Not long ago, 7.1 channel AVRs were considered to be top-tier equipment, 9.1 models were rarefied air, and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA ruled the Blu-ray audio codec universe. Then a little thing called Dolby Atmos happened. And while a modern seven-channel receiver can offer good entry level 5.1.2 immersive sound, the birth of Atmos raised the bar on channel requirements for a full “director’s intent” sound experience. It also significantly raised the buy-in price.
Cost has certainly been a hurdle for enthusiasts desiring the maximum in-home Atmos experience. During 2015 (the first year 7.1.4 AVRs with HDMI 2.0a hit the market), manufacturers relegated 7.1.4 functionality to flagship models. That meant options were limited and price tags hovered at or above $2,000. Of course, that has changed somewhat during the current model year – more models are available and the minimum buy-in price is dropping.
Pioneer Elite is one brand that has allowed 7.1.4 sound to trickle down into its model ranks. The company currently offers three 7.1.4 models that span a rather large price range: SC-95 ($1600), SC-97 ($2,000), and the flagship SC-99 ($2,500). And while that $1600 price point is looking rather sweet, today we’re focusing our attention squarely on Pioneer’s big gun, its bellwether, the SC-99. Yes, the SC-99 commands top dollar, but it also offers the most discerning of enthusiasts uncompromised top-flight performance and some serious power.