Recently my Sony receiver, which has been with me through college, finally gave up the ghost. I’ve been in limbo on what would make a good replacement. After doing some research and coming to one conclusion and then after seeing the reviews I changed my mind and ended up deciding on the Pioneer SC-1223-K Receiver.
My old Sony most likely subcomed to heat failure. It also didn’t have any HDMI inputs. The tech in it was also from a time past, when 5.1 just became a “thing”. For its replacement I wanted to get something that was not so much future proof, but the receiver would have to be able to handle a room upgrade more than anything else.
The specs on this receiver are impressive.
Do I need 7.2 surround sound support? Is it required that the receiver that I purchase support 4k and 4k upconvert? The answer is no. Will I actually ever use those features? Maybe.
I don’t refresh my electronics until absolutely necessary. In this case, I’m replacing a receiver that was tied to my main viewing area. I tried my best to revive it. I even asked a friend at a local sound shop to take a look at it. However, once I do replace something, be it a computer or a receiver, I’m going to research the heck out of the item and try to stretch my budget to its limits. Being that I did this already with my TV, I decided that I needed to go for something nice.
|Amplifier Type||Class D3|
|Power||170 Watts x 7|
|Number of HDMI Inputs/Outputs||8 in / 2 out (Main Zone & Zone 2)|
|4K Ultra HD
Pass-through and Upscaling
|Video Conversion to HDMI||
|MCACC Room Calibration||Advanced MCACC|
|MHL 2.0 Input|
|Powered Multi-Zone Audio||
|HDZone (HDMI Zone Output)||
|Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (30-Pin and Lightning)||
|AirPlay & HTC Connect|
|Windows 8 Compatible|
|DLNA 1.5 (DMR)|
|USB File Playback||AIFF/WAV/Apple Lossless/FLAC/MP3/WMA/AAC|
|Network File Music Playback||AIFF/WAV/Apple Lossless/FLAC/MP3/AAC|
|192kHz 24-Bit Hi Resolution Music Playback||AIFF/WAV/FLAC|
|Gapless Playback||AIFF/WAV/FLAC/Apple Lossless|
|Pandora & vTuner Internet Radio|
|iOS / Android Remote Control App||iControlAV 2013|
|AVNavigator PC / Mac Setup Software|
The big draws are the class D3 amplifier and HDMI inputs. Class D3 amplifiers should be able to provide a consistent supply of power even as channels are added. This means that even though I’m not going to be running a full 7 discreet channels from the get-go, that when I do I won’t suffer when the workload increases. Two other big pluses with this amp is that it is 4-ohm certified and Class D3 is low power draw and runs cool.
It also has a ton of HDMI inputs. HDMI isn’t going anywhere for a while. I can only imagine that the number of home theatre devices with them is increasing and that my likelihood of purchasing a new device for my viewing pleasure will require another HDMI input. After I got the receiver I did learn one awesome thing about the HDMI inputs on this receiver (I’ll cover this in-depth a bit later).
When I first started looking for a replacement for my Sony I mostly found reviews, comparisons, and information on 2013 or older models. This actually turned out to be for the best. By looking so early in the year for a replacement the announced but not available 2014 models were no where to be found, but the 2013 models had already hit discounted pricing. No matter what I picked it seemed that I would be getting a pretty fair discount on the MSRP.
I usually start my search for a new electronics item at CNET. I find that their reviews are well written and comprehensive. I used them as a base for the purchase of my Panasonic VIERA TC-P55VT30 plasma TV. After reading their reviews of the 2013 receivers I was set on a Sony replacement. Actually, the Sony that I was looking at, STR-DN1040 wasn’t the highest reviewed by them. The STR-DN840, the model under the STR-DN1040, received the highest spot. CNET didn’t feel that the difference warranted its price.
I was about 80% sold so I headed out to do some research on reviews of the Sony. Normally when I’m in the 80% sold category it’s hard to change my mind. After seeing the countless reviews about HDMI handshake issues and firmware updates, etc I really had to think it over. It hurt me but I knew I had to go back to the drawing board.
I went back to CNET’s site and looked over the rest of the receivers that were carefully reviewed and really didn’t see anything that jumped off the page. I then turned to my other resources, avsforum.com and Google. It turned out that most reviews were when the receiver went on a special sale on Amazon. Everything seemed positive and I even found a few hints that the internals were from an earlier version of an Elite model.
I was back to that 80% sold mark and went looking for all the bad reviews that I could find. This search began and ended with Amazon. I find that, in general, if the item you’re looking for is 4 stars with a ton of reviews then it is a win, but if you’re looking at popular electronics (as in a home theatre receiver) then you really have to throw out the 5 and 1 stars. Those 5 star ratings are generally exaggerations and the one stars are jaded. My jaw dropped when I hit the page because it is rare to see a receiver get more than 3.5 stars, the Pioneer had 4.5! It had no one or two star reviews! I immediately went to the lowest starred reviews and saw that their complaints were valid but didn’t show a vindictiveness of the reviewer nor any implicit problems with the product.
Done. Sold. Cart’ed. Purchased!
For my initial impressions I could go on about the double boxing (thanks Amazon!) or how Pioneer packaged the receiver, but this isn’t about that. If you’re not buying this thing off the side of some guy’s truck then this shouldn’t count. Also, it’s not an iPhone or some designer item. This beast is exactly that, a beast of a receiver.
