Pioneer Elite SC-68 A/V Receiver HT Labs Measures

HT Labs Measures

Two channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 144.5 watts
1% distortion at 191.6 watts

Five channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 92.3 watts
1% distortion at 138.8 watts

Seven channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 90.0 watts
1% distortion at 113.8 watts

Analog frequency response in Pure Direct mode:
–0.24 dB at 10 Hz
–0.07 dB at 20 Hz
+0.93 dB at 20 kHz
–1.87 dB at 50 kHz

Analog frequency response with signal processing:
–0.94 dB at 10 Hz
–0.28 dB at 20 Hz
–1.44 dB at 20 kHz
–68.68 dB at 50 kHz

This graph shows that the SC-68’s left channel, from CD input to speaker output with two channels driving 8-ohm loads, reaches 0.1 percent distor- tion at 144.5 watts and 1 percent distortion at 191.6 watts. Into 4 ohms, the amplifier reaches 0.1 percent distortion at 191.1 watts and 1 percent distortion at 272.0 watts.

Response from the multichannel input to the speaker output measures –0.24 decibels at 10 hertz, –0.07 dB at 20 Hz, +0.89 dB at 20 kilohertz, and –1.87 dB at 50 kHz. THD+N from the CD input to the speaker output was less than 0.063 percent at 1 kHz when driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load. Crosstalk at 1 kHz driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load was –80.58 dB left to right and –80.87 dB right to left. The signal-to-noise ratio with an 8-ohm load from 10 Hz to 24 kHz with “A” weighting was –103.65 dBrA.

From the Dolby Digital input to the loudspeaker output, the left channel measures –0.06 dB at 20 Hz and –1.44 dB at 20 kHz. The center channel measures –0.06 dB at 20 Hz and –1.41 dB at 20 kHz, and the left surround channel measures –0.02 dB at 20 Hz and –1.40 dB at 20 kHz. From the Dolby Digital input to the line-level output, the LFE channel is –0.02 dB at 20 Hz when referenced to the level at 40 Hz and reaches the upper 3-dB down point at 110 Hz and the upper 6-dB down point at 117 Hz.—MJP

Video Test Bench
The Pioneer SC-68 passed all of our standard video tests (3:2 HD, 2:2 HD, MA HD—1080i in to 1080p out; 3:2 SD, 2:23 SD, MA SD—480i in to 1080p out; and Video Clipping, Luma Resolution, Chroma Resolution, and 3D passthrough—1080p in to 1080p out).—TJN


snorene's picture

WOW. Drool Drool Drool...not sure about the WF (Wife Factor)...

Rob Sabin's picture
This is the second year in a row we've favorably reviewed the third generation Class D amp design from Pioneer (which they call D3), and I'm convinced that, short of some extremely high end examples of the breed, this is probably the best full-range Class D amplification we've come across. Both our reviewers -- Michael Fremer last year and Mark Fleischmann this year -- described the sonic character the same way: extremely tight and authoritative on the bottom, solid and natural through the midrange, and perhaps just a little high end air sacrificed on the top. Good imaging, too. You throw in all the kitchen sink features that Pioneer is known for, and you really have a winner. We just requested the SC-61 for review, which is their "entry" Elite Class D receiver at $1,100, to see how that one fares. Anybody out there own one of these D3 amps from last year or this year? Curious to hear what the long term listenability has been and whether you like it...
GreyJoy's picture

I own the Elite SC-57, well atleast until yesterday. I sold it and picked up an sc-68 after reading this review. I loved everything about the Sc-57. The sound was just amazing. I had it paired up with the Jamo D600 THX ultra 2 system( I think home needs to review this system :) ). In fact, i just opened up my SC-68, will give you guys a comparison in about 2-3 days.

Rob Sabin's picture
...and thanks for the comments. Good to know we're not out of our minds! :-) Good tip on the Jamo's too -- we're overdue to do one of their systems so we'll put this on on the candidates list...
rwlincoln's picture

I just picked up the SC-55. I've used air play, iPod connected through the usb (better) and an older CD player as sources.

Not quite satisfied, I started looking at ways to use the other lossless codecs supported by the SC-55 via network streaming.

I'm now using the JRiver Media Center software to manage and stream flac and wav files to the SC-55 from my laptop. The sound is AMAZING. Love it.

Downloaded the HDtracks sampler pack. It is a great introduction to their extremely high quality tracks. Their process makes a huge difference in the detail that you hear.

RocketMan503's picture

It seems almost every receiver in this price range has HD radio, except for the Pioneer. It's a feature I would like to have and am leaning against this receiver because of that. Am I crazy?

DefTechFan's picture

Mark, do you foresee more impedance options becoming mainstream or available to low/mid-level home theater products with the integration of more Class D amplification? I am still newer to home theater but have been a car audiophile for a while and have always enjoyed the numerous power options available. Is my perception that it is cheaper for a manufacturer to make an amplifier with lower impedance incorrect? To power a car audio subwoofer at 8 ohms would be much more costly for me to power than 4 ohms - what am I missing?

