireless LAN adapter, composite and component video inputs, analogue audio inputs, IR repeaters and 12V triggers. There are outputs for additional zones, preouts for up to nine channels, speaker terminals and independent dual subwoofer outputs.
This year Pioneer have included built-in Bluetooth which is a nice touch and it's version 4.0 with the A2DP/AVRCP profiles and support for the SBC/AAC/aptX codecs. We struggled to initially get the LX58 to pair with our various devices but managed in the end and the results were impressive. Pioneer still haven't added built-in WiFi, so they include a wireless adapter. This has been redesigned since last year but frankly it's still a nightmare to get it setup correctly. The ease with which we connected both the Marantz SR7009 and Yamaha A2040 to our network puts the LX58 to shame and both those other receivers have WiFi built-in.
LX58 Remote ControlsThe remote control has been redesigned, although it didn’t look vastly different from last year. It appeared to have the same basic layout that Pioneer have been using for years, with a black plastic construction and rather small buttons. However the layout is slightly better than before and the remote is comfortable to hold and easy to use. It also has a backlight, which is very useful for those operating the LX58 in a darkened home cinema.
Pioneer’s excellent iControl remote app has also had a minor upgrade but since it was already one of the best examples available there isn’t much to improve. It now includes full cursor integration, backwards compatibility with existing models and video scaling ‘swipe’ adjustment. Otherwise its business as usual for one of the best designed and effective remote apps we’ve seen. It’s available for both iOS and Android and iControl is vastly superior to the provided remote control.
SetupCompared to much of the competition, setting up the LX58 isn't as intuitive or straightforward as it could be. For one thing, Pioneer really need to update their menu system, which is starting to look very antiquated. The menu systems and setup procedures on the Marantz and Yamaha receivers we were reviewing at the same time were definitely superior. In addition the lack of built-in WiFi puts the LX58 at a disadvantage to the competition and whilst Pioneer include a wireless adapter, if you can get it working without referring to the manual, we'll give you a medal. At least there is built-in Bluetooth but even that wasn't as intuitive as we would like. The AVNavigator is a useful feature but we wish Pioneer would let whoever designed the apps to have a go at the main menus.
Actually setting up the amplifier and equalising for the acoustic environment uses Pioneer's proprietary Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System (MCACC) which works very well. This has had some updates since last year and remains one of the best systems in terms of how it graphically represents what it's actually doing. MCACC was developed in conjunction with professional recording studios and, as with all of these automated calibration systems, it comes with a dedicated microphone. The LX58 includes the Pro Auto Room Tuning version, so you get Auto Phase Control, Speaker Polarity Check, Standing Wave Control, Full Band Phase Control, Precision Distance settings down to the millimetre and independent dual subwoofer output.
Pioneer really do need to update their menu system and setting up the internet and Bluetooth was less than intuitive.
What is Dolby Atmos?If you're an AV enthusiast then Dolby Atmos will need no introduction but for those that are unfamiliar, it's their new multi-dimensional audio format. It can be included within Dolby TrueHD soundtracks and adds additional overhead and width speakers in order to create a more immersive surround experience. As with all the other Atmos enabled AV receivers on the market, the LX58 offers the choice of either 5.1.4 (four overhead speakers) or 7.1.2 (two overhead speakers) using the nine available channels. For more information on Dolby Atmos read our handy guide.
Testing the LX58In order to effectively review all the upcoming Dolby Atmos enabled AV receivers we have installed four overhead speakers, which means we can fully test all the different configurations up to and including 7.1.4. For movies we tested the LX58 with both 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks before moving to both 5.1.4 and a 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker configurations. We had Dolby’s own Atmos demo disc, as well as the Blu-ray of Transformers; Age of Extinction, which was the first film to be released domestically with an Atmos soundtrack. We also listened to an extensive amount of music, with the LX58 in a more purist two-channel configuration.
LX58 Specs & FeaturesThe specifications and features found on the LX58 are so extensive that we don't have room to cover them all in a single review, so we'll concentrate on those that are new for this year. First of all, as already mentioned, there's the inclusion of Dolby Atmos and we'll discuss how this sounds later in the review. Pioneer are also currently the only manufacturer to offer Class D digital amplification in conjunction with Dolby Atmos. This year Pioneer have improved the circuit design to ensure the amplification is efficient, fast responding, generates less heat and reduces noise.
The previously mentioned MCACC automated room tuning software has also had an upgrade with the pro version being included on the LX58. This adds full band phase control, precision distance setting and independent dual subwoofer outputs with separate calibration settings. There's also the option for HD video and audio in a secondary zone independent from the main zone. As well as Ultra HD 4K passthrough and upscaling that now supports HDMI 2.0 and and 4K at up to 60Hz, 4:4:4 and 24-bit at the full bandwidth of 18Gbps.
In terms of music playback, the LX58 supports a huge number of different formats and file types. Firstly the LX58 can playback Hi-Res audio via USB or your network up to 192kHz/24-bit WAV, FLAC, AIFF and Apple Lossless files, as well as multi-channel audio up to 96kHz/24-bit WAV or FLAC.If DSD is our thing then the LX58 can handle 5.6MHz or 2.8MHz via USB or network, along with DSD from SACD either from USB-A or HDMI. In terms of more general file support, the LX58 can handle MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF and DSD.
