“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”
At first glance, the Pioneer SX10AE 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 SX10AE, 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 SX20 for that).
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 SX10AE 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