Pros Runs quiet and cool
Excellent sound quality through the two speakers
Huge number of HDMI inputs
Internet Radio built-in, IP configurable
Very easy to navigate on-screen menu
Very clean sound, with good speaker of course
Front iPhone/iPod interface
Cons Very complicated remote with small keys
No Wi-Fi (Ethernet only)
Summary Really like the iPhone integration features. New modes step up functionality from my previous receiver which cost me nearly 4 times as much (Marantz SR-8001). If the Marantz hadn't suffered an early death I wouldn't have bought this.
There is no comparison between the sound of the Marantz 8000 series and a receiver of this level. That's why they cost big bucks--not only do they have HDMI but they also have essential sound features like a massive toroidal power supply and anal-retentive shielding and wiring design to minimize sound degradation from all the electronic whizbangery going on.
The midrange is Marantz's claim to fame, with a fast, liquid quality reminiscent of real high-dollar stuff. With smooth highs and tight bass, I love that Marantz sound. It's obviously what they focus on.
Now, for $400 this baby don't sound bad! If you have under $600 to spend on an A/V receiver, you should listen to this one, because it sounds as good or better than pretty much everything else in its range.
The networking and iPhone/iPod integration features are a step above for this receiver.
When I plugged the cat 6 cable into the back of the receiver, it was on the network and visible in seconds. My iPhone was controlling the dialogue and subwoofer volume in seconds. Now I just have to figure out how to stream sound over the iPhone's wifi connection to the receiver. So much more reliable than a bluetooth connection. Since that connection is there, there must be some way to exploit it.
As far as I can tell, we're waiting for an iPhone app that addresses the receiver as a digital media server. The receiver has firmware to receive multimedia over ethernet, so if it can see your iPhone online as a multimedia device it should be able to stream all your iPhone/iTouch movies and music over your wifi network. Then you can have two-way wireless communication with your iPhone and no need for the fancy white iPod cable that comes with the unit.
If this functionality can be added simply by adding a playback feature to the Pioneer iPhone app, I'm sure the software developers at Pioneer have it on their to-do list.
It sure would be cool.
Programming my Harmony One remote was more involved. Logitech doesn't automatically program the buttons of the remote for iPod control in its iPod/mp3 activity code.
So you have to go in and designate all the buttons for that activity. It's involved, but all the codes are there and correct so it's just point and click. When I was done I had full iPod/iPhone control with my universal remote. When I've lived with this receiver for a few months, I'll know what other features to build into the remote's receiver profile to properly automate use with this Pioneer unit.
As for HDMI performance, this receiver has more features than the Marantz SR8001. It has more two-way communication along the HDMI path between components, and seems to respond logically to signals from the sat dvr box, video game consoles and plasma display. Picture is a LOT better through this machine than through the 8001. I've heard that Marantz has also significantly improved picture quality in their newer receivers, so this isn't a knock on Marantz. It's just a comment that you will get good picture switching HDMI through this inexpensive little unit.
Sound quality: bass is muddier so far. I haven't yet fine tuned bass response with this. I didn't use the automatic calibration with this receiver, since auto calibration has been hit or miss in the past with me. So I set up the speaker sizes, measured distances and levels manually. There is almost no deviation from default for everything but sub. The sub was very muddy--perhaps I need to change the crossover point to lower than 80 Hz. My speakers don't roll off until 50 Hz so that's doable--I was just trying to save precious watts for my speakers because this receiver isn't terribly powerful. I'll try it both ways for an extended time and see which I prefer--a little more volume with less precision because more signal is being sent to the sub, or a little less volume with cleaner sound in the midbass.
Mids and highs are acceptable, though clearly not as refined nor as powerful as in the 8001. When you pay high dollars for a receiver, you are paying for incremental increases in sound quality, not a whole lot of computerized functionality. The functionality is cheap. Sound quality gets expensive rather quickly. That said, Pioneer seems to have prioritized fairly well on the sound quality front. There are receivers in this price range from Sony and Harman that are quite frankly unlistenable. This one is quite easy to live with, remembering how much money you saved over a high line Pioneer Elite or upper level Marantz/Denon, Onkyo, or beyond that into Outlaw, Sunfire, Arcam, etc.
