“A fine all-in-one re­ceiver”

FOR Clear and en­er­getic per­for­mance; sturdy build AGAINST Doesn’t time par­tic­u­larly well; lacks weight “For any­one on a bud­get, the Pi­o­neer SX-10AE is a fine all-in-one prod­uct”

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

At first glance, the Pi­o­neer SXŽ10AE may seem wor­thy of an en­dorse­ment by David Dick­in­son. For just £210, you get a stereo 100W per chan­nel am­pli­fier, AM/FM tuner, Blue­tooth, head­phone out­put and a whole lot of case­work. Bar­gain found?

In­deed, bulk for your buck is an easy tick in the box for the Pi­o­neer, and you’d be for­given for think­ing its spec sheet is from a higher-priced prod­uct. But the ques­tion is: does it have the quan­tity/qual­ity ra­tio of the av­er­age all-you-can-eat buf­fet?

Any­one in the mar­ket for a bud­get stereo re­ceiver will be pleased to know it’s sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than that – not least as there isn’t much choice at this price. But, as the four-star rat­ing sug­gests, it doesn’t quite fill us to the brim with sat­is­fac­tion.

Test of char­ac­ter

We start with 65daysof­static’s Wild Light – per­haps not the most for­giv­ing of al­bums for a lis­ten­ing test. It's a col­lec­tion of scuzzy sound­scapes, fea­tur­ing jagged peaks, spiky synths and stir­ring cli­maxes, of­ten with lay­ers of con­cur­rent thought. But the Pi­o­neer’s clear, neu­tral and en­thu­si­as­tic char­ac­ter does well to sweep it all up.

The verve of the glitch synth, drum and gui­tar weave isn’t lost on the SXŽ10AE, and it stays clear-headed even in the dens­est of sec­tions. In­stru­ments don’t feel as though they’re chal­leng­ing for space and, when con­nected to the Mon­i­tor Au­dio Bronze 2s, the pair­ing never seems over­whelmed.

While at­ten­tive enough, its dy­namic per­for­mance can’t com­mu­ni­cate ev­ery shift in the al­bum’s ever-creep­ing mo­men­tum. The pre­sen­ta­tion may be more con­cerned with the fun­da­men­tals than the finer de­tails, but at this price, that's rea­son­able.

How­ever, we have slight qualms about its lack of tim­ing and weight. Play­ing the per­cus­sive tu­mult that is Band of Horses’

Cig­a­rettes, Wed­ding Bands, the Pi­o­neer strug­gles to nail the rhyth­mic pat­terns.

As you’d ex­pect, Blue­tooth play­back takes away some of the Pi­o­neer’s clar­ity and ex­panse, and the pre­sen­ta­tion is a lit­tle more con­tained. Yet play This Is The Kit’s

Bul­let Proof and it com­fort­ably works the banjo pick­ings around the vo­cal, and deals well with the hazy, lan­guid com­po­si­tion of Dream City Film Club’s If I Die I Die.

Switch to ra­dio and the lis­ten­able mu­sic per­for­mance is in line with what we’ve al­ready heard. The clar­ity, co­her­ence and well-pro­jected midrange com­bine for an en­joy­able lis­ten.

The Pi­o­neer gen­er­ously ex­pands on its built-in FM/AM tuner and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity with four ana­logue RCA in­puts – la­belled ‘CD’, ‘Net­work’, ‘Line 1’ and ‘Line 2 – for, say, a CD player or a turntable that has a built-in phono stage (the Pi­o­neer doesn’t have one, you need the brand’s Blue­tooth­less £150 SXŽ20 for that).

Qual­ity con­trols

Un­sur­pris­ingly for its price, the Pi­o­neer doesn’t have dig­i­tal in­puts. How­ever, it does fea­ture A/B speaker zone switch­ing for any­one tempted to run two pairs of speak­ers, a tape loop and sub­woofer out­put, and a 6.3mm head­phone in­put on the front panel. The fin­ish is of a qual­ity we’d ex­pect for the price, and the fas­cia fea­tures use­fully large con­trols and a clear, eas­ily read­able text dis­play. The re­mote con­trol is also ba­sic, but prac­ti­cal.

For some­one on a bud­get who wants ra­dio and Blue­tooth stream­ing, the Pi­o­neer SXŽ10AE is a fine all-in-one prod­uct. It may not be as ca­pa­ble a per­former across the sonic board as we’d like, but pair it with bud­get speak­ers, such as the Dali Spek­tor 2s or Mon­i­tor Au­dio Bronze 2s, and you have the mak­ings of a de­cent hi-fi sys­tem.

The front panel is of a de­cent qual­ity and the re­mote is ba­sic but prac­ti­cal

Round the back of the SX-10E, there are four ana­logue RCA in­puts

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