Pioneer VSX-1124 AV Receiver

Audio Performance
Video Performance
PRICE $600

Outstanding sonics for the price
HDMI 2.0 interface
Roku Ready via MHL
HDCP 2.2 DRM not included
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi cost extra

The Pioneer VSX-1124 delivers sterling sound, though with a slightly reduced feature set, at a highly competitive price point.

The phrase “believe in miracles” is a powerful one in pop music. It turns up in songs by the Bee Gees, Jefferson Starship, Pearl Jam, Slade, and others. It appears prominently in the Hot Chocolate hit “You Sexy Thing,” covered by everyone from David Bowie to Barry White. Perhaps the most poignant use of the phrase is in “I Believe in Miracles” by the Ramones: “I used to be on an endless run/Believe in miracles ’cause I’m one.” One of the ongoing miracles in my life, besides the fact that I’m still walking around, is the audio/video receiver.

Let me remind you that the AV receiver—especially at the $600 price point—is one of the great miracles of consumer electronics. A miracle in that it delivers a huge amount of functionality at a humane price. That the better ones, intelligently paired with efficient speakers, are lean, mean music machines. That affordable surround sound is a thing of genius, a perfect complement to a big flat-panel display, and a way to immerse yourself in a movie that is unmatched by traditional two-channel stereo.

So before we get started, let it be said: The Pioneer VSX-1124 is a miracle.

HDMI 2.0, Roku Ready
Annual turnover brings new receivers in both of Pioneer’s receiver lines, the Elite line and regular line. The new Elites include the VSX-80 ($700) and VSX-44 ($500). In the regular line, the new entries are the VSX-1124 ($600), reviewed here, plus the VSX-1024 ($500) and VSX-824 ($400). None have the new Dolby Atmos functionality.

But all of them have HDMI 2.0, which supports UHDTV at 60 frames per second and the 4:4:4 color gamut (which would benefit 4K-capable streaming servers and computers). As implemented here, the HDMI connection supports a data rate of 18 gigabits per second—but does not support HDCP 2.2 digital rights management and cannot be updated to support it. That means it’s possible in the future that some copy-protected 4K content won’t pass from an HDCP 2.2 compatible source component through the receiver to an HDCP 2.2 compatible UHDTV; you’d have to bypass the receiver and route the signal directly from source to TV. The VSX-1124 and VSX-80 also support UHD upscaling.

These receivers are Roku Ready certified. Plug a Roku Streaming Stick (3400M, $70) into the rear MHL-enabled HDMI jack, and enjoy movies, TV shows, and music. The jack also supports any MHL 2.0 phone.

Audio-related improvements include the addition of subwoofer equalization to Pioneer’s MCACC room correction system. As Pioneer explains: “Subwoofer EQ determines the distance and characteristics of your subwoofer and makes adjustments using four different frequency parameters and an extremely low-latency DSP to reduce phase and timing errors that are often found in other room calibration systems.”

Other audio improvements include additional support of multichannel WAV and FLAC file formats up to high-res 96/24 resolution. Past generations already supported two-channel versions of those formats as well as the usual MP3, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, and the not-so-usual Direct Stream Digital (DSD). If you can load that stuff onto a USB drive, this receiver can play it. And of course AirPlay wireless streaming covers the Apple-approved formats up to CD quality.

Pioneer says its new ESS SABRE DAC brings warmer, more natural, and more linear sound. I usually don’t make a big deal of audio processors because I can’t review silicon in isolation from the rest of a receiver. What would really impress me would be a computer-worthy USB input, something Pioneer provides only rarely and at a higher price point (and most other manufacturers don’t provide at all).

Pioneer has made incremental improvements in its user interface. iControlAV5, the latest version of the Android and iOS control app, now includes control of the Roku Streaming Stick and selection of signal type from the AVR’s internal video scaler.

Pioneer’s AVNavigator, which allows some functions to be controlled via computer Web browser or mobile app, is built into the receiver. The computer version lets you click on an onscreen facsimile of the remote control. In addition to day-to-day use, the app also helps with speaker positioning, connecting sources, renaming inputs, optimizing sound modes, adjusting MCACC, and more. It also has a two-way tutorial called the Interactive Operation Guide.

Though several receiver brands offer built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay at this price point, this model supports only AirPlay out of the box. Bluetooth requires the AS-BT200 adapter ($99) to be plugged into a rear adapter port. If you want Wi-Fi, add the AS-WL300 adapter (price lowered from $149 to $129). It plugs into the Ethernet jack and is powered by the rear DC output port. Network audio features include Spotify, Pandora, and generic Internet radio.

While this receiver supports seven HDMI signal sources and two displays, there is but one component video input jack and no component video output. Composite video for legacy sources is whittled down to two inputs and one output, probably sufficient for most users. As usual at this price point, analog ins and outs are stereo only, not multichannel, though there are two output jacks for the mono subwoofer feed.

Associated equipment included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 speakers, Paradigm Seismic 110 subwoofer, and an Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player. All movie demos were on Blu-ray Disc with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.