What comes in the box is just the basics. If you’re buying this receiver and it is your first real home theatre receiver you’re going to want to call a buddy or someone who has a good clue at what they’re doing. A basic wiring guide and warranty information is about all you get paper wise. The included CD is where the magic happens.
This receiver is big. Not necessarily wide, but definitely tall and a bit deep; more so than my older Sony.
The first thing I had to do was prepare the space for the new receiver. I also had to draw out how everything was going to be connected. Remember what I said about HDMI inputs earlier. It turns out during the installation process I found out that you can have HDMI pass through from one device through the monitor output of the receiver. In laymen terms it is possible to take any one input, say a cable box, and have it pass through the monitor output to the TV without having the receiver turned on. This solved a huge problem and eliminated a ton of cables from my previous setup.
Back to the setup! The included CD contains Pioneer’s setup application AVNavigator. This application lets you go through the entire process of setting up the wire connections and configuring the receiver. Questions like, “what devices are connected to the receiver”, “how is this device connected”, etc are answered one by one to give back a complete wiring diagram for the receiver. One question I had in my mind was how, with the ton of inputs this thing has, will I ever find the right one. During the walk-through not only could I tell the receiver what was actually hooked up to a given port thus renaming the input, I could also tell it that I wasn’t using that input and to remove it from the selection screens!
Overall the setup was easy. Some of the reviews I found on AVSForum.com mentioned that it could get complicated. I didn’t think it was as bad as it could be for a fairly complex unit. My earlier statement about having someone who knows home theatre hookups is still valid. You’ll get some fairly technical questions that can stump you. Yes, even I had to turn to Google to do a bit of research to find the best answer for some.
After the basic setup the application will put you into MCACC calibration mode. Included with the receiver is a small microphone with a really long cable. Essentially you place the microphone as close to possible to your listening position and let the receiver go through the process of calibrating itself. This does a number of things. First it tells the receivers which speakers are active. Don’t have a 7.2 speaker setup or are you unsure if you have the phase correct? Don’t worry. The calibration of the receiver detects these things and will alert you to misconfigurations, etc.
One of the awesome things about the receiver is that it can store multiple calibrations. For the main calibration I set the microphone where we sit in the main living area. I re-did the setup moving the microphone to a second spot by the dining room table. You can store up to six locations. This is good if you have a favorite recliner that you sit in while watching movies and then move up close for some gaming action.
One drawback to the receiver, and this really evident during the setup, is that it only supports a wired network connection. If you desire a wireless connection, which I can only assume that most people will, then you can do one of two things. The first thing you can do, and in my opinion the more costly, is to get the AS-WL300 wireless adapter for Pioneer receivers. At the time of this writing it’s $130 on Amazon. Yikes! The other thing you can do, what I did, is get something like the NETGEAR Universal N900 Dual Band Wi-Fi to 4-Port Ethernet Adapter for Video and Gaming (WNCE4004). The NETGEAR adapter lets you plug up to 4 devices in and use a N wireless connection. I actually turned off the wireless in my PlayStation3 and plugged it into the NETGEAR as it seems to provide a consistently better connection.
The NETGEAR adapter comes with one CAT5e cable. After a really quick and easy setup you can plug it into your receiver and be off and running. Obviously if you need wireless to talk to the receiver do this before you try to run the setup application. I would recommend against trying to setup the receiver in an area with a wired location only to move it for use with a wireless adapter as it really complicates the process of getting the cables setup correctly and doing a good calibration.
One of the first things I had to do was to watch a good movie with some great sound. I also wanted to see how good the receiver was at managing inputs. The first thing I did was verify the HDMI passthrough. It worked! WIN 1! I then switched it over to the PS3. It turned on the PS3 and switched the output to it. WIN 2! Finally I went over to my tablet, opened up Netflix, loaded up The Fifth Element, and started streaming to my Chromecast. The 1223 switched over to the Chromecast input and out of the speakers and on the TV were the rumblings of a great sci-fi movie. WIN 3!
I don’t have a great speaker setup. Now that I have the receiver my next goals are to fill out the gaps in my surround sound speaker setup. However, I have two nicer Pioneer three-way speakers. They have a 10″ woofer to handle base and carry an OK mid and high range. The 1223 detected all of this through the MCACC calibration. When the opening sequences of The Fifth Element began I was impressed with the bass. The dialog, even through a two speaker setup, was clear and discernible.
Overall I cannot put a 100% tested mark here because my setup lacks what this receiver was designed to do. I can say that it is much, much cleaner, and powerful sounding than my Sony. At this point I can say that I’m very egear to hear what it can do with a full compliment of speakers.
I could go on and on about this feature or that feature provided by this receiver. There probably is another article’s worth of content just on the companion app for your phone/tablet. That’s for another time.
This receiver has been nothing but a pleasure to own. The ease of setup for a complicated unit like this cannot be underscored. The great sound from a modest speaker setup is another huge plus. I also cannot discount the amount of untapped potential and expandability that the SC-1223 has to its name. I know most people aren’t wandering into a purchase like this too often. When they do this type of item is not something that is purchased on a whim. I think that if you do your research you’ll come to the same conclusion as I.
What I’d like to end with is that for sale price that Amazon is offering this receiver it is most definitely a steal. At the time of this writing Pioneer lists the MSRP at $999.99. It’s a lot. Amazon is listing it for $699.99. That’s a good $300 off. At this point I don’t see why anyone should be looking at the 2014 models when this one is at this price. From what I’ve seen the SC-1224, the 2014 model, will be around $1099.99. Save yourself $400 and get this amazing receiver.