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AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Nov 21, 2006 Published: Nov 22, 2006 0 comments
HDMI: It's not just for video anymore.

HDMI is a wonderful invention filled with promise. When utilized to its fullest, it can offer the best of both worlds: uncompressed audio and video signals and intelligent, two-way communication over a single cable. Manufacturers have long teased us with talk of complete home theater systems that you can set up using just two or three cables, but the reality has fallen far short of the promise. Most designers have used HDMI only as a top-grade video connector, paying little attention to its audio and communication abilities. Armed with the new HDMI 1.2a spec (the products here were designed and released before 1.3 was finalized), Panasonic is aiming for the ultimate in connection and control with their new EZ Sync HDAVI Control products.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 17, 2006 0 comments
Two products, one look.

It wasn't until I uncrated both the Paradigm Cinema 330 speakers and the Harman/Kardon AVR 340 receiver that I realized I'd found something rare in the home theater realm—a visual match between speakers and receiver. Did some invisible hand simultaneously guide Paradigm's whizzes in Toronto and Harman/Kardon's design squad in Northridge, California? These two large companies have no connection that I know of. Yet, this month's Spotlight System is a genuine fusion of Canadian and Californian design sensibilities.

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Posted: Nov 10, 2008 0 comments

If you're like me, you've seen your net worth take a significant hit in 2008. Not only has my house's value dropped nearly 30 percent, but my retirement fund dropped that much the first week of October! Consequently, I don't feel as wealthy as I did in 2007—although no one would ever confuse me with Daddy Warbucks in any event.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 13, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: Ultra-sophisticated setup and calibration system • Punchy-sounding ICEPower amplification • Versatile LAN-based Home Media Gallery with iPod connectivity

Too Much Functionality?

One step down from Pioneer’s flagship $7,000 SC-09TX A/V receiver, the SC-07 offers an equally dizzying feature set and plenty of ICEpower. It’s all packed into a far more compact, shelf-friendly package, and it sells at a steeply lower $2,200 price point. If you lusted after the SC-09TX (HT, November 2008) but were put off by the price, consider what the SC-07 offers for so much less.

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 12, 2008 0 comments

What separates a good A/V receiver from a great one? The line has certainly blurred over the past few years, and you can find phenomenal values for under $2000 that offer many of the features once included only in the flagship models, minus a few bells and whistles.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 03, 2008 0 comments
Price: $7,000 Highlights: Superb sound for both movies and music • 10 channels of powerful Class D amplification • Sets a steep learning curve but rewards with immense flexibility • Video processing has limitations, including no upconversion of HDMI sources

And the Kitchen Sink

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the early days of home theater. For example, I fondly remember the Proceed AVP processor I reviewed for Stereophile Guide to Home Theater in 1997. Conventional Dolby Digital and DTS were its most exotic operating modes, the remote had fewer than a dozen buttons, and it didn’t provide room equalization, extra surround modes, or onboard video processing. In fact, it didn’t have any video switching beyond S-video. We didn’t need no stinkin’ component, and no one had even heard of HDMI. Laserdisc was the most established source, DVD was brand new, and consumer high definition was still a mote in the FCC’s eye.

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Fred Manteghian Posted: Feb 16, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: MCACC room EQ makes it all good • ICEpower amplification is sweet, powerful, and dynamic • PQLS isn’t a gimmick; it really works

What? No 8-Track?

I’m convinced that at a subatomic level, my DNA has begun mutating me into homo gadgetus. My dad was an electrical engineer, so naturally, hooking up a two-channel stereo was instinctual, hereditary, and manifest from the moment my little fingers could grasp an RCA connector. But setting up a multichannel, HDMI-equipped, Internet-connected AVR was a challenge until recently. I don’t think manufacturers have gotten that much better at their hardware and software design. I just think that as a subspecies (male), we’ve become more adept at new forms of hunting and gathering.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 06, 2010 4 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: THX Ultra2 Plus certification including Volume Plus • Energy-efficient ICEpower amplification • Cornucopia of listening modes

Listening a la Modes

Must...write...lead.... Knew I shouldn’t have left...this...for...last.... Overwhelmed with features.... All those listening modes (gasp).... Running out of space.... Help me.... Help me....