One Home Run After Another
While Pioneer is not the only manufacturer that can make an AVR sound great for $600, it has had the knack longer than most. The VSX-1124 not only lives up to that standard but exceeds it a little. Even break-in listening, before I ran the MCACC auto setup and room correction, was a pleasure. In the formal demos, this little receiver hit one home run after another, with midrange voicing just a little on the warm side of neutral. The top end—where most cheap receivers are weakest—was smooth and communicative, about as far from that dirty, gauzy, cheap-receiver sound as you can get without moving well into four-figure price territory. If you want truly airy and perfectly resolved highs, slammin’ bass with full-range speakers, or if your speakers are of low efficiency, consider a step-up receiver (or move into separate-amp territory). But if your speakers are of average or better efficiency, and you want satisfying, well-rounded performance, this receiver delivers and then some.

(800) 421-1404

mi6_'s picture

I had been waiting for a review of this receiver, however, I broke down and bought it a week ago not having seen a detailed review like this. Had I waited for your review, I probably wouldn't have bought the receiver after seeing the up -scaling test. I never really use the up-scaling so it isn't a huge concern for me in hindsight.

That's said I have been very happy with it and I'm glad I purchased the receiver. It replaced a 5 year old Yamaha receiver. The sound is nothing short of amazing and the MCACC calibration worked great and was easy to use.

I use it to upscale my cable box from 1080i to my 1080p TV and have noticed absolutely no up scaling issues (though admit I haven't viewed your test material). There is an update available for this receiver that I installed. I'm wondering if you installed the update before conducting your review? If not, do you think the update may have addressed any of the up-scaling issues? Could this also have been a defective receiver? If my memory serves me correctly, last years equivalent Pioneer model faired much better in up-scaling testing.

While I agree this doesn't have HDCP 2.2 DRM, I wouldn't say that is an issue. UHD is still far from being commonly used and I personally don't beleive that it will be common place in the coming years. TV providers still don't even transmit TV signals in full HDTV 1080p (stuck with 720p or 1080i) and the amount of Internet bandwidth needed to stream UHD content is out of reach for most internet users in North America. Just because Sony and Netflix stream in UHD won't make me run out to buy an UHD TV. Even if UHD content somehow manages to become fairly common by then I'll probably be in the market for a new receiver anyhow.

If you are reading this and considering purchasing this receiver I highly recommend it. Amazing sound for not much money and I highly recommend it.

SimboSambo's picture

Hi Mark,

Thanks for a tremendous review as always. Just to expand on sathishdht's question - if a friend of yours was building a new home AV set-up from scratch, and they were deciding between the Sony STR DN1050, the Denon AVR-S900W and the Pioneer VSX-1124, all things being equal (and ignoring the *marginally* higher cost of the Denon), which would you go for yourself? (Don't sit on the fence now...!!)

I'm in precisely that position, and I'm stuck :-)

Thanks for your insight...


Mark Fleischmann's picture
As I said above, I haven't had the receivers together at the same time -- we just don't do that kind of comparative reviewing. So I can only go into previously published facts. The Sony and Denon are both triple wireless, unlike the Pioneer, which has AirPlay but requires dongles for wi-fi and Bluetooth. The Denon is voiced a little warmer than the other two, but you should probably make your decision based on features, since these three have identical performance ratings. Go to the manufacturer spec sheets and decide what you're willing to live without.
Jrod0125's picture

A review of the step up model? Either the SC-81 or SC-82? I know S&V gave a very nice review of the SC-71 last year and I'm wondering how it compares to the newest Elites.

cbetz71's picture

I just purchased this and am wondering if its possible to do a 9.1 setup? I know you can wire 9 speakers,but only 7 channels are driven. if I use the pre out and amp the front speakers,will this drive the remaining 7? also,im a long time sony guy,so I feel like im cheating on her by going the way of pioneer. if you had to choose between the vsx1124 or the sony str dn1050,which would you choose? lastly, there are a fair amount of negative reviews regarding build quality with the pioneer. lots of this or that failed after a few months,and some this or that doesn't work like its supposed to.i realize some of these are user error,but am wondering if you have noticed any of these reports or experienced any issues first hand. thanks in advance.

jdesan's picture

As usual S&V raving about a product that just doesn't work 100% of the time. Check the reviews over at Amazon ( ) This AVR has a lot of features for the price but apparently not very reliable. And so the main reason for my comments here are that it's not a good "features for Price" if they don't work. Pioneer sold to Onkyo? Another AVR I've never liked as they always run way too hot for me. Reviews from Mags are worthless to me as they never include the most important thing and that is does it work for everybody? I've even seen some reviews from S&V " had an issue with such and such, they sent me another one" hey! What does that say about the product. I know you can't live with every thing you review but You should at least check some real world consumer reviews and at least tell us that there are issues being experienced by some. The VSX 1124 is NOT a good deal at any price from what I can see all over the Internet. ( I'm sure this will be edited or thrown out )