Pioneer Elite VSX-49TX THX Ultra2 Receiver Page 2

Fast Facts
RATED POWER 130 watts x 7 into 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.09% THD DIMENSIONS 17 3/8 inches wide, 7 3/4 inches high, 16 7/8 inches deep WEIGHT 64 pounds PRICE $4,200 MANUFACTURER Pioneer Electronics USA, P.O. Box 1540, Long Beach, CA 90801; 800-746-6337

Beyond the usual or expected features, the VSX-49TX has a handful of unusual ones, two of which demand mention right off the bat. First, it provides full bass management for the multichannel analog input you'd use for a DVD-Audio or SACD player - woo-hoo! Second, it can send its onscreen displays through a component-video output - woo-hoo, too! (This only works with TVs whose component inputs automatically switch between wideband and conventional signals, as most do; alas, my Princeton AF3.0HD does not, so I had to use an S-video output to see the menus - boo-hoo.) This is the first time I've used a receiver with either of these desirable features.

The VSX-49TX's front panel is carefully finished and handsomely restrained, not flashy or overly imposing despite its size. Besides the three large, user-friendly knobs for volume, tuning, and source selection, most controls and the A/V convenience input (including optical digital audio) are hidden behind a flip-down door. The rear panel has all the inputs and outputs you're likely to need, including multiroom facilities with both composite- and S-video outputs and an input for a remote infrared or wall-panel controller. The RS-232 serial port for future operating-system upgrades can also be used for external control by a custom whole-house system.

Setup was straightforward, thanks not only to the receiver's clear onscreen menus but mostly to its fully automated calibration routine - the best I've seen yet. Appropriately, among the VSX-49TX's supplied accessories is a small, paperweight-like microphone. The manual directs you to place it at the listening position (it has a threaded insert for a tripod) and to select Auto Surround Setup from the main menu.

The ensuing automated setup routine lasts 6 minutes or so. It not only selects the correct "size," level, and time delay automatically for all your main-channel speakers, but it also performs something Pioneer dubs "digital-domain Acoustic Calibration Equalization," or ACE, which is intended to make any speaker system's response match a "target curve" as closely as possible. Pioneer's target curve is said to derive from Beatles producer George Martin's famous A.I.R. Studio.