Pioneer SX-10AE Review: Perfect for a budget solution
We have long been accustomed to the fact that the average receiver has so many functions and bells and whistles that it is almost impossible to properly study and master them 100%. And not because the users are stupid, but simply because some people need them all the time, but others may not need them even once in their lives. Meanwhile, all buyers without exception will have to pay for them. However, the device we will talk about today is not like that at all.
It won’t make you pay extra for 33 surround presets or DSD512 support. It’s as simple as a song. All that remains is to figure out who it is addressed to and how talented it can sound.
The SX-10AE is the youngest model of eight devices, which in the current Pioneer line are called stereo receivers. For reference: 15 more multi-channel models are produced, but today we are not talking about them.
In fact, the very word “receiver” is a clear anachronism, preserved from the time when a radio receiver, along with a vinyl turntable and tape recorder, were not just the main, but the only sources of musical content. It is clear that there was no talk of any processing of multi-channel audio tracks in those days. But now, when we say “receiver,” we primarily mean decoding complex digital streams, and also video switching, of course.
So, our hero is a receiver in the most primordial sense of the word.
– Home cinema?
– No, it’s in another section of the catalogue.
Despite the spartan functionality, externally the SX-10AE looks almost indistinguishable from its multi-channel counterparts with sophisticated decoders on board. The body, standard for hi-fi components, reaches a height of almost 15 cm – this is higher than the monster weighing 17 kg, Pioneer A-70DA , which we recently tested.
Everything on the facade is also familiar, except that the set of buttons is more typical for an integrated amplifier: tone correction, balance, and five keys for direct source selection. Interestingly, one of them is labeled “Bluetooth” and the other is labeled “Network”. In the first case, everything is obvious: the receiver really knows how to play music from mobile gadgets using this protocol. But Network is nothing more than the name of one of the linear ports to which you can connect a network player. Or you can use a satellite receiver – the sound won’t get any worse.
On the rear panel there are four pairs of “tulips” of the above-mentioned inputs, as well as a linear output. Looking ahead, I will say that it turned out to be unregulated, that is, if something happens, using the SX-10AE in conjunction with an external power amplifier will not work.
There is also one more output designed specifically for a subwoofer, but more on that a little later. There are two pairs of acoustic terminals, and speakers can be connected to both simultaneously. The terminals are simple, but quite convenient, except that they are located very close to each other – and this despite the vast expanses around them.
The entire upper surface of the case is dotted with many ventilation holes, and if you look closely, inside you can see a very impressive network transformer wound on an W-shaped core. In addition to it, you can see an extensive main board, but not overloaded with details, as well as a giant-sized radiator, to which fairly large transistors in plastic cases are screwed.
Why did I pay so much attention to describing a rather ordinary layout? The fact is that it transparently hints at the classic AB class circuitry. Meanwhile, the Pioneer website clearly states that the amplifier part is built in accordance with the proprietary Direct Energy architecture. And by this we usually mean a pulse circuit made using Direct Power FET field-effect transistors, soldered directly on the printed circuit board. I would venture to assume that in this case Direct Energy means particularly careful optimization of conventional push-pull stages.
During testing, the receiver was connected to DALI Ikon 2 MK II bookshelf speakers. Despite the fact that I myself use an Android smartphone, this time I decided to use an iPhone as a Bluetooth source. The fact is that the SX-10AE only accepts streams in the basic SBC codec and the much-loved Apple AAC, but aptX, not to mention LDAC, are not supported.
Before I started listening, I was extremely curious about the subwoofer output. In multi-channel receivers, a separate channel of low-frequency special effects is output to it, but in our case, decoding of multi-channel tracks is not provided. The instructions did not say anything specific about this, so a little investigation had to be undertaken.
Its results are as follows: the amplifier does not have its own crossover, and a full mix of two stereo channels is supplied to the Subwoofer Pre Out output without any fuss. The logic of this decision, apparently, is to encourage the music lover to cut off the upper part of the signal with the crossover of the subwoofer itself. This, of course, will work, but it is not clear what to do with the “tails” of the low frequencies reproduced by the main speakers. Any clean connection will be possible only if the subwoofer allows you to directly separate the “acoustic” signal from the power amplifier. But then the bass pre-out is simply not needed.
Well, now about the sound itself. In my opinion, the device sounds in full accordance with the needs of its target audience. That is, people who, for various reasons, do not want to spend any serious budget on a setup, but, on the other hand, expect a fairly harmonious and, if possible, dynamic sound. In the end, those who are not used to thinking in these categories will most likely prefer a music center with karaoke for the same money.
So, with a completely honest 50 W per channel (we don’t take the nameplate 100 W at 1 kHz at THD 1% into account), the SX-10AE produces a peppy, truly dynamic sound, in which you can feel both plasticity and a completely correct organization of the sound stage. Apparently, the decision not to use pulse amplification in such an inexpensive device was correct – in class D such performance character is much more expensive. In this case, we get exactly a harmonious and fairly balanced sound. Albeit with class-appropriate high-frequency resolution and not unlimited bass dynamics, but it is bold and comfortable to perceive.
And in a system in which the SX-10AE will be the center, the capabilities of its tone block, which operates with a depth of ±10 dB at frequencies of 100 Hz and 10 kHz, will certainly be useful.
To summarize, I would say that such a device has a right to exist. For example, as a partner for an inexpensive turntable with a built-in phono stage or for combining a TV and satellite receiver that do not pretend to turn into a multi-channel home theater. And the missing streaming functions can easily be taken over by the smartphone itself, connected to the receiver via Bluetooth. We are building a budget solution, so there is no need to pay twice.