Pioneer SC-LX901 AV Receiver Testing

Despite the recent acquisition by Onkyo of Pioneer’s home theatre and Blu-ray player division, the look, style and feeling associated with the Pioneer brand did not change.


Pioneer SC LX901 AV receiver

The aluminium housing is available in rugged, black and silver metallic finishes. The SC-LX901 weighs 18.3 kg and measures 435 x 185 x 441 mm. On the front panel, there are large, circular input selector and volume control buttons that have been given blue LED lighting. Below the display is a flip cover with additional controls. When the lid is closed, a gap is left around it, which is not really aesthetic. The exterior design is minimalist and stripped-down, but of high quality. There is a sign displaying Air Studios at the bottom right of the front panel.

SC LX901 back panel

There are seven HDMI inputs on the back of the device, five of which are HDCPP 2.2 compliant, and it has two HDMI outputs, one of which is ARC compliant and the other can send digital signals to a separate zone. It is also equipped with two coaxial and three optical audio inputs, as well as a Phono input (MM) for playing vinyl records. Amplifier connectors are gold-plated. There are 11 speaker connectors on the device. The AV receiver can even be used as a processor via the 11.2 channel preamplifier output. We counted a total of 88 connections!

SC LX remote control

The remote control has a simple, logical layout, most of which already features the Onkyo brand style, but unfortunately it does not have a backlight, which is unfortunate for darkened cinema rooms.

Not only can we control the AV receiver with the remote-controlled, free-to-download iControl AV application, but it can very well be controlled with a smart device. Airplay 2 and Siri Assistant also help us with voice control. Of course, the device also has wireless connections, such as: Wifi, Bluetooth, Fire Connect multiroom and built-in Chromecast.

Fire Connect multiroom system

Fire Connect is a WLAN-based wireless feature. We also have the option of online streaming, taking advantage of services provided by Deezer, Tidal and Tuneln Internet radio. The 4K HDR image also handles audio formats with surround sound guaranteed by Dolby Atmos, DTS: x, and DTS: X / DTS Neural X systems. Saber Ultra 32 ES90165 D / A converters are responsible for digital audio processing of high-resolution audio files such as FLAC / FLAC HD 192/24, ALAC, DSD formats.

2D audio formats are also available courtesy of DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby True HD and Dolby Digital Plus. The OSD menu system is very transparent. The sound quality can be controlled with the Air Studios tuning function. The SC-LX 901 was developed in collaboration with sound engineers at Air Studios in London.

Air Studios London Lyndhurst Hall

Air Studios is one of the best sound studios in the world, founded in 1970 by legendary Beatles member George Martin.  A hurricane destroyed the building in 1989, so a new location had to be found for the studio. Martin opted for the Lyndhurst Hall, a Romanian-style building in Hampstead, north of London, in 1992. Originally served as a church school and before that as a church, Martin immediately noticed the extraordinary acoustics of the hexagonal main room, designed and built for choral singing. The building underwent a number of alterations and modernisations before being converted into a sound studio. Countless albums of well-known and legendary bands and performers have been recorded here, including Pink Floyd, Queen, Paul McCartney, Genesis, The Police, Black Sabbath, Duran Duran, and more. Air Studios at Lyndhurst also produced music for several successful films and TV productions, such as: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Actually Love, Darkest Hour, Wonder Woman, Casino Royale, Sherlock, Doctor Who… and more.

Pioneer MCACC Pro

Pioneer SC LX MCACC Pro

Pioneer’s MCACC Pro room acoustic correction system did a surprisingly good job as its settings were very accurate. We only needed minimal number of post-corrections to make. This is definitely to the advantage of the Pioneer amplifier, as you need to know  that in fact most room acoustic optimisation software only measure and correct sound pressure. Consequently, errors of acoustics, due to reflections and interference, are perceived as a sound pressure problem, further reducing sound. Room correction programs are really effective if we provide the right acoustic treatment in the room. In the case of untreated rooms, unfortunately, these systems can’t do a miracle either.

Film test

Our first test subject was the musical Judy starring Renée Zellweger, relating the life of the great Judy Garland. There was no lack of precision, detail, intelligibility and dynamism. We witnessed a wide and deep stage picture, the instruments were easy to depict and well detached from the singing voices; as a matter of fact, we could have been listening to the soundtracks without ear fatigue for a very long time. We also found the stereo sound of the amplifier to be excellent when reproducing music.

The screening went on as we were watching the highly successful Spanish Netflix series Money Heist. We had an accurate and detailed sound, the sounds surrounded us, providing a realistic and dynamic movie experience. We heard lack of strength or excessive neutrality only at some point, yet basses were intense, which only further enhanced the excitement of scenes rich in action and the pressure caused by dramatic moments. As for the downside, we have to admit that we had a bit of a trouble setting up the basses, and the sound seemed to be more balancing towards the high tones.

We tested the receiver in an average-sized movie room, paired with Klipsch R-620F floorstanding speakers. The acoustics of the room was adequate, the sound-absorbing and diffuser panels on the walls guaranteed the ideal sound.


It was not at all a disadvantage for Pioneer that it was acquired by Onkyo. They have retained the usual design, continue to pay attention to the use of high quality components and achieve the perfect sound. Compared to the Marantz 7012 amplifier, we experienced a more powerful and dynamic sound during the testing of the SC-LX901. In terms of music, the device provided flawless performance. During screenings, we noticed excessive neutrality at some point for certain sounds, but this is not considered a serious mistake. Adjusting the basses was a bit cumbersome. The spaciousness was absolutely perfect, providing a realistic, detailed, accurate and dynamic sound for the SC-LX901. The remote control could have been backlit, as this is quite a useful feature in a dark movie room. Designed as a modern innovation, the hinged lid was not the best choice in our opinion, as the gap around the closed door lacks elegance. The housing is premium quality, rugged and stable, and durability seems to have been taken into account during production.

Pioneer’s room optimisation system performs much more accurate corrections than similar software offered by other brands, giving it a significant competitive advantage.

Of course, in order for a device to provide a truly ideal sound, it is important to pair it with good quality speakers, and the acoustic correction of the room shouldn’t be neglected either!


Written by Róbert Polgár

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