Here's a common problem that plagues many mass market home theater electronics, especially AV receivers: With so many products all offering similar features, all at similar price points - which product should one choose? What if within a company's own product lineup two pieces, on the surface, seemed identical? What is one supposed to do then? Case in point - the Pioneer Elite SC-35, reviewed here. At the outset the SC-35 appears to be an exact clone of its larger brother the SC-37. Seemingly the only item that separates the two is their asking price, with the SC-35 retailing for $1,600 compared to the larger, SC-37's $2,200 retail price.
Beyond price and a change in model number, both the SC-35 and SC-37 appear identical, both utilize the exact same chassis, both feature the same 140 Watt power output across all seven of their channels, both have the same number of HDMI inputs (six in / two out) and both are 3D ready. I had to consult with Pioneer's own website in order to tell the two apart. The SC-35 lacks some of the SC-37's Internet music capabilities, mainly Rhapsody and Sirius Radio. The SC-35 is not DLNA 1.5 certified nor does it have an extensive list of preferred network formats. In terms of audio capability, the SC-35 utilizes a slightly less sophisticated DSP engine as well as lesser internal DACs and is THX Select 2 Plus certified versus Ultra 2 Plus with the SC-37. The SC-35's MCACC auto room correction is only marginally different from the SC-37 and it has one less listening mode. Lastly, the two have different remotes. Outside of those minor changes, the SC-35 and costlier SC-37 are virtually identical.
Where it counts, sound and image performance, the SC-35 is impossible to tell apart from the costlier SC-37. I had both on hand to do head-to-head comparisons and despite the SC-37 using slightly higher-end DACs and other internal components, I couldn't distinguish the two. Both possessed the same forward, lively sound with a smooth but not wholly organic top end grounded with a taut, texture-rich bottom end that doesn't plunge as deep as some but is still very respectable. The SC-35 is a dynamic powerhouse and has a very nicely defined soundstage for a receiver, though it favors width over depth. The SC-35, like the costlier SC-37, does no harm to the video signal when in the chain and passes 3D signals with flying colors. Overall the SC-35 is a capable AV receiver, one whose superb day-to-day livability matches its performance, all for a price most home theater enthusiasts can afford.Read about the high points and the low points of the Pioneer Elite SC-35 on Page 2.
• The SC-35 has all the looks, build quality and performance of the costlier SC-37, which more than makes up for its lack of Internet radio support in my book.
• The SC-35 is easy to setup and use and should provide home theater enthusiasts with years of trouble-free enjoyment.
• The SC-35's 140 Watts of power was more than enough to drive my Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series loudspeakers to their full potential without strain.
• Pioneer's MCACC auto room correction is phenomenal and superior, in my opinion, to Audyssey's popular EQ programs.
• If you're an Internet radio junky you'll want to spring for the SC-37 over the SC-35, for its lack of that particular feature set is about the only item it'll leave you wanting for.
• The SC-35's remote isn't my favorite and is a bit cluttered and difficult to navigate at first.
• The SC-35's binding posts are a bit cheap and do no accept spade terminated speaker cables thanks to their bulky plastic surrounds.
Competition and Comparisons
At $1,600 the SC-35 is far more competitive, in this reviewer's eyes, than the SC-37 given its overall feature set. Still, it's nearly twice the price of my current reference AV receiver the Onkyo TX-NR708. On paper the Onkyo and the SC-35 are also near equals though the SC-35 does pack a bit more power than the Onkyo, which may or may not be worth its added cost.
Another AV receiver to consider in and around the SC-35's price range is Cambridge Audio's Azur 650R 7.1 AV receiver, though the Azur does not support 3D nor does it have quite the number of inputs, both analog or digital, as the SC-35 it more than makes up for its deficiency with sound quality, which is a touch higher end than the SC-35's.
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At $1,600 retail I consider the SC-35 AV receiver from Pioneer's Elite line of home theater products to be a better value than its costlier sibling the SC-37, for the two possess almost identical options and connectivity not to mention sound. So, the home theater enthusiast looking for an AV receiver to place at the heart of their home theater system should put the SC-35 on your short list of must audition products.