Pioneer Elite VSX-84TXSi Audio Video Receiver Page 3
Justifiable Elitism At Work
While Spielberg's War of the Worlds DVD is not particularly good looking, owing perhaps to artistic intent, there is no such excuse for its front heavy soundtrack. This missed opportunity plays nearly all effects from the front channels, and gives us surrounds so subdued and infrequently invoked that I ran a test tone through the Pioneer channel by channel to make sure all were connected and functioning.
As shrill as most action movies can be, War is no exception. With THX mode engaged, Dakota Fanning's frequent screams became tolerable but still attention getting. I found myself using the multiple THX modes with the Pioneer, not because the receiver needed taming, but because the Pioneer THX implementation doesn't "crush" the top end air out of a soundtrack. Action movies in particular benefited from the Pioneer's subtle but highly worthwhile implementation. Dialog and music was clear, with plenty of sparkle, but without any of the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound we often get from blockbusters.
The Korean import Acacia (distributed on DVD in the US by Tartan Films, TVUSD122A) makes much more effective use of surrounds. This luxuriously drawn out "ghost story" from director Park Ki-Hyung uses sound effects to dramatize mundane events, while never missing a chance to open a creaky door behind you. The Pioneer will have you turning around to see who's coming in. What makes this soundtrack great is its subtlety, and the VSX-84TXSi picks up on that and shows off. I was drawn deeper and deeper into the no-win world Park has created, thanks to the transparency of the Pioneer. You'll notice just how quiet the Pioneer can be, with sound effects and music coming out of a deep blackness that instantly immerses you in the film's environment.
But the Elite won't make bad sound good. Acacia succeeds where War fails precisely because the Pioneer brings out the former's heightened directness. The more homogenized and purposeless Spielberg soundtrack, bound as it is to the front channels, gets only a so-so reception from the Pioneer. I love the fact that VSX-84TXSi forgoes editorializing and gives it to you straight.
I also spent enough time with the Pioneer's phono section to tell you, it's aces man! With both a Grado Sonata and Shure M97xe, there was plenty of gain and channel separation. Your vinyl collection is well respected by the care Pioneer put into both the inclusion and implementation of its phono stage. Thank you Pioneer!
As for your iPod, having a bazillion hours of music available from the Pioneer's remote is truly the marvel of the millennium. The iPod's menus pop up on your TV screen, putting your collection at your fingertips. I record my CDs to the iPod using iTunes best lossy algorithm (AAC at 320kbps) and the sound quality is quite excellent overall. While stereo separation via an iPod seems a tad inferior to the original CD, it has always been about the music to me. The Pioneer, driven by this $300 music server, dishes up my music from a velvety black background that seduces and pleases all the live long night.
I watched countless hours of high-definition broadcasts. The 5.1-channel soundtracks of shows like Prison Break, Lost and Heroes were very effective coming from the Pioneer. Even the kids thought the Pioneer sounded better than, well, better than the last thing we reviewed.
Timbre and tonality are the first things one hears when listening to a new component. You can either like it or tolerate it. With the Pioneer, it was a case of heavy like (it's only been a few months, come on!). The VSX-84TXSi gets tonality right. It's both warm and extended, but also natural and accurate. In short, it's the real thing.
Conclusions and New Beginnings
At the end of the day, audio is where the VSX-84TXSi excels. It easily conveys nuance and its tonality is honest and very natural sounding – no caveats or cryptic reviewer code here. This naturalness of timbre follows the Pioneer around, no matter what the source. Sure, I've heard separates sound as good or better, but not as often as you think and not for $1,500. Add the convenience of built-in amplification, the wealth of features, subtract a few missteps in the video department, and the Pioneer is the number one recommendation I'm going to make to friends who ask me for a recommendation for a great receiver "in their budget."
You can keep your Grey Poupon. Elitism no longer carries a high price tag!
Audio quality is exemplary
Fully integrated iPod interface
Very good phono stage.
Powerful and unstrained amplification works well with even current-hungry speakers.
Can't combine digital audio via coax or optical from DVI video sources, unless you resort to component video.
Analog video of any "def," converted to HDMI output is appalling. Use component output for all non-HDMI source viewing.
No on screen display for common control functions.