If you have $5000 to spend on a home theater receiver, you aren't reading this review. If you want 80% of the SQ of those units for less than ten percent of the price, here you are. I would rather go with one of the big boys, but I'm still paying for my house and my kids are approaching high school age. By the time I can afford one of the nice units, I'm sure my hearing will be shot anyway!
So I buy the best sound and video I can afford, which means this unit for me.
You can get a lot of better receivers out there for more money. But in this class this one sounds almost as good as the class leader from Denon, and completely outperforms the Denon in modern network functionality. If you want to integrate your home theater into your home network for low dollars, this receiver gets you there without paying a serious sound penalty--and if you want better sound, Pioneer's Elite series will soon incorporate all the network functionality of these new receivers and better sound in the bargain. Just remember you'll pay significantly more for marginally better sound. ( Suggest check for best price before you buy the Pioneer VSX-1020-K at: Lowest-pricing.info/VSX-1020-K )
For me this setup is a winner. I'm very impressed.
Pros Upscaling is very good. Automatic sound is clever but seldom an adequate choice. Must make several setups and choose output mode. Great for patient people with good ears. Good with iPhone & Internet Radio. Best with High Quality Input devices.
Cons Not quite computer and local network ready. My setup has sufficient extra video and sound out from computers to work ok. Using DISH HD as a source, the receiver chooses output almost randomly, often defeating dialog enhancement settings.
Summary The automated setup modes are excellent so they require some practice to get what you need. Place the mic at ear level close to your listening position. If you have more than one position then repeat and save setups which you can switch. Turn off everything that makes extra noise and run the setup when the family is gone: you get the best results when it is otherwise quiet. Be patient. The process takes a long time. It requires that your speakers are in place and correctly attached. Now test each setup with each input. For me, in order of frequency of use: 1)DISH movies (mostly HD) 2) DISH news 3) Computer supplied 4) IPhone 5) DVD (VHS ... ours is dual) 6) Internet Radio For us, the surround sound features work randomly. Sometimes AutoSound undertands the source and provides rich and pleasing full range sound. Other times it defaults to a thin stereo output. I am at the point where I may have to start taking notes and making a chart. This will be a first for me, I am otherwise geekily proficient with such settings. Perhaps there is a simpler and more reliable approach ... I did read all the available instructions and recommendations before I began. Nevertheless, there have been ongoing snags. After a month I feel prepared to actually start over and do it all "right."
So, in order:
1) Place all your speakers in optimal positions, anchor them correctly, wire carefully into the receiver. Place the receiver close to its final position, but so that you can continue to make attachments and adjustments. Attach at least your primary source, HDMI is best. Attach HDMI output to projector or TV.
2) Turn on the receiver and run the automatic setup. Watch and listen. You may have to make several adjustments. Reversed polarity is common and sometimes reported when another feature is improperly setup. Turn the receiver OFF before and while you make changes. Turn it back on and repeat the test after each change, since some changes are interdependent. Complete at least one valid setup before testing. My setup uses 9.1. Five speakers comprise the "front" section LEFT CENTER RIGHT HighLeft and HighRight
Four speakers provide surround, even and behind listeners. One 250 watt subwoofer is powered offset the right front.
Note: Of course you can use speakers from other systems. But, this receivers requires a powered subwoofer. This receiver's center channel is mono. Take a close look at your speakers, speaker wires, connectors and wire lengths.
NOTE 2: The automated setup sometimes correctly identifies whether a speaker receives proper base (low freq) info ... Listen. One of my setups sent way too much to the subwoofer and I lost from about 80 to 180. This can be corrected in the manual setup mode OR setup preferences for crossover LOW (no higher than 80).
3) Listen and compare. Try auto sound and note what other settings are. Many of the auto selections work poorly for me, often creating echo chamber like effects. Some defeat the dialog adjustments we make so we can hear what actors mumble. Remember to test a sound setup with each of your presets (we have five, but will probably use only two when we get used to it all).