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Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 03, 2011 11 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,100 At A Glance: Nine Class D amps that sound good • Most fun you can have with a remote smartphone app • Home networking champ, including Apple AirPlay

I’m usually suspicious of celebrity endorsements of audio gear (think Dr. Dre’s association with the Beats headphones bearing his name). But the Air Studios logo on the front panel of this attractive-looking, innovative flagship Pioneer Elite A/V receiver represents more than a casual association.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 28, 2013 9 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: 125 x 7 watts D³ power • Brawny, assured bass • Network audio cornucopia

Someday I will be able to review a Class D receiver without mentioning this up-and-coming amplifier technology in the lead. That day hasn’t come yet and probably won’t in the next few years. But I can see it shimmering on the horizon.

Class D has been steadily infiltrating Pioneer’s upper-crust Elite line since 2008 and now accounts for five of the line’s seven models. With the SC-61, reviewed here, the latest version of the technology—which Pioneer calls D3—has come down in price to as little as $1,100. That’s a far cry from the $7,000 Pioneer charged for its first-ever Class D model five years ago.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2012 42 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: 32-bit asynchronous USB DAC • D3 Class D amplification • All the Apple trimmings

Like a parent who charts a child’s growth with colored pencil marks on the wall, I’ve been observing the growth of audio/video receivers since the beginning of the product category. The wall is covered with ascending marks: Here’s the first A/V receiver, with composite video switching and no surround processing. Here’s the first Dolby Surround model, the first Dolby Pro Logic model, the first Dolby Digital model—and the first with DTS, THX, lossless surround, room correction, satellite radio, HDMI, network audio, Apple everything.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 19, 2014 18 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Efficient D3 amplification
AirPlay and iOS savvy
Dynamic, smooth, clean sound
Minus
Labyrinthine ergonomics
No multichannel ins or outs

THE VERDICT
Pioneer is the only AVR maker replacing Class AB amps with Class D on a large scale, and the results are excellent.

Add a feature, drop a feature—usually, that’s how the story goes for a new AV receiver. But features aren’t the whole story, or even the part of the story most readers want to hear. We found that out when we ran a poll at our website SoundandVision.com asking, “What’s your AVR deal-breaker?” The top two complaints were “not enough power” at 35 percent and “ineffective room correction” at 21 percent. “Too few features” and “too many features” got just seven points each, and trendy features like AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi scored in even lower single digits.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Aug 02, 2012 1 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $450 At A Glance: Good streaming features • Ample power for a budget receiver • Free iOS/Android control app

Pioneer Electronics has long offered consumers an evolving array of attractive audio/video receivers, from simple, high-value choices to high-end alternatives that serve up the most desirable new features. In the company's step-up Elite line, the extremely affordable VSX-42 is the entry-level model and still relatively new, having debuted just this spring. Pioneer offers non-Elite models that are significantly less expensive, and some much pricier, but the VSX-42 offers a surprising complement of features at a price under $500.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Sep 19, 2002 0 comments

What makes one of today's complex A/V receivers friendly, and another model with identical features off-putting? I didn't ask that question when I began setting up and using Pioneer's latest, the Elite VSX-49TX , but the answer appeared as I explored this superbly-thought-out receiver, and was confirmed when, returning after a week out of town, I was able to easily take advantage of its many functions without getting lost or even needing the instruction manual.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 05, 2011 3 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $900 At A Glance: Elite build quality • AirPlay, control app, iDevice USB • Great sound for under $1,000

Do you prefer wine sold in a box or in a bottle? Boxed wine does have its advantages: It’s available in a greater variety of package sizes, it’s easier to carry to a picnic, and the lighter packaging reduces manufacturing cost, shipping cost, and carbon emissions. Yet most oenophiles prefer bottled wine for quality and selection. One is more practical, the other more aspirational. In theory, boxed wine can be as good as bottled wine—and here, as the knowledgeable oenophile is aware, our metaphor is in danger of breaking down over warring factors such as oxidation and shelf life. But in reality, the best wine producers and their most discerning and passionate customers prefer the bottle.

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