"Excellent Bang for the Buck!"4.5 starson by LonnieMGreen
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.