Note: All this tweeking is really worth it. The improvement in sound is staggering. I have some old Ventures instrumentals which are at best painful on other equipment. Adjustments bring out the fine Nokie Edwards lead guitar while reducing the distractions of some less capable support strummers. The same settings destroy Beethoven's 9th. Neither of these best settings is suitable to a modern video source.
Suggestion: This device works great out of the box, but you can improve the results almost to audiophile levels. I look at it like driving a Jag. Choose the challenging road and then work the machine. When it isn't quite right, spend some time and make adjustments. This receiver is not a Toyota.
Best iPhone device yet, actually does something to improve (resotre?) recordings.
You can set up your own selection of Internet Stations, but you have to do it from your computer. Select stations which stream smoothly in your location.
I use Macs, Win7 and Linux boxes to send video, photos, music and other content such as webbrowsing through the Pioneer Receiver to a projected image eight feet wide. The receiver is an upgrade from a Samsung. Every function has improved. Text is clearer, sound is more detailed and defined, upscaling was built into several of the other components, but this is way better now. Old DVDs actually go cinema super wide and appear without previous jaggies.
I do not do advanced gaming. However, our low res early Wii now provides Formula1 simulation that beats my direct computer version. The Wii is more responsive to input, too. That is the timing of sound video and input is crisp and true.
Pros iPod & Internet Radio simple setup. Remote control logical/easy. GUI helpful not overwhelming. Tons of HDMI ports. Doesn't run too hot. Looks sophisticated not confusing. Upscaled analog components sound/look amazing Flexible speaker setup options.
Cons Netwook hook-up should have more PC interfacing flexibility beyound Internet radio - and speaking of which, Internet radio stations difficult to customize/edit presets. Instruction manuel cumbersome at times, assumptuous at others.
Summary This is the best five hundred dollars I've ever spent, and I'm a tech weinie gadget head, so that says something! I absolutely love this receiver, and I'm not even a Pioneer guy - until now! I now call it my second wife! I researched and test-listened for months before buying, and this VSX-1020 offers the most options, quality and flexibility for the dollar hands down. The sound is great, multi-zone functionality rocks! Internet radio seemlss setup and delightful, never choppy playback. Not an iPhone guy so can't comment on that, but I hear it's neat to use the iPhone as a remote. I've got a hodge-podge of analgog components and new digital/HD ones of every conceivable brand and age (I still listen to tapes, LP's and watch VCR tapes in addition to all the new mediums), and a bastardized speaker system featuring classic Bose 501 Towers, new Yamaha 315 subwoof, and a couple Bose acoustimass cube speakers here and there, calibrated the room with included mic, and now my living room sounds like Carnegie Hall! This receiver turns water into wine folks, I'm not kidding...
Pros Hard to find DTS-MA and Dolby TrueHD in a receiver with such a low price (got mine for 499 shipped, no tax). The auto "MCACC" calibration works really well, it only needed minor adjustments for my picky ears
Cons The included remote is kinda lacking since it doesn't have a button for every input. Buy a Harmony remote instead. It doesn't have pre-outs but the seven built in amplifiers are powerful enough for the majority of users.
Summary I wasn't much of a fan of Pioneer products in the past. I preferred more high end brands. After reading such rave reviews from people and websites I respected I thought I would give it a try and I am glad I did
Pros Awesome sound and high performance. Tons of input and output. Convert to 1080p. Tons of features, and a crazy remote control that feels high-tech.
Cons Haven't really found any. The smallest con is just that there's A LOT OF OPTIONS and takes a while to learn how to use it well if you want to really know how to use it versus just plug it in out of the box.
Summary I couldn't be happier with this receiver. I took into account of this receiver versus the Onkyo TX-SR607 and Denon AVR-1910... and after a very VERY LONG debate, research, side-by-side comparison, the Pioneer has all the features that the other two have, but MORE for future use. I have a TON of connection coming into my receiver, from the xbox 360, digital tv attenna, radio, BluRay player, Wii, WD TV LIVE Plus, TV, and still have room for other add-ons. This is definitely a future-proof receiver that meets all my needs and delivers high-quality sound. I am VERY happy I have done a lot of research and bought this one versus the other 2 in this new line of product.