As mentioned earlier, Pioneer's remote app is one of the best available and yet the company has still found ways to improve it. This year iControlAV5, which is available free for iOS and Android, let's you control the AV scaler with your finger, includes a new status viewer, adds a cursor and backwards compatibility with older models. There's also built-in Bluetooth with the A2DP/AVRCP profiles and support for the SBC/AAC/aptX codecs. Pioneer's AVNavigator is a user-friendly support feature that is now built-in, allowing you to setup the LX58 from your PC, Mac, iPad or smartphone.
The LX58 might not be Pioneer's flagship receiver but it comes with a huge number of features nonetheless.
Pioneer LX58 Movie Sound QualityWhilst we might have a few issues with the ergonomics of the LX58, we certainly didn’t have any such problems when it came to the audio performance. Some people have complained about the effectiveness of MCACC in light of recent upgrades but we found the latest iteration to be highly successful. We also like the way MCACC graphically represents what it is doing; the only software better in this respect is Anthem’s superb ARC. Pioneer excel at making receiver with a big and powerful sound, so Godzilla was an obvious starting point for our listening tests. The LX58 didn’t disappoint, delivering an impressive sound field with a serious amount of dynamic range.
However it wasn’t all bass and power, as the LX58 proved equally as adept at creating a realistic soundstage; immersing the listener and placing sounds and effects with pin point precision. The Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past is full of inventive sound design to compliment the impressive visuals and the LX58 did a wonderful job of replicating the experience. Sound effects were positioned to match certain visual cues within three dimensional space and the Pioneer localised them perfectly. It delivered a similar performance with Gravity, which also has very directional dialogue and effects.
Of course, we would expect the LX58 to handle 5.1 and 7.1 channel audio well but the big question is - how did it sound with Dolby Atmos? The simple answer is fantastic with a cohesive and totally immersive listening experience. The ‘Amaze’ trailer uses highly directional objects (sounds) that the LX58 seamlessly panned around the room and the bass effects that compliment the thunder were suitably thunderous. Moving onto Transformers: Age of Extinction we had a similar experience, with objects clearly moving overhead and plenty of excellent spatial cues to create a greater sense of atmosphere. Dialogue was always clear and the positioning of sound effects was very precise, despite all the other elements within what is a very busy soundtrack.
Pioneer SC-LX58 Video Review
Pioneer LX58 Music Sound QualityWhilst the two-channel performance of the LX58 wasn’t as impressive as the multichannel presentation, it was still very respectable. We have often found that Pioneer receivers are great at movie soundtracks but sometimes lack subtlety and warmth when it comes to music. So it proved with the LX58 and although turning all the processing off and using the Pioneer as a straight two channel amp removed some of its expansiveness, the results were very precise. No AV receiver is ever going to fully compete with a dedicated stereo amplifier but the LX58 is certainly good enough to be enjoyable and the performance with Spotify and Internet radio is definitely up to most people’s requirements. The superb file support also means that if you listen to a lot of high resolution music, the LX58 is a great choice of receiver.
The clarity and precision of its digital amplification means that the Pioneer handles the additional detail of these higher resolution recordings with ease. The innate power of the LX58 means that it can deliver a wide dynamic range and its combination of power and effective bass management results in an impressive performance. It also excels at multi-channel music, so if you have a collection of SACDs or DVD-As then the Pioneer could be a good choice. There are certainly better sounding receivers when it comes to stereo recordings; both Anthem and Marantz deliver a more musical performance with two-channel music. However that's not to say that the LX58 is a slouch in this area and whilst its performance might be described as slightly clinical, it certainly handles a multitude of different musical styles with ease.
The LX58 delivers a muscular performance with movies and a detailed sound with two-channel music.
- Expansive and detailed sound
- Dolby Atmos Support
- Excellent remote app
- Extensive features
- Impressive build quality
- Infuriating wireless adapter
- Sound lacking in warmth
Pioneer SC-LX58 AV Receiver Review
Is it worth buying?
There's no question that the Pioneer SC-LX58 packs an awful lot into its well constructed and attractively designed chassis. You get nine-channels of Class D digital amplification, Dolby Atmos support and more features than you can shake a stick. The addition of built-in Bluetooth is welcomed but it's about time the wireless functionality followed the same path and the setup was made easier. The menus are somewhat antiquated but conversely the remote app and AVNavigator features are state-of-the-art, whilst the MCACC automated room tuning software works well and produces plenty of pretty graphs. The overall performance was very good with a large and muscular sound with movies and a precise and clear delivery with music. The sound lacked a little warmth perhaps but for a movie fan the LX58 rocks and considering all you get for the price, it does offer great value.
What are the alternatives?
We reviewed the Pioneer SC-LX58 simultaneously with Yamaha RX-A2040 and Marantz SR7009, which gave us an opportunity to compare the three receivers directly. In terms of pure power the LX58 had the edge and it also had the best overall build quality, although the A2040 was equally as solid and the SR7009 won out in terms of sheer looks. Both the Yamaha and especially the Marantz were easier to setup and they also had built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. All three support Dolby Atoms and were equally as impressive with the new format but for overall sound quality the SR7009 had the edge over the other two. All are also feature packed, with the Pioneer and Yamaha having the edge but at £100 for A2040, the LX58 offers slightly better value. However the SR7009 is the same price as the LX58, making it the most obvious direct alternative.
Value For Money8
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