Out of the box, the first thing you'll love about the Pioneer Elite SC-05 receiver is its dashing good looks. Two sturdy control knobs, one for inputs and one for volume control, flank the screen. Beneath that, you won't find all the usual logos for things like surround sound and satellite radio that plague the front-panel of many receivers (Pioneer put the logos on top of the chassis instead). All this minimalism is enhanced by a beautiful mirror-black finish.
The front panel opens so that you can access various functions, like the iPod/USB port or a front video input for connecting sources in a pinch. While we can't rave as exuberantly about the remote's appearance, it works very well, with a good button layout and nice tactile response.
Flip the unit around, and you will find every connection under the sun, including, among others, four HDMI 1.3a inputs and one out, three component, and seven S-video - that's plenty for any source you might have, whether it's a new Blu-ray player or a legacy component, like a standard-def DVD player.
Great features abound; in fact, you'll find many on this receiver that aren't available on some similarly-priced models. Audio goodies include THX Select2 Plus certification, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding, Internet Radio and XM Sirius satellite radio. The receiver also includes the company's Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration, which optimizes your speakers based on room conditions via a microphone. The only thing missing is HD Radio. To boot, Faroudja DCDi video processing optimizes the picture, and there is an Ethernet port for grabbing digital music off your PC.
That's a lot of receiver goodness for only $1,800, but the real bang for your buck is in the realm of performance, not bells and whistles. And this receiver performs like a champ, especially on audio. The aggressively mixed Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on the Eagle Eye Blu-ray Disc was explosive, dynamic and immersive. Subtle effects were just as interesting and delicate. You can also stream music and jpeg files via the Home Media Gallery feature. It was really nice to have the music and photos stored on my computer available on the home theater.
Likewise, video looked great through the SC-05's HDMI inputs. While the Faroudja processing doesn't handle HDMI (it passes video through untreated), it still looked fantastic on the BRDs of Election and Zodiac, with even the darkest moments of the latter coming through in great detail.