Test Report: Pioneer Elite VSX-52 A/V Receiver

Each generation of A/V receivers brings at least a few new features — one of which will prove useful while others stick out as head-scratchers that nobody asked for. You could hardly find a better illustration of this natural law than Pioneer’s new VSX-52, the sub-penultimate model of its latest Elite A/V receiver range.

Alongside many more important goodies like THX Select2 Plus certification, 3D readiness, and Marvell Qdeo video processing, it introduces compatibility with Apple’s AirPlay wireless-audio protocol — and something called “Air Jam,” a social-networking gimmick that lets up to four Apple device toters create “group playlists” via Bluetooth. (I know, I know: If I had any kind of a modern social network myself, I might not scorn the concept so. Call me bitter.)


The VSX-52 was both perfectly straightforward and decidedly complex to install. Simplicity came in the form of Pioneer’s familiar MCACC proprietary auto-setup routine, which uses a supplied calibration mike and circulating bleeps to set channel levels and crossover points automatically.

The complexity comes up when you click over to Advanced MCACC and then down to the EQ Professional page. These open a Pandora’s box of auto-cal options, including EQ target curves, EQ references options, “reverberation characteristics,” standing-wave filters, and more. It’s unabashedly complex, and you can spend many a happy hour geeking about its labyrinthine passages. Even after multiple encounters on several different Pioneer models, there’s stuff I’m still not clear on (such as why Advanced MCACC dials in a 150-Hz standing-wave filter on a subwoofer channel that’s crossed over below 80 Hz, and exactly what the “Reverb View” graphs are trying to tell me).

However, the executive summary is that MCACC did an expert job of identifying speaker types and responses, setting crossover points, calibrating delays and levels, and imposing a basic room-EQ correction that was consistent with what I know of my speakers and room.