Pioneer Elite VSX-91TXH AV Receiver Page 2
MCACC Auto Calibration
The VSX-91TXH incorporates auto setup and room EQ. Using the supplied microphone Pioneer's proprietary MCACC emits a series of test tones from each speaker and measures the properties of your system and listening room. MCACC factors in ambient noise, then automatically sets speaker size and distance, levels and channel delays and provides EQ for flat response. It's also possible to fine-tune the adjustments manually, including the EQ settings, for a frequency balance that suits your individual tastes. Special PC software can also be obtained from Pioneer for more detailed adjustments.
I am familiar with and prefer the Audyssey auto calibration system, which is found in a wide variety of competing models. The main advantage of Audyssey is that it calculates a room EQ curve based on sampled data from several points, not just one seating position. This provides a wide sweet spot where every seat is optimized for the best possible response curve.
That said, I found that with the MCACC engaged here I heard more localized placement in the center, resulting in more focused and clear dialog. And when sound moves from channel to channel it is noticeably smoother and more coherent. Without room EQ, I am more cognizant of timbral shifts when sound moves from speaker to speaker, especially front to rear.
I found the remote control to be a bit too busy for my tastes as many buttons had multiple tasks. Moreover, it's difficult to make adjustments in the dark especially with all those double functions. The small LCD under the power button displays the selected input, which seems to be its only function. Since there is no backlight on the remote you can't really see it anyway and I tended to look at the AVR's front panel to verify my input selection.
I always like to start out with two-channel music, so for Peter Gabriel's "Growing Up" from his album US, I placed the VSX-91TXH in the Stream Direct mode for optimum stereo performance. I like to use Real World Records' music titles for my evaluations because they are some of the best sounding CD recordings you will find. Bass response is always remarkable and the Pioneer handled the ultra low tones from this track with ease. Stereo imaging was wide and enveloping with vocals locked in space between the speakers. The midrange was clear and articulate, which was well demonstrated by the precision and clarity of Tony Levin's Chapman Stick (a unique and intriguing musical instrument that only a few have mastered).
The DTS version of Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth is still one of my favorite multichannel CDs. The recording of this CD is natural and intimate as evidenced on the pseudo-gospel track, "Church." You feel as if you are right in the recording with Lyle and his band in front of you and the choir, singing and clapping hands, behind you. It's hard not to get emotionally connected when listening to this track, especially as it slowly builds throughout the song with more instruments, voices and increased dynamics. The Pioneer certainly did this song justice delivering clean uncolored sound. The high end was natural and consistent without any top end sizzle.
Turning to a couple of HD DVD titles, I choose Carlos Santana's Live at Montreux for some more multichannel music. It's well recorded though I didn't find it a very exciting concert despite the fact the musicians seem to be enjoying themselves. Still, it is one of the few music discs in this format and one of the better recorded ones at that. As performed on the Pioneer, you forget it's live before an audience because it is so clean, tight and precise in its execution.
With Batman Begins on HD DVD I was able to get PCM over HDMI from the Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack (as mentioned earlier my Toshiba HD DVD player would not transmit TrueHD as a native bitstream so I could not decode TrueHD in the Pioneer). Listening to this TrueHD track it was immediately apparent I was listening to something other than the standard, lossy Dolby Digital mix. There was a much wider dynamic contrast and increased clarity. Dialog was far more articulate and intelligible especially in scenes with lots of music and effects.
For instance, near the beginning when Bruce Wayne arrives at the castle of Ras Al Ghul, he knocks on a massive wooden door. The rap on the wood was thunderous and far more resonant when compared to the standard Dolby Digital track. The expansiveness of the soundtrack is palpable with clarity and detail superior to a commercial cinema.
Hearing lossless audio for the first time in my own home made me anxious to get all these pesky HDMI issues out of the way. It's a lot like the first time I heard discrete Dolby Digital compared to matrix surround. Offering this ability in the VSX-91TXH is an example of how quickly this technology is filtering down into mainstream products.
The Pioneer VSX-91TXH is a very musical AVR and I was impressed at how effortlessly it handled material with a wide dynamic range. Designed for this new generation of high-definition audio, it offers features and compatibility you might think more costly.
In fact, I think what makes this a lower cost product is just the feature set. It lacks the sheer number of inputs and outputs that more expensive models possess (though it sure has a lot) and doesn't have onboard video upconversion. But the beauty of the VSX-91TXH is that Pioneer didn't skimp on performance.
Saving money on features you don't need is wonderful but you don't want to get cheap about performance, as that will effect your overall enjoyment of any product. I always say, it's not much of a bargain if you never want to use it! Unless you anticipate needing more than two HDMI inputs and would prefer an AVR with some of the more sophisticated video processing capabilities that is found in higher end models, the VSX-91TXH is certainly a worthy choice for any small to moderate sized home theater.
Didn't sacrifice on performance to hit its price point
HDMI switching with audio capabilities for Blu-ray and HD DVD
Rich and substantial look of classic Pioneer Elite