Mark Fleischmann's picture
The press release for this product makes two points about impedance: The SC-68 supports lower impedances. And it refrains from using impedance switching to allow a more direct signal path. Your latter questions are interesting and I'll pose them to the manufacturer -- Pioneer makes car audio as well as home theater products. If I get a response I'll post it here. Thanks for asking interesting questions!
DefTechFan's picture

Thanks for the reply Mark. Now it's time to do what the first commenter said and start kissing up to my wife so she eventually sees reason - that it's time to upgrade receivers and it will benefit her as well :)

rightslot's picture


Please tell me where you rate this in relation to the Arcam AVR600 or 400.

I'm in the market and REALLY don't have money to throw away.

The reviews on the Arcam stuff is over the top! And until I read this, I would not have ever CONSIDERED the Pioneer. That takes me back to my early days of stereo. Pioneer, Kenwood, Sansui and the like.

But names don't really mean anything. It's performance that counts. Being able to listen and enjoy for long hrs at a time.

Do you think this Pioneer has sonics like the Arcam?



Mark Fleischmann's picture
A vs. B questions are hard to answer because usually they've never been in my listening room at the same time and often their visits are spaced far apart. However, since you mentioned the Arcam AVR600, I am compelled to answer -- because it is one of the two best receivers I've ever heard. The only thing as good was the Rotel RSX-1065 which I used as my reference receiver for eight years until its lack of HDMI became an issue. What the Arcam and Rotel had in common (I use the past tense because the Rotel is long gone) is definitive top-to-bottom performance, acing pretty much every parameter, and with the kind of bass and dynamics you'd expect in an outboard surround amp but rarely get in a receiver. The Pioneer has the same dynamics -- which is saying something -- but not the top-end tonal purity of either the Arcam or the Rotel. See my above-the-neck metaphor. However, the Pioneer is the only receiver I've ever heard that approximately matches the dynamics of the Arcam and the Rotel, and that's progress. The Arcam AVR400 is less powerful than all of the above though it still sounded golden with my speakers, which are of average sensitivity and not a hard load to drive. Note that the AVR600 is $5000, twice the cost of the Pioneer and the Rotel, so these comparisons are somewhat Godzilla-vs.-Bambi.
tommygunz's picture

Hello Mark, what is your thoughts on the SC09 in comparison to the Arcam 600? I have a chance at both, and I would love some good feed back regarding these two from your perspective.

Thank you kindly.

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Mark or Rob,
I'm a little confused about the somewhat higher-than-usual distortion percentage in the frequency response. The previous generation measured significantly lower in distortion, bottoming out at a very impressive < .002%, where this receiver strangely stops at around .04%. Is that a big deal? Any ideas why it would behave so differently? The entire trace on the graph looks strange to me, unlike any Pioneer class D I've ever seen. I would be interested to hear what you think

Rob Sabin's picture
I have a possible explanation for this: when we reviewed the first D3 receiver last year, Pioneer told us that one of the significant developments contributing to its advance in sound quality was that they had waited two years since the last iteration for the release of a new ultra-fast switching device that allowed them to virtually eliminate negative feedback from the circuit topology. Negative feedback is commonly used to keep distortion in check, so this change in design may have contributed to a slight uptick in distortion levels at certain frequencies vs the previous generation. However, I can tell you that anything less than 1% distortion is nothing to be concerned about, which is why we flag power output in our bench tests at .1% and 1% distortion. So .04% is just a little more than nothing, and not even half of .1%. If you look below at the power output numbers on this amp (with a 1KHz test signal), you can see that it kicked some serious butt, even with 7 of the 9 channels being fully driven (7 is the max we can test in the lab right now).

The other thing that contributed significantly to the sound quality was the involvement of the personnel at Sir George Martin's AIR Studios, who consulted on the sonics throughout the development.

Two channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 144.5 watts
1% distortion at 191.6 watts

Five channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 92.3 watts
1% distortion at 138.8 watts

Seven channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 90.0 watts
1% distortion at 113.8 watts

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Thanks for the reply. Yes, its definitely true. Even the best sounding tube amplifiers have higher distortion than the Pioneer, and MANY audiophiles wax poetic about their virtues. (Unfortunately, I haven't heard a single one.) So, I'm more than willing to give it a listen when I can, as I'm looking to replace my first generation class D SC-09. I was just surprised to see the change in response of that one parameter, where the SC-57 absolutely excelled.

This begs another question: How does it compare to my first gen SC-09? Certainly less power, but the sonics? Any thoughts on that as well?
Thanks again.

rightslot's picture

Thanks Mark for your reply about the Pioneer vs Arcam.

I'm going for the Arcam ~~ wih some fear ~~

Do you think they've cleared up the problems/bugs??

Goyoishere's picture

I own the Arcam 600. I have been using it for a about 1.5 years now. In regards to questions about bugs, yes for the most part everyting has been cleared up. There are still some minor things that still need to be resolved but otherwise it's been an amazing receiver. The only major caveat I have is the fan which is loud for my taste. However, when running 120 watts to each of 7 channels it's not surprising.
All this being said if I was buying a one today, in addition to this Pioneer, and if you are considering spending 5k, I would give a listen to the new NAD receivers, as well as the Anthems before making a final decision.

adamwwa's picture

What's about this Pioneer vs Marantz Sr7007 especially in midrange and bass quality? This year I had audtiton Pioneer SCLX56(Europen model) and it's sounds realy bright... A bit similar to Yamaha RX-A2010/3010 which I have and can't stand it any more...

