When it comes to designing cutting-edge A/V receivers, Pioneer has plenty of experience. The company was an early, well, pioneer, in autosetup technology and its MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) is still one of the most accurate and easiest to use systems. The company's also been a supporter of XM satellite radio from the get-go, and most of Pioneer's 2006 A/V receivers, including the one reviewed here, offer XM's new HD Surround processing. But more importantly, the VSX-1016TXV is Pioneer's first midrange receiver (read: $500) to feature THX Select 2 certification and HDMI switching. Unfortunately, the HDMI features offer merely the bare minimum, but when you combine the VSX-1016TXV's otherwise solid feature set with its clear sound and abundant power, it comes out ahead of most A/V receivers in its price class. Like most of Pioneer's non-Elite models, the VSX-1016TXV is a pretty understated affair. The front panel's neatly arranged buttons and knobs offer direct access to all sources--DVD, radio tuner, XM, CD, and so forth--and we really like the Multi Jog knob because it let us easily tune to any AM/FM/XM channel--a quick spin would bring up one of XM's 160-plus channels--if you had the optional XM Connect and Play antenna attached, as we did. It's a big improvement over the usual up/down tuning buttons.
As $500 receivers go, the VSX-1016TXV is a bit bigger than average, measuring 16.5 inches wide, 6.75 high, and 18.5 deep. That might make for a tight squeeze in cabinets or on shelves, so it's a good idea to measure your space before you buy this receiver. It weighs just more than 33 pounds.
We had no complaints about the included remote. The LCD display is comparatively easy to read, and the keypad, though dense, is well laid out with clearly labeled buttons. As noted, Pioneer's MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) auto setup program is both highly accurate and easy to use. After you plug in the supplied measuring microphone, bring up the onscreen display, and push a few buttons on the remote, the MCACC automatically determines your system's speaker sizes; speaker-to-listener distances, including the subwoofer; sets the volume levels of all of the speakers and the sub; sets the subwoofer crossover point; and applies a room/speaker correcting EQ program. And if you want to delve deeper and change some of the MCACC's setup details--the crossover setting, for example (MCACC selected 80Hz; we changed it to 50Hz)--it's easy enough to do. That's not always the case with autosetup programs.
Our one beef with the Pioneer's interface: The setup menus of the onscreen display are available over the composite, S-Video, and component-video outputs, but not HDMI. The Pioneer VSX-1016TXV sports seven 120-watt channels, and all of the basic surround-processing modes from Dolby and DTS. In addition to bass and treble controls, the VSX-1016TXV has a tone-control feature we haven't seen for a couple of years: Loudness. Engaging Loudness selectively boosts the bass and treble frequencies that human hearing is less sensitive to when the volume is low. We found it effective during late-night listening sessions.
The VSX-1016TXV's connectivity options look, on the surface at least, to be fairly comprehensive, but there's two significant shortcomings. While it offers switching for two HDMI sources, the receiver doesn't convert composite, S-Video, and component video to HDMI. Ideally, you'd be able to run all your source cables into the Pioneer and have whatever signal is coming in converted for output to a single HDMI cable that's connected to your HDTV. Alas, that isn't possible here. For example, if you run the component-video input from your Xbox 360 into the Pioneer, you'd still have to connect a separate component cable to output from the receiver to your TV. To further complicate matters, the HDMI inputs can accept video signals only from source devices. Audio signals can be passed along to the speakers of an HDMI-equipped TV, but you won't get any audio from your receiver unless you also connect analog or digital audio cables from the source. While it's true that most receivers with more robust HDMI implementation (video and audio via a single HDMI cable, analog-to-digital HDMI video conversion) cost more, that's starting to change. The JVC RX-D702 and the JVC RX-D411S, for instance, can handle both features with aplomb, despite street prices below $600 and $500, respectively.