Last thing about class D, Did you test it with demanding speakers like Sonus Faber? What's about volume control? How much do you need to increase volume to get full sound?

Jonasandezekiel's picture

From my experience. I think that class D has a much better bottom end and midrange, that's basically what the review talks about. That's one of the strengths of the topology over A/B. The imaging and sound are more spacious, dramatic and powerful. Great for home theater.

DomO's picture

I have a dumb question re the USB DAC input. This receiver, as all other AVRs, already has a DAC for all incoming digital audio signals. So what's the significance of the USB DAC? If it weren't there, the incoming USB signal would have to pass through the "regular" DAC anyway, right?


Spirit's picture

Hi Mark:
I am brand new to the
I am intrigued by your comments about DSD capabilities for this receiver, and I was wondering if you could clarify:
DSD Direct is normal for DSD-capable receivers for some time now. You set the SACD/universal player for either PCM or SACD (DSD)via its HDMI output. However, if this Pioneer receiver can also do DSF and DFF files via DoP then this is indeed a first for the AVR category. Can you confirm that this can be accomplished?

Skillman's picture

Mark or Rob:

I have heard various versions of MCACC's ability to calibrate subwoofers. Some said it cannot whereas some (including Mike in his review of the SC-57) have said it does a fantastic job. Which is it? can you clarify, please? Also, how does the SC-61 compare with the SC-57 (the 68 is out of my budget). Thank you!

no-h2o's picture

Hi Mark,
Great review! I just removed my beloved RSX-1065 from my HT room and replaced it with a SC-1527, which is a Canada only SC-65 minus the elite badge. I had thought of using it as a pre-amp along with the RSX and my RB-1070, but the low end grunt and killer mid range has won me over. It mates with my Atlantic Technology 4400 system beautifully. I was worried that running dual subs would confuse the MCACC, but alas, the software is up to the task. My only gripe is when using zone 2 to drive my AE109 speakers, you must turn off the HT zone, which is speaker selection A, from the front panel. If not, your HT room ends up playing the same source, at the same volume level, as your zone 2 (speaker B) room. From my experiments, and I'm only one week in with the Pioneer, I'll fix this by utilizing an outboard 2 channel amp for zone 2, which leaves me a pair of unused D3 amp channels, being that my HT room is 7 channels. Maybe I'll return it & pick up the SC-63, which as you know is a 7.2 piece. I'm looking forward to your review of the SC-61 also. Keep up the great work guys !!

kent harrison's picture

I have sc-37 it has more power then sc-68 or sc-57 according to home theater stats,only reason for me get the new for 4kby2k tv's whenever they come out,so what about the Denon 4520ci it has great features too,i have 600 series BW's towers and bookshelves speakers,for now im not changing anything.

Tom1234's picture

nice review. can you point in the manual where the bass management with specified crossover FQs are mentioned ??
Didn't find any
also after an auto MACC, can I still determine manually for each speakers, the crossover pt ? as with Yamaha receivers for instance
Manuals for these "hot gas plants" those receivers are should include much more OSD screenshots rather than badly written litterature...

thanks !

Cad Pi's picture

Thank you for the review. I am looking for a receiver and this will be my first foray into the Relatively midrange realm. I was originally only into music, but with a family now, my new system must incorporate movies etc.

I have crunched it down to the Yamaha Aventage and the Pioneer SC-67,68. I have finally decided upon the Pioneer SC-67 mainly because of the AIR certification and video upscaling, but I would like to know what is the major difference between the SC-68 and the SC-67?

Where I live there is a $500-$700 difference between the two systems but I would like to know if anyone has heard a major difference between the two.


kent harrison's picture

The thx-mode on square feet and the dacs

kent harrison's picture

The thx-mode on square feet and the dacs and also bi-amping front and rear speakers.

kent harrison's picture

The thx-mode on square feet and the dacs and also bi-amping front and rear speakers and center.

Cad Pi's picture

Thank you so much for the response. I think that the question that comes to mind now is whether this difference is worth $500-$700? I can get a relatively good deal from the list price of $2000 for the SC-67 (I have seen $1200 online), but would I be better off going all out for the SC-68? Admittedly I am a Newbie at this and I have not had a stereo system at all in over 4 years since doing a rebuild on my house.

With kids and the hope of having a system for the next 5-10 years am I missing anything that only a High End person would be able to tell the difference? I am resigned to pouring most of my remaining funds into the Receiver and TV, both of which have not yet been purchased.

When I checked the single page spec sheets, apart from what you have mentioned earlier, there seems to be only a few power points separating the two systems. 770 w vs 810 w multichannel. Again, is that worth the money?

Thanks again.

(Mythos fronts, M&K surround back, Martin Logan Dyn 500 subw).
(TV pending, Receiver Pending).